Saturday, 18 June 2011

Guns prepared, draw complete, ready to fire...

The Wild (South) West London showdown commences on Monday.
Murray's guns are ready for a show...

A deathly silence descends as the crowds' attention fixes on the contest to come. Saloons empty and tumbleweed hurries its way along the soon-to-be crammed streets. Competitors' guns are loaded (see pic). The preparations are complete and we've even had the draw. All that is left is for our shooters to fire. 

First, the preparations... Nadal had a truncated week at Queens where he may have started to adjust to grass but fatigue meant he didn't get a full run out. Djokovic had one exhibition match in leafy Bucks where he crushed Gilles Simon in 47 minutes. Federer has kept a low profile, recovering from a minor groin strain (a friend saw him getting some treatment in the Wimbledon physio room) and hitting the practice courts. Interestingly enough, in '07, '09 and '11 Federer withdrew from Halle due to fatigue - he won Wimbledon in '07 and '09. The only year he's failed to win Halle, since '02, was last year, when he had his worst Wimbledon performance since his first round loss to Mario Ancic, also in '02. Murray has put in the hours, with his Queens success as well as a match, albeit cut short by rain, against Troicki at the Boodles.
All the supporting players have been running through their lines as well, at Halle, Queens and The Boodles. We're ready to go

Next, the draw. Some interesting possible clashes lie ahead, before we even think of the latter stages, here are some of the picks:

3rd round: Cilic - Murray
3rd round: Wawrinka - Gasquet
3rd round: Federer - Nalbandian
2nd round: Soderling - Hewitt
1st round: Stepanek - Verdasco
1st round: Dolgopolov - Gonzalez
1st round: Baghdatis - Blake

But who does the draw favour? Difficult to say until things unfold but a bit of statistical speculation is always entertaining...
Taking the draw in 8 sections, each containing 4 seeds, we can look at the potential difficulty of reaching the quarters for our main quartet by looking at the credentials of the other 3 seeds in the section (average seeding, how many Masters series, Slams and total titles they've won)
  • Nadal (1st section): 31 Raonic, 24 Del Potro, 15 Simon = 23.33 ave seeding, 0 Masters series titles, 1 Grand Slam (JMDP), 18 total titles
  • Murray (3rd section): 27 Cilic, 17 Gasquet, 14 Wawrinka = 19.33 ave seeding, 0 Masters series titles, 0 Grand Slam, 14 total titles
  • Federer (6th section): 16 Almagro, 18 Youzhny, 28 Nalbandian = 20.66 ave seeding, 2 Masters series titles (both Nalbo), 0 Grand Slam, 28 total titles
  • Djokovic (8th section): 13 Troicki, 19 Llodra, 32 Baghdatis = 21.33 ave seeding, 0 Masters series titles, 0 Grand Slam, 10 total titles
If the success of the draw is all about reactions, so is the returning of serve. Which would suggest that Djokovic is the man. He breaks 41% of the games he receives (AM 39%, RN 39%, RF 27%), converts 48% of break points (RN 47%, AM 46%, RF 38%) and wins 59% of points on his opponent's second serve (RN also 59%, AM 57%, RF 51%). Murray leads % points won on opponent's first serve with 38% - ND and RN have 36%, RF back on 34%. 
But the best defence is unlikely to win you a shootout and so it is at Wimbledon. On the grass, just staying in the rally only gets you so far. You need to attack and put away the winners. Or so you would think.... 
Numerous people have suggested that court speed at SW19 is no faster than at 75016 (Roland Garros 'code postal') and a quick look at the stats from the top 3's matches against Berdych last year tell quite a story...

Quarter Finals: Federer - 44 winners, 18 unforced errors. 4 set loss
Semi Finals: Djokovic - 25 winners, 22 unforced errors. 3 set loss
Final: Nadal - 29 winners, 21 unforced errors. 3 set victory

Maybe it's not all about the winners after all. Whereas looking at the winners they each conceded (RN only 27, ND 34, RF 51) indicates that the defensive skills could be the ones that make a difference. 

Prediction time:
Nadal in 3, losing 4-6 games
Murray in 3, but taken to a tie-break in one set
Federer in 3, with at least 30 winners
Djokovic in 4, outrageous enough prediction to not have to give further detail
Nishikori - Hewitt will go to 5 sets
2 or 3 seeds will fall (from Baghdatis, Llodra (come on Ward!), Almagro, Dolgopolov and Tipsarevic)

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