Friday, June 17, 2011

125th Championships at Wimbledon - Privileged to witness it!

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster
and treat those two impostors just the same”

It is time for the players to get inspired before going on court with a look at this hard-hitting verse from Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If..’ in the hall of fame of the most sacred of sports arenas around the world. The 125th Championships at Wimbledon will start come Monday and the draws are out today.

On the men’s side, this could probably be the most intense Wimbledon in a few years as the top 4, all 4 having reached the semi final Roland Garros and 3 of them at the Australian Open, have been on top slam form and a ‘Seeds 1-4’ Semi final line-up is more likely this year than it was in previous years. Bjorn Borg, the legendary Swede who has had 6 titles at SW19, feels Men’s tennis is enjoying its ‘golden age’ with the current top 4 appearing to be the best among top 4s of any era. Coming from a man who has had rivalries with the likes of McEnroe & Lendl, it goes on to show how privileged tennis fans of this era are. But, Wimbledon is not a place where certainties are undisturbed.
It is here that Goran Ivanisevic defied all odds to win the title as a wildcard in 2001.
It is here that Richard Krajicek stunned Pete Sampras enroute the title in 1996.
It is here that the baton was passed from Sampras to a pony-tailed Federer when no one expected it.
It is here that an inspired Berdych got the better of Roger in the quarter final stage last year!
So, expecting the unexpected is not a silly option at all at the Championships which has a court dubbed as the ‘graveyard’s court’ for the number of upsets that have been caused there!

Here’s a peep into the men’s draw.
On the top half are Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
The defending champion has arguably been the best over the last few years at the Wimbledon grass and hasn’t been defeated here since 2007. His loss at the hands of Tsonga at Queen’s last week is to be considered just an aberration and despite his probable match ups with countryman Pablo Andujar who gave him a good fight at Paris, Del Potro (whose grass record has been next to nothing) & Berdych , it appears that he would sail through to the semis at ease where he will face Andy and his legion of british supporters!

Andy Murray carries the British hopes, yet again, but after semi final showings in the last two years and his best performance on clay this year, his chances to get his first slam at his home look bright. The likely hurdles in his path are the stylish Swiss Stan Wawrinka with whom he played that epic five setter in 2009 on the day when the centre court roof made its debut & the American Andy.If he can pull off a nice win in the probable Q/F match against Roddick, who has had a terrific association with Wimbledon, it will do his confidence a world of good and there’s always the partisan English crowd to encourage him.

The lower half boasts of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic; A semis tussle between these two seems to have become a norm in almost all slams! No regrets though; Blessed are we to see the two most elegant players fight it out for a spot in the final against the most likely candidate from the other half – The Mallorcan bull!

Roger Federer, the 6 time Wimbledon champion, is chasing Pete Sampras’s record for the most titles at the sprawling lawns of Wimbledon. With a good showing in the Parisian clay, he would back himself in a surface he has been lethal over nearly a decade. He had a difficult first round last year and a Quarterfinal exit ensued that. So, it is important for him to shrug off the first round hassles and look for making himself available for the business end of the tournament. A title here - he sets as the primary goal at the beginning every year – would be the one he would badly need, if he is to get to that 287 weeks at No.1 record. His probable match up with Nalbandian would be nostalgic but there’s not much threat, on paper, for Federer in his quarter.

Novak Djokovic, the golden-streak man, tasted his first defeat of the year at the French Open but that takes nothing away from his position as a chief contender for the title here. He hasn’t been at a final at Wimbledon yet with his best showings (Semi finals) coming in 2007 & 2010 but he would consider this to be his best shot at reaching the final and going even one step further, for, a slam on Grass is a dream for anyone who has won it elsewhere. He has had shocking defeats at the hands of the likes of Safin, Haas & Berdych in the past. So, his path to the semi final is going to be treacherous but his 43-1 record this year will do a world of good to his confidence and he is almost certain to be at the semi final, the only paper-hurdle being a possible Q/F clash against Soderling.

Two other interesting first round matches to look for are
1. John Isner (vs) Nicolas Mahut – The draw has made statistics go for a walk by making the 1/127 probability a certainty! Let us hope for a good match there, but not a 70-68 fifth set for the players’ sakes!
2. Robin Soderling (vs) Philipp Petzschner – This one is a potential toughie for Robin as Philipp is good on grass and is no pushover. He stretched Rafael Nadal to his limits last year and would definitely want to pull off an upset against the Swede

Dangerous floaters like Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro & Tsonga can collectively cause one or two upsets (against Berdych, Soderling, Ferrer) but it is almost certain that the one to lift the trophy would be one among Rafa, Roger, Nole and Andy(I’m just trying to be safe in saying just the first name ‘Andy’ cause the other Andy is the only one outside the top 4 who would consider himself worthy of a title at Wimbledon!)

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