Welcome to the 2011 Championships: Wimbledon Preview

Photo courtesy of tennispanorama.com.

By Josh Kramer

The best tournament in tennis is just a little over a day away.  Wimbledon is the tournament that really embodies tennis. It is the only one of the four Grand Slams played on grass.  Many historic matches have occurred at the All England Club.  Expect many more to occur this year.

Of course, as I mentioned yesterday, the talk of the tournament at this point revolves around the Isner/Mahut part II match set for Tuesday.

Wimbledon is the grass court haven.  It is generally a power player’s dreamland.  Due to the surface, the ball travels faster than on any other surface.  Therefore, aces are much more prevalent than at other majors, rallies are shorter, and the net is visited more frequently than normal as players do all in their power to close points out quickly.  Power tennis is generally winning tennis at the Championships.  Just ask Pete Sampras about his good old second serve and how it helped him win an astonishing seven titles at the All England Club.

Men:

The Men’s draw is jam-packed with excitement.  Over the past five or six years, the tour has been defined by two players.  Those guys are obviously Nadal and Federer. Now the ATP has become a four man jumble at the top.  Without question, the top four have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. What will happen when the “Fantastic Four,” as I am going to start calling them now go head to head? Nobody knows.  Each guy has had some success versus the other.  Nothing is entirely lopsided.

ChampionRoger Federer 

-I truly think Roger Federer is going to bring it home.  The 29-year-old (nearly 30 in a little over a month) showed signs of the old dominant force that we came to know and love over the past decade. Grass has always been his best surface.  I do think this will be one of his last real opportunities to stand in the winner’s podium on a Sunday at a Grand Slam event.  Federer has almost always taken advantage of every opportunity given to him though. Roger will do it one last time at the All England Club as he ties Sampras with a 7th Wimbledon title.  In addition, he will add to his record number of Grand Slam titles, which currently stands at 16.

ContendersRafael Nadal,  Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray

It is pretty obvious who the real contenders are here.  The winner of the year’s third Grand Slam will come from the “Fantastic Four.”  All four of these guys are playing great tennis.  There a couple of reason why I have Federer taking it home though.  I feel like Nadal will show signs of fatigue, as he continues to play deep into every tournament he plays in all year.  Counterpunching is no easy task. It really wears on the body.  And though Nadal does it better than any other, grass is not his favorite surface.  As for Djokovic, he blew a golden opportunity at the French.  He was playing better than any player in the world, and even was out doing the ultimate clay courter, Rafael Nadal, on clay.  Instead he went down to Roger.  Expect him to go down again.  And Murray is playing very well.  He has pulled out some great trick shots in recent memory, but the weight of an entire country would weigh on any man’s shoulders.  Too much pressure.  He will win a Grand Slam one day.  But doing it at the All England Club will be awfully difficult.

Dark HorseAndy Roddick

Call me a homer.  But hear me out on this.  Roddick is not playing his best tennis.  He currently is ranked just 10th in the world.  Wimbledon has always been a court made for the power serving American.  There is a reason why he has played in three finals at the All England Club.  Do not be surprised to see Roddick turn some heads with a deep run.

Women:

I am going to be entirely honest.  Who really knows what is going to happen on the Women’s side of the draw?  The Women’s tour has no continuity.  It is a parity lover’s dream.  No player has really separated themselves from the field.  There is no real clear-cut favorite.  Plus the Williams’ sisters are making their long-awaited return to Grand Slam tennis at one of their favorite places, the All England Club.

ChampionMaria Sharapova

Now I know that many will question this pick.  Why would you pick the world #6 to win the most prestigious tournament in tennis?  I will tell you why.  Grass court tennis fits her game to a tee.  I liken Sharapova’s style to that of Andy Roddick.  But for women.  She is a power hitting baseliner that can air it out at times with her serve.  Though I will admit her serve has never been quite the same since her shoulder issues back in 2007.  Could the Russian star bring home her fourth career Grand Slam title and second at the All England Club?  I am thinking so.

ContendersCaroline Wozniacki and Li Na

You can fault me for going with three of the top four players in the world as contenders.  But obviously they are ranked as high as they are for a reason.  They are all three definite threats to take home the title at the Championships.  Sure Wozniacki, the world’s number one ranked player has never been past the fourth round at the All England Club.  But she is ranked number one for a reason. I do think her counterpunching style will hurt her on the very fast grass court surface.  Then there is the French Open champ, Li Na.  Na has really burst onto the scene this year with a late career revival.  She still feels young, and has been successful at the All England Club in the past, making the quarterfinals in both 2006 and  2010.

Dark HorseSerena Williams and Venus Williams

I know that a dark horse is supposed to be singular.  But lets be entirely honest, the Williams’ sisters are both threats to win any time that they step onto the court.  They dominated tennis for a good six or seven-year period, unlike any player had in the decade prior.  Serena has hardly played since last year’s Wimbledon due to a variety of health issues.  But she is the defending champion and has won at the All England Club on four different occasions.  Venus on the other hand has always been at her best on the grass court of the Championships.  Sure she had a rough showing in the tournament tune up and has only played a handful of matches this year.  But she has won Wimbledon five times.  She is no stranger to Center Court.  Do not be surprised to see either Venus or Serena roll very deep into the second week.  The WTA is synonymous with parity at this time.  No sure things.

Enjoy the best tournament in tennis.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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