Federer, Serena set to defend Big W titles
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In what is traditionally the quickest turnaround of the Grand Slam season, Wimbledon 2010 will commence in less than a week on the storied lawns at the All England Club, where the great Roger Federer and Serena Williams will be your defending champs.
Less than two weeks ago, the clay-court French Open concluded in Paris, where Rafael Nadal won his fifth title there in six years and Francesca Schiavone virtually came out of nowhere to capture the women's title at Roland Garros.
At Wimbledon, Serena will be the women's top seed, while Federer has been installed as the men's top seed, despite the fact that Nadal, not Federer, is currently ranked No. 1. Nadal supplanted his great Swiss rival atop the men's rankings last week following his predictable victory in Paris.
Federer ran the table at the AEC last year, a year in which Nadal was unable to defend his 2008 title because of chronic knee injuries. Nadal, of course, outlasted Federer in perhaps the greatest tennis match of all-time two years ago at Wimby, where the Spanish strongman handed the elegant Swiss his first loss there in six years. Federer beat Nadal in the 2006 and 2007 Wimbledon finals.
|Roger Federer has won six of the last seven Wimbledon titles and hasn't missed the final there since 2002.|
Last year, Federer and Andy Roddick hooked up in another classic final at the AEC, as the super Swiss finally prevailed in a 30-game fifth set to secure his sixth title there in seven years. It also gave Federer a men's record 15th major title, surpassing American legend Pete Sampras.
Federer is a remarkable 76-2 on grass over the last eight seasons and, of course, owns Wimbledon like Nadal owns Roland Garros.
Is a Nadal-Federer final rematch in the offing this year? They've already met in a men's record seven Grand Slam finals, with Nadal taking five of 'em. Federer is, however, 2-1 in their Wimbledon title fights.
The 12-time major champion Serena, meanwhile, nailed down her third career Wimbledon title by beating her big sister Venus in a fourth all-Williams final there last year. Serena also bested Venus in the 2002 and 2003 finals, while Venus defeated her younger sibling in the '08 finale to nail down her fifth career Wimbledon and seventh overall major championship.
In addition to her three titles and the '08 runner-up finish to Venus, Serena was also a Wimbledon runner-up, to Maria Sharapova, back in 2004.
|Serena Williams is a three-time Wimbledon champ and owns 12 major titles overall.|
At least one of the Williams sisters has contested the final there in nine of the last 10 years, and one of them has won it eight of the last 10.
You can call that family domination.
Serena is considered the favorite this time around, while it's probably a toss-up between Nadal and Federer on the men's side.
Either Federer or Nadal has accounted for the last seven winners at SW19, with Federer securing six of the coveted wins. The hard-luck-loser Roddick has been the runner-up to Federer in three of the last six finales.
The last time someone other than Federer, Nadal or Roddick appeared in the Wimbledon final was Mark Philippoussis back in 2003, the year of Federer's first victory there.
Andy Murray will try to give Britain its first male Wimbledon champion in 74 years. The legendary Fred Perry was the last British man to title there, back in 1936. As a matter of fact, Perry was the back-to-back-to-back Wimbledon titlist from 1934-36.
In all fairness to the Brits, Wimbledon was not contested from 1940-45 because of World War II, which means six of those 74 years fall into the category of "what might have been."
The last British woman to capture Wimbledon glory was Virginia Wade back in 1977, which is also the last time a British woman reached a Wimbledon final.
|Rafael Nadal is fresh off his fifth French Open title and captured Wimbledon in his last appearance there in 2008.|
Murray, this year's Aussie Open runner-up and the 2008 U.S. Open runner-up to Federer, was considered among the favorites at the Big W last year, but the Dunblane, Scotland native was ousted by a tenacious Roddick in the semis.
The reigning Aussie Open and Wimbledon champion Federer heads to Wimbledon '10 on the heels of some shaky play. Two weeks ago, the smooth Swiss was stunned by Robin Soderling in the French Open quarterfinals, which prevented Federer from appearing in a mind-boggling 24th straight Grand Slam semifinal. The setback also marked a rematch of last year's Roland Garros finale, which was won by the 16-time major champion.
And last week, the five-time Halle champion Federer lost to fellow former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the grass-court finale in Halle, marking only Federer's second grass-court loss since 2002.
The seemingly-past-his-prime Hewitt had dropped his previous 15 encounters with Federer, who was riding a monster 29-match winning streak in Halle.
Does this put the 2002 Wimbledon champion Hewitt among the contenders at the AEC? I wouldn't think so.
By the way, Hewitt is ranked 26th in the world, but seeded 15th at Wimbledon.
And in another surprising loss last week, Feliciano Lopez ousted his fellow Spaniard Nadal in the fourth round on the grass at London's Queen's Club. The stunner halted Nadal's sizzling 24-match overall winning streak (22 of the wins, and a trio of titles, came on clay).
|Venus Williams will head to Wimbledon in search of her sixth championship there.|
Back over on the women's side, Serena and Venus are among the favorites for sure, but Justine Henin figures to be in the equation. The determined Belgian came out of her 20-month retirement this year, setting her sights on a first- ever Wimbledon championship. Like Nadal, she's captured 4/5ths of the career Golden Slam, with only Wimbledon escaping her grasp. She was the Wimby runner- up in 2001 (Venus) and 2006 (Amelie Mauresmo).
Note: Henin has been knocked out at Wimbledon by a Williams sister on three occasions.
Henin fell to her arch-rival Serena in this year's Aussie Open finale, and was stunned by Samantha Stosur in the fourth round at Roland Garros two weeks ago.
The Belgian star owns seven major titles and would like to make it eight next month.
If Henin should fail to capture Wimbledon during her career, there's no shame in that (see also Monica Seles).
Most expect Nadal and Federer to meet in another Wimbledon final, and obviously Murray has a shot to do something big, but don't forget about Roddick, who has appeared in just as many Wimbledon title tilts as Nadal, but, unlike Nadal, has yet to break that Federer spell.
The former world No. 1 and former U.S. Open champion Roddick, who will try to give the U.S. its first male Wimbledon titlist in 10 years (Sampras in 2000), is a quality 34-9 all-time there.
If Roddick should ultimately fail to capture Wimbledon during his career, well, there's no shame in that (see also Ivan Lendl and Ken Rosewall).
Some other men to keep an eye on are former Aussie Open champ Novak Djokovic and two-time Roland Garros runner-up Robin Soderling. The Djoker just about always cruises into the second week at the Slams, while Soderling, who's quietly up to No. 6 in the world, has been one of the best players on the planet over the last 12 months. The Swedish masher, who lost to Federer and Nadal, respectively, in the last two French Open finals, enjoyed his best-ever showing at Wimbledon last year with a run into the fourth round before succumbing to Federer.
|Andy Roddick is a three-time Wimbledon runner-up to Roger Federer.|
Big-servers like Roddick can thrive on the lawns at the AEC, and that's why fellas like Aussie Open semifinalist Marin Cilic, 6-foot-9 American John Isner and last week's surprise grass-court Queen's Club champ Sam Querrey of the U.S. also have a chance to do some damage. I'm not picking any of these three guys to win it all, but I would expect to see all three playing in the second week. The 6-foot-6 Querrey already owns three titles this season, on three different surfaces.
Back over on the women's side, the scrappy Schiavone will try to become the first woman since Serena in 2002 to capture Roland Garros and Wimbledon back- to-back.
Two weeks ago, Schiavone became the first-ever Italian woman to reach a Grand Slam final and capture a major title when she went 7-0 in Paris. Can she do it again at Wimbledon? NO WAY! The clay-court-loving Italian struggles mightily on grass.
How about French Open runner-up Samantha Stosur, can she follow up on her French success at Wimbledon? Sure she can. The quality Aussie, who also excels at doubles, plays great around the net and has a big serve that can win her a lot of easy points on the grass.
|Justine Henin has won an Olympic gold medal and every major title, with the exception of Wimbledon.|
Other women to keep your eye on are the former Wimbledon champ Sharapova, 2009 U.S. Open winner Kim Clijsters and '09 U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki.
Sharapova is fresh off her grass-court runner-up finish in Birmingham and she's very comfortable on the lawns at the AEC, where she titled back in '04. The lanky Russian is a three-time major champ, with only the French Open eluding her to this point.
Clijsters returned to action on the grass in Eastbourne this week, marking her first tennis in two months after suffering a foot injury. The two-time U.S. Open champion and four-time Grand Slam runner-up has never reached a Wimbledon final.
The once-retired Clijsters will play in her first Wimbledon draw since 2006, when she reached the semis.
The Danish Wozniacki has been quite steady over the last two seasons. She was last year's U.S. Open runner-up to Clijsters, has appeared in a pair of finals (1-1) this season, and landed in the fourth round at the AEC last year.
Note: The Championships, Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, having first been staged in 1877.
|Andy Murray hopes to end Britain's 74-year male title drought at the All England Club.|
Federer hasn't won a title of any kind since capturing his fourth Aussie Open crown five months ago. And since then, he's lost to the likes of Marcos Baghdatis, Tomas Berdych, Ernests Gulbis, Albert Montanes, Nadal, Soderling and Hewitt, respectively. That's seven straight events that have ended in a loss for the Swiss superstar, and he'd won all 12 of his previous matches against Soderling and a whopping 15 straight against Hewitt before suffering those particular setbacks. Is the slippage starting to show?
And when Federer lost to Nikolay Davydenko in the 2009 season-ending World Tour Finals in London, he lost his perfect 12-0 record against the speedy Russian star.
Long story short, he's been losing to people he once owned. Really owned.
Now, for the predictions.
I still think Federer, who's performed in the last seven Wimbledon finals, will do it again and grasp Wimbledon title number seven, which would tie him with Sampras for the most men's titles there in the Open Era. And I'm gonna have to go with Serena to make it two in a row and four Wimbledon titles overall on the ladies' side. Of course, nobody would be surprised if Venus went for number six.