Monday, June 23, 2008

Wimbledon Primer

Photo by Flickr user .kol tregaskes used under a Creative Commons license.

Wimbledon has been underway for a couple hours now, but did you really need to be primed to know that Roger Federer was going to beat Dominic Hrbaty? Inconsequential.

So here are the biggest stories of Wimbledon 2008:

And then there were three

Federer has been nothing short of dominant in his grass career, winning an amazing 56 straight matches on the surface, including that last 5 Wimbledons on the surface. This season he has been anything but, though, as a battle with mono disrupted his Aussie hopes, and as he found himself on the wrong end of the most lopsided French Open final in history at the hands of Rafael Nadal.

Nadal, though a clay-courter by trade, has proven to be no slouch on the lawn. His final with Federer at last year's Wimbledon was one of the more memorable grass court matches in recent memory, and he has only gotten better since then. Nadal has had his eyes on that world number one ranking for quite some time now, and now that Federer has hit a little rough patch, it might be his for the taking.

Though everyone only seems to be talking about the big 2, Novak Djokovic has proven to be just as good or better than Nadal on every surface except for clay. He (like pretty much every one else that matters) has ended up in Federer's half of the draw, which usually is a death wish, but this year might be a blessing in disguise.

Hey don't forget about us!

Andy Roddick and his blistering serve are still a force to be reckoned with on grass and probably has the easiest draw out of the top 8. He has his ticket pretty much punched for a quarterfinal match-up against Nicolay Davydenko, someone who is more known for throwing matches than winning them. The only legitimate player he has to get through to get there is James Blake, whose powerful strokes serve him well on the grass, but are more suited to the hard courts of Flushing Meadows. As long as Andy doesn't throw a fit (not a given), expect to see him grace the semis with his presence.

Andy Murray is another guy with the skills and the draw to make a run. He finds himself in the same eighth as Richard Gasquet, who made it to the semis last year, but before that saw two first round exits in the previous three years. Gasquet is by no means a walk-over, but he is not Fedalkovic either.

4th Round, here we come

Mario Ancic is an unseeded player who could make a little splash in this tournament, provided that he makes it through the first round. I only know about him because he was one of my favorite players in Virtua Tennis 3 for PS3, but judging by that alone, he should be able to run through the David Ferrer's of the world.

Kiss him goodbye

David Ferrer is seeded number 5 here, but that's mainly due to his performance at the Roland Garros last month. His career W-L at Wimbledon is an unimpressive 6-5, highlighted by a single trip past the second round in his career. Though Igor Andreev, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Michael Llondra, and Mario Nacic strike fear into few people's minds, don't be surprised if one of them takes Ferrer down.

Let's get this started right

There are actually a couple first round matches to watch.

First, going on as we speak is a compelling match between Robby Ginepri and Fernando Gonzalez. Though Ginepri hasn't really been relevant since 2005 (or ever depending on how you think about it), he seems to be matched up well against the 120-mph forehand that Gonzalez keeps in his arsenal. The first set between the two went to tiebreak and the second seems to be headed there as well.

Next, we have a match-up of youngsters Ernest Gulbis and John Isner, fighting for a chance to lose to Rafael Nadal. People might remember Gulbis for taking down James Blake at Roland Garros and Isner for beating Tim Henman, Tommy Haas, and Gael Monfils before losing in the final round of the Leggs Mason Classic (where?) to Andy Roddick.

That's all we got for now.