Wednesday, 17 June 2009

How they Stack Up...

I'm not much in the business of making predictions. I usually end up with oversized, factory-farmed egg on my face. But this year's different. Fred Perry says so.

Fred Perry also says I must rate the top players' chances against the slightly gruff 'Bunny Austin' counterpart.

So here's my take on the finest peas in the pod (totally subject to revision in light of the draw later on this week), beginning with young Cable-Knit himself.

Andy Murray

Has a great record over the top four, including a 6-2 H2H over Federer. Like he said himself, that's just gotta fill you with confidence. I also like the fact that he's one of only a handful of 'top' players that can actually play on grass.

I think I've observed before how Murray is one of only a few double handers in the game with an exceptional backhand slice (quite liking what I see from A-Rod now too). I'd say he's the best of that breed.

But you also have to love what he's done with his serve. It's true, Queen's wasn't that great a test, but the way he served his way through that without dropping a set has to make you think he's now comfortable in his skin as a top four player. That distinction becomes more pronounced on grass, where the rest of the up-and-comers suddenly begin to fade away.

Having said that you've got to think his relatively poor record over 5 sets and that still, I'm afraid, rather suspect fitness, means he's not yet completely ready to climb that uppermost rung of the ladder. Especially with 13,000 sweltering Brits breathing down your neck.

(Wimbledon Prediction: Semi Finals)

Roger Federer

Poor record versus Murray, but a MUCH better competitor over five sets. Federer said earlier this year that a Slam is a different animal, and it seems he's right. Federer himself turns up the heat at Slams by morphing into tennis livestock - we even know what animal he was referring to now.

I'm generally liking his chances this year. A lot. It's not all to do with him winning RG either. Although having that pressure off your back can't hurt. But with Nadal's knee problems, Djoko
still only very-nearly back to his half-hearted best, it's only young Bunny Cable-Knit that might pose a serious danger.

I'd go as far as to say this might be his last credible opportunity of pulling off a three Slam year once again. In which case, we might pronounce the crisis of the last year almost certainly over.

(Wimbledon Prediction: Winner)
(Versus Murray: Federer in 4)

Rafael Nadal

A fully fit Nadal beat Murray to a pulp last year, but that was very much like the initiation ceremony you must go through when you first stake your big-4 claim. But with his knee you have to think Murray stands a chance. Although I still think something about Nadal's topspin on grass rankles Murray. Without the knee complaints and it's Nadal all the way. Plus Nadal always seems to grow more imposing the longer matches go on.

I'm not liking his chances very much this year though. Like 2Hander, I was a little dubious he'd be able to follow up on that historic win of last year and with this knee complaint, I'm not completely sure he'll make the semis.

(Wimbledon Prediction: Quarters)
(Versus Murray: Nadal in 4)

Novak Djokovic

In a funk once again, though I've a feeling it may be shorter lived this time round. Can play amazingly well on grass as we saw in the Queens final last year that surely ranks as one of his best ever performances. And you can't expect me to forget that match he had against Nadal in Madrid, still the best 3 setter I've ever seen. Against Nadal. On Clay.

That said he's been poor this past week, losing to Haas in the Halle finals (a win I haven't made nearly enough noise about considering he's one of my favourite players - sorry Tommy), and only barely scraping past Olivier Rochus.

There exists a clear and present danger of him not even making the second week .

(Wimbledon Prediction: Quarters)
(Versus Murray: Murray in 4)

Juan Martin del Potro

Haven't the foggiest really. This time last year he was ranked #60 something, and has only reached the second round the two times he's played Wimbledon. His inflexibility would indicate problems on grass.

But he has a HUGE serve now, and has always had very reliable big swinging groundstrokes: very much the Sharapova of the ATP and we all know what she can do on grass.

Where I think he'll come unstuck though, is against the very best of the bunch and also against anyone that can get him off balance. Should be galvanised by his recent form on clay, nearly pushing past Fed in five, and scoring decent wins over Murray and Nadal.

(Wimbledon Prediction: Semis)
(Versus Murray: del Potro in five)

Andy Roddick

Best chance he's had in a few years. His transformation both physically and in terms of the confidence with which he now hits the ball has been astonishing. Larry Stefanki = Zeljko Krajan
of the ATP minus the on-court coaching.

With the form and confidence he has right now he's probably capable of pushing past just about anyone except Federer.

(Wimbledon Prediction: Runner Up)
(Versus Murray: A-Rod in five)

Yes I believe the time is right for A-Rod to make a big push here. And yes, there's probably some material for a romanticised wish-list in there too.

I sincerely hope that twisted ankle that forced him out of Queens is fully healed. It maybe 2004 all over again.

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