Saturday, 11 June 2011

Who will be the Wimble Don?

I've just found out some rather shocking news. This may come as quite a surprise to much of the British public but apparently there are other tennis tournaments during the year. I had wondered how players' rankings were determined simply by virtue of their performance at Queens and Wimbledon. Now it turns out that they play all over the world, on surfaces other than grass, in every single month of the year. 

I can only presume that from mid-July one year until mid-June the next, these players are training and preparing themselves for the real thing. It seems odd that they should travel such distances, play on clay, carpet and hard... courts (no-one seems to know what hard courts are, just that they're hard), but I suppose with 11 1/2 months to fill they feel the need to have some variety. Quite why they can't just live off the excitement and anticipation about a trip to a London postcode, I have not yet discovered. My journalistic skills are admittedly limited but then who has time to do such work when you can watch 30 second snippets about decades of Wimbledon greatness?

So, as our favourite tennis fortnight of the year approaches again, how are the main contenders looking? 

Rafael Nadal - Title favourite? I know he's only good on clay but he's not actually lost a match at Wimbledon since 2007 and even that was a 5 setter against Federer. He did look extremely weary against Tsonga in the Queens quarters but he always raises his game for the Slams and has just returned to winning ways at the French Open. William Hill have him at 2/1 and that's probably about right - no question he'll be in the hunt come the second week

Novak Djokovic - 2011 has all been about Djokovic. Not since Federer of about 5 years ago have we seen one man dominate so completely. He has remarkably already qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals (as has Rafa now), is almost certain to overtake Rafa for World No. 1 within the next month or two and has only lost once all year. But, he's never been to the final here and for someone who has been frail mentally in the past, we've yet to see the effects of the end of his unbeaten run. William Hill odds: 11/4 - could be vulnerable if he gets a tough opponent in the early rounds but if he gets used to winning again he could go all the way.

Roger Federer - At Roland Garros Federer demonstrated that he's still one of the greatest and more than capable of winning a GS. He has only lost twice at Wimbledon in the last 8 years and will be more confident taking on Nadal than on clay. Half of the times he's participated, he's won. There's no doubt he's a contender and potentially some's marginal favourite. His persistently attacking style means more UFE but also a lot more winners. Expect to see him right there at the end. William Hill odds 5/2

Andy Murray - this year? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it's his best chance yet. At least in terms of his own form: coming off the back of his best ever French Open, a devastating performance against Roddick at Queens and another year of maturing and growing. He's had another GS final to learn from and has the impressive record of always matching or improving on his previous performances at Wimbledon: '05 - 3rd round, '06 - 4th round, (didn't play in '07), '08 - Quarters, '09 and '10 - Semi's. Consistent improvement is a good sign. There will of course be a massive pressure, building to a fever pitch should he make the second week (type 'Wimbledon hype' into Google images and see who all the pics are of), which he's not dealt with well in the past but he's got the ability and with the crowd behind him, it could push him one step closer. The problem he has is that he's likely to face 2 of the top 3, and he's yet to show in a GS that he can perform at his absolute best twice in a row. At 6/1 with William Hill, he's definitely worth a stab but I won't be holding my breath...

Of course there are more than 4 gents playing and there are a few others to watch out for:

Juan Martin Del Potro - it's hard to totally rule someone out when he's won a Slam, beating Nadal and Federer on the way, but grass just isn't his glass of Pimms. He's never got beyond R2 at Wimbledon and just lost to the decidedly unimpressive Mannarino at Queens. Dangerous on any given day but very unlikely to sustain a challenge if has to play more than a couple of top tenners. William Hill odds 16/1

Andy Roddick - always has the potential to be dangerous on grass but has no form at all, put up virtually no fight against Murray and seems to be sliding sadly down the rankings. He's only made one GS quarter final since the '09 final loss to Federer and is in real danger of failing to qualify for the Tour Finals for the first time since 2002. Don't waste your money, even at 33/1

James Ward - a fantastic run at Queens and will be full of confidence, especially if he can get a win or two down in Eastbourne. If he can avoid a high seed for a couple of rounds then he could get past some top 100 players but anything more than that I don't see happening. William Hill have him at 250/1 but I'd say 1000/1 might be more accurate!

A few others to keep your eye on, last year's finalist Berdych (25/1), Queens finalist and all-round entertainer Tsonga (33/1), Gael Monfils (125/1), forgotten man Nikolay Davydenko (150/1), the battling Gilles Simon (200/1) and one of Ward's Queens victims at a remarkably generous 300/1, Stan Wawrinka. They could all cause a major seed some trouble on a given day but none really have the capacity to go all the way. 

William Hill also have Milos Raonic installed at 33/1 despite having never played a game at Wimbledon or won any ATP Tournament above 250 Series level. If he wins it or even gets close I'll fly to Canada and apologise to him personally


  1. Would love a Federer win but have a fancy for the Joker - his style is midway between Nadal and Federer and could well be the clincher.

  2. Thanks Jonathan Overend for taking his inspiration from me...