2012 was always going to be a great year for tennis fans. Wimbledon happens twice and there are few things in this sport that we can ask for over this. Barely has the euphoria over Federer’s seventh Wimbledon settled and we are already into another top class tournament at the Olympics. The most accomplished of the world’s athletes swear that an Olympic medal is the highest honor possible but a number of tennis players and fans beg to differ, for tennis has its Grand Slams. Either way, it’s a debate for another day. For now let us be grateful the grass courts are on display again, as are the best players in the sport (this time in colors too – we possibly won’t get to see this in our lifetimes again). Despite Rafael Nadal’s absence, the competition promises to be fierce as the players take to the courts with entire nations behind them. Here’s a look at the top contenders, theirs draws and their chances.
Clearly, amongst the top three Federer has the most straight forward draw. He faces Alejandro Falla in the first round and a potential rematch with Julien Benneteau in the second. Interestingly, both these men have blown two set leads at Wimbledon to Federer and that should give him a mental edge (tidbit: Falla in Spanish means ‘fault’. Interesting that a tennis player should have this name). After a likely date with Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, who gets to try to stop Federer in the quarters is a tricky affair. John Isner, David Nalbandian and Janko Tipsarevic are all packed in a tight little section, and the big-serving Isner could be the biggest threat. Federer will then most likely meet David Ferrer, Juan Martin Del Potro or Phil Kohlscreiber in the semi finals and after one look at the other half of the draw, Federer will take this gladly.
Federer is just off an amazing Wimbledon victory, has an excellent feel for grass, is hitting the ball almost as good as ever, is the best player under the roof and certainly a clear favorite at the tournament.
To be Novak Djokovic at this moment in time—while desirable—probably isn’t the easiest thing in the world. He came off an unbelievable 2011 and the slump in 2012 was only natural; any sort of a year after the last (winning 10 tournaments including three Grand Slam titles) would be a slump. He clearly stated his major goals this year were to win at the French Open (where he lost to Nadal in the finals) and to win the Olympics. Djokovic’s brilliant 2011 was triggered by the Davis Cup victory for his country, and the Olympics could just provide the stage for resurgence.
He has the trickiest draw amongst the top three. After playing the opener against Italy’s Fabio Fognini, he will likely meet the big serving Andy Roddick in the marquee second rounder, then the hot-handed Marin Cilic followed by the big hitting JW Tsonga, all this to potentially face Andy Murray in the semifinals. Phew. While this is certainly no run-through, I still expect him to make the finals, and he is my pick for the tournament. Well, yes, I do believe in magic, now that you ask.
Andy Murray finds himself in a situation that is eerily similar to the one before Wimbledon. A lone Brit with a chance of a medal in tennis and an entire nation banking on that. He has had to carry the burden of history more than any contemporary player and he has done very few things so far to lighten it.
But he is no doubt a much improved player ever since his stint under Ivan Lendl began, and his performance at Wimbledon showed it. He played a level of tennis against Federer that we hadn’t seen from him before (most prominently his forehand) and this is as good a chance at winning a major title as any.
Pressure will hit Murray immediately in the form of Stan Wawrirnka who stretched Murray to five at Wimbledon a couple of years ago. After that, a potential upset match against India’s Somdev Devvarman (kidding, but hoping for sure); Richard Gasquet will likely wait in the third round, before a quarterfinal collision with former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. He will have to take on childhood friend Novak Djokovic in an interesting battle of the prodigies before getting a peek at the gold.
A certain Frenchman named Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. In a best of 3 sets grass court tournament, a guy with with so much firepower and touch is certain trouble.