|DISSECTING THE 2008 WIMBLEDON DRAW - MEN|
It's not often so much is at stake at a Grand Slam tournament ... but if you're into drama, then this is your year. Will Roger Federer win his sixth straight Wimbledon title? Can Rafael Nadal break through and win a slam on a surface other than his beloved clay? Is Novak Djokovic ready to win his second slam of the year? All huge questions ... and here are you answers, from the greatest prognosticator since Nostradamus, Me.
Winner: Roger Federer
At the top we have the greatest player in the world, Roger Federer. That's right, he's still the man despite the pasting he received in the French at the hands of his top rival, Rafael Nadal. Red clay, my friends, is not slick grass. And he will make it through this quarter despite some uncomfortable match-ups. His first round match against Dominik Hrbaty is no picnic, tho if it is, I'd love to come - I'll bring chips. Gael Monfil gave him a great match in the semis of the French Open, and he could be a worthy third round opponent. Never mind Lleyton Hewitt, Fernando Gonzalez and Tomas Berdych also lay in wait ... it's an ugly quarter. Despite that, I think Federer gets through easily, maybe losing one set along the way. Maybe.
Winner: Novak Djokovic
This is flashback 1979, when John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors were making the semifinals at every Slam. I think it's great for tennis ... and Djokovic has turned this two horse town into a three horse uh ... city. Novak's been talking more than a little smack of late, and he really does have the game to back it up. He has a tasty second round match up with the dangerous dark horse Marat Safin. After that it should be smooth sailing until he hits Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round. Note his quarterfinal match up with Marcos Baghdatis, Ivo Karlovic or David Nalbandian could be difficult. I think the towering Ivo Karlovic is finally going to show the world what 6'10 can do for you on grass ... and he will be a formidable quarterfinal obstacle. It will be a battle of who blinks first - and Novak, to quote Creed, has his eyes wide open. Until he gets punked in the semis. But more on that later.
Winner: Jarkko Nieminen
What? Who? Why? Yes, Nokia fans are going wild. To spell that one out, Nokia is based in Finland, and the Finnish Nieminen is about to have the tournament of his life. Believe me, it surprises me as much as anyone. He gets there through luck as much as pluck, and here's why.
The top seed in this quarter is Nikolay Davydenko. And while he has an extraordinary baseline game, his soft serve and questionable net game will earn him an early exit. Andy Roddick is also in this quarter ... and frankly could have a great run. But his second round match-up with Janko Tipsarevic worries me, as does his third round clash with Dmitry Tursonov - who has great Wimbledon results. James Blake and Andy are on a collision course in the fourth round ... But James path is much easier. At any rate, I'm taking the lefty Nieminen to make it through, after winning two five setters. Call me nuts? Call me crazy? Just call me, sheesh ... here's my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winner: Rafael Nadal
That's right. The top three seeds and Jarkko Nieminen. Rafa is coming off a Stella Artois win, becoming the first Spaniard in more than 30 years to win a grass court title. I have railed against his ability to win on grass in each of the last two years, and both times I've been humbled by the guy. He should make it through, but not without some drama.
His second round match is absolutely miserable. He plays the winner of 6'9 John Isner or the streaking Latvian Ernests Gulbis. These are two shot makers that you absolutely do NOT want to play on grass. And yet that is what waits for Rafa ... could be interesting. The fourth round will present either Radek Stepanek or Mikhail Youzhny, two very accomplished grass court players. Then of course lurks the great British hope, Andy Murray. Nadal will be playing the crowd and Murray in that one ... and I think he'll crush the spirits of both. Nadal gets through ... but loses 3 sets along the way.
SEMIFINALS: Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic
Federer beats him down. Fed is healthy, hungry and dominant on this surface. Forget Federer's serve and forehand ... his one handed backhand is so brutally effective on grass. I just don't think Novak will have an answer when that vicious slice is kissing his shoes. Federer in straight sets.
SEMIFINALS: Rafael Nadal vs. Jarkko Nieminen
The lefty battle turns into a complete crush ... Rafa waltzes into the finals so easily he practices for an hour after the match to stay sharp.
FINALS: Federer vs. Rafa
We get the final we want ... and Fed gets the match he wants. Less than a month after getting laminated in France, Fed returns the favor - playing perfect grass court tennis and winning in four close sets. Don't worry Rafa fans, Nadal gets the title next year. Then in 2010 Federer takes it back one last time. That's right, I just blew your mind and projected 3 years into the future. Deal with it.
You've read this far ... you have officially qualified for the Complete Tennis Geek Club, of which I'm the president. I applaud you for that. Please send me your comments or emails - if I get some good ones we'll post them after the tournament.