— The first week of the London fortnight is in the books, and the second week could be both historic and filled with drama as I believe Roger Federer will win a record-setting 15th major, and Serena Williams will get the better of older sister, Venus, in the ladies’ singles final.
Let’s take a look at key players in both draws, and center in on those who should receive the most interest at the All-England Club.
On Saturday, a 17-year-old American qualifier, Melanie Oudin upset sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic. It was a very solid performance. At 5-foot-6, Oudin is not big in stature, but she is big in heart, and big in grit.
As the only female American besides Serena and Venus to make it out of Wimbledon's first week, Oudin has created a buzz. She’ll next face the No. 11 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, and my feeling is that if she can beat Jankovic, she can beat Radwanska.
Oudin is in the same quarter of the draw as Venus, so potentially they could meet in the quarterfinals. Venus has the No. 13 seed Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round. Ivanovic didn’t play well in her first two matches, but looked better in her third-round win over Samantha Stosur.
Venus has won Wimbledon five times, and is a two-time defending champion, who is looking even sharper than when she played on the lawns of London a year ago. She is playing very cleanly, and very solid. As soon as Venus arrives on the grass, she becomes so much tougher a player to take out.
The biggest threats to Venus still looming in the top half of the draw are top-seeded Dinara Safina, and veteran Amelie Mauresmo, who won Wimbledon in 2006. Safina and Mauresmo collide in the fourth round. It’s a real winnable match for Mauresmo, who likes the grass while Safina still doesn’t look completely comfortable on the surface.
Just like Venus, Serena’s game translates well to grass. She’s won Wimbledon twice, in 2003 and 2002, both times defeating Venus for the title. Serena has to be very satisfied with the way she is playing this fortnight.
She has a potential tough quarterfinal against eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, but I expect her to prevail, and come through the bottom half of the draw, getting to the final where Venus could be waiting. For someone to derail an all-Williams final, they would have to play awfully, awfully well.
Turning to the men, Andy Roddick is intent on making up for his second-round exit from the All-England Club last year, and so far he’s been impressive. His fourth-round opponent is Tomas Berdych, who is talented but hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential.
Roddick has seen a resurgence in his career. 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 (2005, 2004) 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.
The semifinals in the top half of the draw are certainly reachable for Roddick. After Berdych, he could run up against Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals. The Australian won Wimbledon in 2002, but the American rates the edge should they meet up.
If Roddick does make the semifinals, he could run smack into Andy Murray, who is dealing well 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.
The Scot is playing spectacular tennis. He was a bit nervous in his first match, but that was understandable. He is showing such great versatility with his touch, change of speed, and change of spin. He has more pop on his serve as well as his groundstrokes. If he does meet up with Roddick in the semifinals, he should take the match based on overall talent and having a bigger game.
In the bottom half of the draw, it should prove all Federer. What could be very interesting is a potential quarterfinal between Federer, and the No. 22 seed, the huge serving Ivo Karlovic, who fired 46 aces in his third-round win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. There’s no one who looks forward to facing Karlovic on grass.
Fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic could be Federer’s semifinal opponent. Djokovic has looked good but not great on grass and if they play, Federer should take care of him.
A Federer-Murray final slants Federer’s way on the lawns. Yes, it will be pointed out by many that Federer is just 2-6 against Murray, and has lost his last four meetings with the Scot. But 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.
The media has been consumed by Murray’s quest to end a 73-year wait for a British man to become Wimbledon champion, but it’s Federer who has a date with history this fortnight.