— Roger Federer is seeking his sixth Wimbledon title. I feel he will get it, and in the process pick up his 15th Grand Slam title, breaking the record he shares with Pete Sampras.
With defending champion Rafael Nadal having withdrawn from Wimbledon because of tendinitis in his knees, Federer’s chief threat could very well be rising star Andy Murray.
Federer has to be sky high after winning the French Open earlier this month, the only major he had not captured in his illustrious career. That was a huge confidence boost for him, even though he did not get to face his nemesis, Nadal, in the final. The Spaniard was upset by Robin Soderling in the fourth round in Paris. And it was Soderling whom Federer beat in the Roland Garros final.
There has been no player better on grass than Federer this generation. He has no weaknesses on the surface, and plenty of strengths, including a big serve, a great net game, solid groundstrokes, especially a slice backhand that stays down low, and fluid movement. He’s an excellent volleyer, and plays superbly from the baseline. Also very impressive is his transition game as he moves extremely well from the baseline to the net. He has a total comfort level on the lawns.
As great a player as Federer is, he’s had his hands full with Murray. The Scot is 6-2 in his career against the Swiss, and has won their last four meetings, including two this year.
Last year Murray wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon, but this year could be a different story. The talent is there as he has great hands, the ability to mix speeds and spins, and he has gotten fitter and stronger.
Being in better condition and having more strength has resulted in Murray making his serve a big weapon. He also has no problem with fatigue issues like was the case earlier in his career. His backcourt and return games have always been as good as anyone’s.
I picked Murray to win the Australian Open, but he lost in the fourth round to Fernando Verdasco, and although little is said about it, Murray was sick for that match. The day before he hadn’t even practiced, and being under the weather he ran out of gas against Verdasco.
Murray will not only have to bring his “A” game to the court for seven matches, he’ll have to effectively deal with the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he attempts to become Britain's first Wimbledon singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936. Last year Murray reached the quarterfinals, his best career showing at this major. He seems more than ready for this London fortnight, having made the quarterfinals of the French Open, and having won the Queen’s Club Wimbledon warmup on grass.
Andy Roddick got to the fourth round of the French Open, his best ever showing in Paris, and that could bode well for him at Wimbledon, where he made the final in 2004 and 2005. Working with coach Larry Stefanki has paid off for the American. Under Stefanki, Roddick has dropped about 15 pounds, and tactically Stefanki is one of the best coaches in the game.
What happened with Roddick after he reached his two Wimbledon finals is other top players accelerated past him. He did not continue to improve. But now under Stefanki, it appears he is making strides in his game.
Roddick is known for his booming serve, but there are other parts of his game that are worth noting. He is playing at the net a bit more, and is playing better there. He’s also moving better because of the weight he has lost. He’d benefit from standing a little closer to the baseline.
Stefanki seems to have Roddick’s confidence up, and he has him believing in himself when he steps on the court. Mental outlook is a big part of the equation of winning matches, especially tough ones at the majors. Belief level makes such a big difference when a player needs to come up with a big shot at a critical time.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France draws my curiosity because he didn’t play Wimbledon last year because of a right knee injury. Tsonga’s game should be really terrific on grass because he has power and touch. His possesses a big serve, huge groundstrokes, a beautiful backhand slice, and he can get to the net. Not only is Tsonga’s style of play exciting, his personality and charisma are as well.
Tsonga may turn out to be the surprise of this major, but odds are there will be no bigger story than Federer entering the history books.