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Todd’s Tennis Takes – Wimbledon Preview

To England we go, after Rafa bagged his Borg-tying 6th French Open trophy in the last 7 years – it took Borg 8 years to get his 6…like Nadal, he won it the first time he played there. On the lawn of Wimbledon, Rafa is the defending champ, after cruising (6-3, 7-5, 6-4) vs. Berdych in the final a year ago here. I put Nadal as a solid favorite over Fed this year, with Djoker (semi’s loser to Berdych last year) not far behind the Swiss #1 and his 6 prior wins here. Meanwhile, Andy Murray made the semi’s here a year ago, the semi’s for the first time ever at the French a few weeks ago, and the finals at the Aussie this year, so we can also expect to see him in the final 4. These four have won 28 Slams between them (26 for Fed & Nadal alone), & 24 of the last 25 slams – Del Potro ’09 US Open – while finishing runner-up in another 14 slams…truly the Fearsome Foursome of men’s tennis.

The heaviest challenge should come from the aforementioned Berdych & Del Potro, as well as Robin Soderling, the only men to make slam finals outside of the Big 4 since Tsonga shocked everyone at the 2008 Aussie. Berdych has not been sharp this year though, losing last week to Petzchner at the Halle, Ger grasscourt tuneup and 1st round at the French last month to a qualifier ranked 140th at the time, Stephane Robert. Soderling made the QFs at Roland Garros this year and at Wimby last year. As for Del Potro – he is still trying to boost his ranking back into the top 10, and had to play Djoker 3rd round in Paris this year. He’s currently #22, and has lost in the 2nd round in all 3 Wimbys he’s entered (2007-09). I expect a distinct improvement on that record here this year.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga upset Nadal at the Queen’s Club tuneup last week en route to the final, where he eventually lost to Murray in 3 sets. It too was Murray who beat him here in the QFs a year ago. He should do well, and will likely be somewhat motivated after blowing a 2 – 0 set lead over Wawrinka at the French last month.

Potential 3rd & 4th rounders I’m hoping for/looking forward to:  3rd RoundGasquet/Wawrinka – Battle of the beautiful 1-handed backhands, I’ll take the Frenchman, who made semi’s here in 2007…Tsonga/Dolgopolov – A rematch of their great 2nd rounder here last year, won by Tsonga 10-8 in the 5th…Dolgop took revenge this yr at the Aussie, beating him in a 5 set 3rd round battle…Del Potro/Simon – Simon has lost in the 3rd, 4th, and 3rd round here the last 3 yrs, and made the 4th in Paris last month. DP will be in his first 3rd round match at Wimby…Fish/Verdasco – Fish is the 10 seed but is only 8-8 lifetime here, never getting beyond the 3rd round. Verdasco has made the 4th round here three times before, but lost 1st rnd a year ago, in 4 sets to Fognini. Fish might have trouble in 2nd (Kohlschreiber or Istomin)…

4th RoundRoddick/Monfils – Always dangerous to assume too much on Monfils, but despite playing very few matches, the Frenchman always seems to do well in slams – 4th round or beyond in 7 of his last 11 slams, 3rd rnd here in 2010. Roddick has a relatively smooth path to the 4th, assuming Bellucci doesn’t present trouble in the 3rd. Lost to Lu in the 4th a year ago…Del Potro/Nadal – This is a scary one for Rafa, as Del Potro can handle his high bounce and retaliate with massive flat, hard grounstrokes of his own. DP took him in straight sets (2, 2, & 2!) at the US Open semi’s in 2009…Ferrer/Dolgop-Tsonga Winner – Ferrer has a very smooth path to this point, and has made the 4th round here twice before – in 2006 and last year. Amazingly, he’s only met Tsonga once before, beating him last year in Rome…Ferrer has played Dolgop 4 times already, all in the last 12 months, and won 3 of those, losing only at Nice last month.

1st Round Matchups  – One stands out as being quite interesting – Lleyton Hewitt vs. Kei Nishikori. Hewitt won Wimby in 2002, the last non-Fed/Nadal winner, but has very little left in the tank, his rank having fallen to 130. Like Hewitt, the young (21) Japanese speedster relies on speed and counterpunching ability, and is in the semi’s of the AEGON tuneup event this week.  Wimbledon remains the only slam he hasn’t won a match at yet. I’ll take the kid, even though Hewitt made the 4th Rnd here a year ago. Other 1st Rounders of note include Kohlschreiber-Istomin, Ljubicic-Cilic, Tipsarevic-Karlovic (4 straight ‘ics’ there), F. Gonzalez-Dolgop (Fernando have anything left?), Almagro-Nieminen, Y-S Lu-Robredo, and finally, Albert Montanes vs. Andreas Seppi – two veteran clay-courters who are surprisingly decent on the grass – Montanes, who lost that epic 4th rounder vs. a cramping Fognini (late 5th) at the French last month, made the 3rd round here the last two years while Seppi made the 3rd here in 2008, ’09 & 2nd round a year ago. One last 1st rounder to mention, Tursunov-Gulbis – the battle of the big, strong underacheivers…Tursunov is favored, especially after having just won a Wimby tuneup event in The Netherlands this week.

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