Friday, June 20, 2008

The joy of six (Wimbledon men's quarterfinal predictions)

He's only won two titles this year. He got waylaid in the French final. His chief rivals are playing better than ever. Despite all this, I'm still going with Roger Federer to pick up his sixth Wimbledon title in a row. But I don't like to just try and predict the winner: It's much more fun to take a closer look at the draw and write how I think it's going to go down, from the quarterfiinals on. So here we go:

Roger Federer (1) vs. Mario Ancic: It may be the natural assumption that Federer will automatically coast through to the quarters, but a look at his draw shows he could be made to possibly work a little. First off is Dominik Hrbaty, who's struggling but is up 2-0 in their head-to-heads. Then he'll probably play big-hitting Robin Soderling. Gael Monfils lurks as a possible third-round opponent, then Lleyton Hewitt (who I'm picking to knock out Fernando Gonzalez) and after all that, he still has to face Ancic, the last person to beat him here. I'm picking Ancic to come through the part of the draw where David Ferrer is the high seed. I'm still not convinced of Ferrer's grass-court ability, even if he ends up winning the Ordina Open this weekend.

Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Ivo Karlovic (18): Djoko's path to the quarters should be easy. I would say he should watch out for Marat Safin in the second round, but Safin hates grass, so it shouldn't be too tough. In the fourth round, Djokovic is seeded to meet Stanislas Wawrinka, but I'm not convinced about him at all. Look for Sam Querrey or even Juan Martin Del Potro to serve him off the court. As for Karlovic: Every year, he's considered a dangerous floater, but he never steps up in the majors and makes a big dent. This is where he sheds those past failures. David Nalbandian and Marcos Baghdatis are the high seeds in this section, but much like those two, if he shows up, he's hard to beat—especially with that serve of his. Karlovic has to come through at some point, right? Why not now?

Andy Roddick (6) vs. Jarkko Nieminen: It looks like A-Rod's the beneficiary of being in the section of the draw with Nikolay Davydenko, the four seed. As I've mentioned before, I really wasn't too big a fan of seeding old Nik that high; he could very easily go out to Benjamin Becker in the first round. His quarter is pretty much up for grabs, but I had to pick someone, so that's why I went with Nieminen. He'll have to watch it against Marin Cilic in the second round and Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth. Andy's section is pretty loaded with clay-courters. Janko Tipsarevic could be tricky in the second round, though; and Nicolas Mahut should give him a game in the third round, as well as Blake in the fourth. But I'm still going with A-Rod.

Andy Murray (12) vs. Rafael Nadal (2): A lot of people are ready to hand Nadal the title, but not me, not yet. There's some real tough guys in his quarter, Nicolas Kiefer and Radek Stepanek among them. If Stepanek were healthy going in, I'd say watch out, but since he's not Nadal should be more than OK. Winning Queens showed he can beat all types of players on grass. If Fabrice Santoro doesn't frustrate him to the brink of insanity in the first round, Murray could possibly coast in the next two matches until he faces Richard Gasquet in the fourth. That'll be a good win for Murray, but the run should end against Nadal.

For the semis:
Federer vs. Djokovic: This is where Federer makes Djokovic pay for every little word that has come out of his mouth over the past few months. R-Fed shows no mercy in this one.

Roddick vs. Nadal: This could be a great win for Roddick, but I don't think it's going to happen. A-Rod's one of the best grassers of his generation, but he doesn't have anything to throw off Nadal. I'm going with Rafael in four.

For the finals:
Federer vs. Nadal: After having done away with all the contenders and pretenders to the throne, these two will be having their annual "Breakfast at Wimbledon." And like the other years, too, it'll be R-Fed taking the title and, I would assume, putting rest to any doubts about his future.

(Photos: Getty Images)


IHeartRafa said...

First off, Santoro should be happy now, since he will meet Andy Murray in the first round, and guess what? He gets to play on the Center Court, finally! Since this is his last year playing on the tour, he completes his dream (Hmm... His dream is not winning all majors, but to play in the Center court in all slams' singles. But I guess time is running short for him.)

Top half, Quarter 1:
Of all the top four seeds, Federer has the toughest draw, I think. Anyway, sd you pointed out, he needs to get pass all the potential land mines enroute to quarters. Ferrer did beat Ancic this week, but I don't think he can do it again in 5 sets. Berdych is not in form this year, so I think Ancic is a reasonable choice to meet Roger in teh quarter...

quarter finals: Federe vs Ancic

top half, quarter 2:
Dojokovic's quarter: hmmm, so easy. Marat is not a threat on grass (or any surface for that matter... any more)., Ferrero is injured, Baghdatis is still trying to find the 2006 version of himself (and still MIA), Nalbadium was blown off court by Nole in Queens ... but I can't give the match to Karlovic yet when nalby and Karlovic meet in round of 16. It will be fun to see if Nalby can get rid of his beer gut within the next 10 days....

Quarter finals: Nole Vs. Nalby
lower half, quarter 3:
Roddick may as well be the third seed! He is in Davydenko's quarter! May be not. Davydenko's never get passed first round until last year. so it depends which Davydenko shows up next Monday. he might not get passed Ljubicic, but then Ljubby is not known to do well in slams anyway... so, for that little section, I will say.... Arnaud Clemet will come out of it (okay, I have to win the office pool, so I hope this is my dark horse choice). Roddick does not have an easy. I think he has some tough competition ahead of himself... Mahut, a grass court specialist, or Tursunov, an airhead grass court specialist, will compete for the chance to meet Roddick in the 3rd round. then James Blake (If he is seeded 8, then he would meet another andy. not sure which one he wants to meet though. If I were him, I would like my chance against Murray, on grass). anyway, Blake vs Andy is what I expect.

4th quarter:

It is all about Murray, and Rafa. But little Rishaaad is in the mix with his fragile state of mind. May be not. Mardy fish will give Richard a run of his money in the first round. If he beats fish, then he will face Grosjean, who is injured. And murray has to beat Malisse and then Hasse before he can meet rishaad....

And then Rafa. No problem. Serve and Volley Stapanek should pull out before the start of the tourney (there is talk of this happening). Then there is big server John Isner, who has nothing but big serves. Nope, not seeing an upset when Rafa meets this 6' 7 giant.

4th quarter: Rafa vs. Fish (this is a stratigic guess... I need Fish to win big so that i can win the office pool!)


Semis: Andy vs Rafa; Roger Vs Nole
Finals: Rafa vs Roger
Winner: Rafa

Shelia said...

Hmmmmmm, I'm still pondering, but I think that no matter how it goes down, it will more than likely be Federer and Nadal in the final. I am, however, going to forecast Nadal as the winner though.

He's in a winning state of mind.

van said...

Hey, iheartrafa! It seems like we're of a pretty similar mind-set on the draw! I was originally going with Nalbandian to make the quarters, but he's just so unpredictable. I was thinking if Karlovic were to ever advance deep in a major, this is his time. I was really tempted to go with Fish, too, but every time I pick him to make the quarters of a major, he always lets me down. I figured I'd stay clear this time!

van said...

Hey Sheila! How are you? I always doubt Nadal coming through on anything but clay. I know he's playing better than ever, and as you point out, in the right frame of mind. I just think Roger has to much game for him on grass, even though they've played close finals the past couple of years.

Shelia said...

You're more than likely right Van, I just always like an underdog, lol, spices up the outlook a bit.

Shelia said...

Oh, and I'm good thank you! How about yourself?

freakyfrites said...

Hey Van!

I love your take on the draw! Obviously as a Fed fan, I appreciate your faith in him (especially against Djokovic, lol)

But you're right, there are many potential landmines out there for Fed - probably more than the other Wimby favorites. Who knew that Hrbaty had a 2-0 record over him? Anyways, it's going to be a tough battle, but Roger should be mentally prepared after his win in Halle.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if Nalbandian will be the surprise semifinalist. Does anyone doubt that in the right state of mind, he can beat anyone (including Djoky, Fed and Nadal?) Even with the beer gut. So this is interesting.

I think Roger's really sweating his fourth round - Gonzo and Hewitt play him very tough.

The final is a toss up for me - of course I'd love Fed to win, but it's impossible to bet against Nadal at this point (at least for me.)

Anyways, I hope it's a great tournamaent! Thanks for your blog.

van said...

Hey Freakyfrites!

I hope it's a great tournament, too! Federer got off to a great start this morning, demolishing Hrbaty. I think all the doubters are putting too much weight on how that French loss will weigh on him. He's just too solid on grass. We'll see how the weeks go!

IHeartRafa said...

Oh it might not matter who we picked between Karlovic and Nalbadium. Karlovic is now out of the tournament, and Nalby is not far behind. He is down a set and a break.

van said...

Hey, iheartrafa, it looks like we both lost out there, huh? Do you think Baghdatis is the one that will emerge from that section now? Dancevic has the game for grass, but I just don't know about the mentality to make it that far. He won Surbiton this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if he fell to Bobby Reynolds in the next round.

IHeartRafa said...

Hi Van, I was looking at the draw sheet after Nalby lost, and I agreed that Baghdatis will emerge from that section and will meet Nole in the Quaters... he'd better, or we will laugh at Wimbledon's seeding formula :).

I would hope that F Lopaz would have a break out slam too. He has the game for grass.

van said...

I was real tempted to think F-Lo could go far, but I always feel he's one of those guys that will always disappoint you when you expect him to do well. He really needs to work on that backhand!