Kings and Queens of Grass

The break between the two Grandslams is over, and it is Wimbledon time now. You see the same on Star Sports from the evening onwards. As it started on the 29th, the one big event which happened on the first day is the exit of Lleyton Hewitt. He made his Wimbledon retreat with what would be his last defeat there, as it was the final appearance of him at the stage. He was twenty one years old when he last one a Grand Slam and when he won his only Wimbledon, and now he is thirty four, the age which Roger Federer will reach in a month and a week.

He exits after a big fight against Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen with the score of 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, 11-9 giving one last marathon on grass. He was one of those very few names which I knew at a time when I was not that much of a follower of tennis, and we will miss him despite the man not making it to the final stages for quite some time. The rest of the draw remains open, and it won’t be easy to predict this time too with the finalists, but Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams remain the favourites. About the Women’s division, it is a Serena domination all the way with a lesser chance for Maria Sharapova, but Men’s side go deeper!

Novak Djokovic: The man in form, the world number one, and the defending champion – anyone will find it easy to bet on Djokovic. He is four thousand points clear for the World Number 2 Roger Federer and six thousand points away from the World Number 3 Andy Murray. He has got more than double the points compared to the rest of the tennis world lead by Stanislas Wawrinka who had beaten him in French Open. Well, the loss at Paris will only make the Djoker stronger, and this is also a surface on which he is better. He also defeated the King of Clay at his own surface and it is a big positive defeating both Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray and losing only to the man who defeated Roger Federer, that too after finishing a marathon five-setter on the previous day.

And there is always the Djoker looking for his opportunity.

There is always the Djoker looking for his opportunity to do even better.

Roger Federer: Even with Novak Djokovic doing nice with his time at the top and is sure to move to number five in the total number of weeks at the top as well as the total number of consecutive weeks as number one, Roger Federer is the one at the all-time top, and has no challenge to those records for quite a long time. He still remains the big name, and at Wimbledon where he was the last year’s finalist and having his favourite surface as grass, he is a powerful force too. He almost made it in the five-setter at the same place last year, and after winning Halle for the eighth time, the confidence level will be higher. If someone is to win Wimbledon when almost thirty four, it has to be him. He will still have to go through the winner of Murray-Nadal match and then face Djoker/Stan in the final.

Stanislas Wawrinka: The chances of this man increased considerably after the French Open victory, which was nothing less than unexpected. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were the favourites followed by Roger Federer and Andy Murray along with a few French men who were supposed to do good, but this man from Switzerland was never in most of those lists. But he has changed things around, and now, he is all prepared to get one step closer to that Career Slam because French Open was always the toughest title to win, and had the habit of eluding too many fine players. He is going to find this one a nice opportunity, and with that powerful backhand, may be he might overcome Djokovic again as the two collide in the semi-finals if things go as predicted.

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Wawrinka will be at the highest level of confidence after the French Open win.

Andy Murray: The crowd favourite goes into the tournament with another grass win as he went to French Open with those clay wins. This time, things are sure to be more difficult as he has to defeat Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to win the title if things go as expected. Stanislas Wawrinka in the final will also be brutal with Stan never losing a Grand Slam final and being at top form. Having a Karlovic ace challenge at Wimbledon just before the quarter finals can tire him too. He needs to get back to being one of the Big Four, and he is surely trailing. He has had two Grand Slam titles, and has been runner-up six times, each and every time facing Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. He needs to get back and become part of that Fantastic Four, and Wimbledon is his right opportunity despite the final parts of the draw.

Rafael Nadal: The King of Clay faces the same problem as his nemesis for the quarter finals, as he has Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the last three matches of the tournament, and Stanislas Wawrinka in the final will also be no smaller challenge. It is a free run for him until the quarters though, and it is the one thing which can boost his confidence despite going down to the two digits in ranking after a long time and can easily go further down with not many big titles in his pocket. He is not defending much from the last year, and so he should use this opportunity to get to a better rating so that he will have a better quarter finals for the next Grand Slam, and a Nadal without injuries does have a chance even in this tournament.

***The images used in this blog post are from the Official Facebook Pages of the tennis players.

TeNy

Clay: No More Predictable

The season of Roland Garros begin on 24th May and ends on 7th June this year. As Rafael Nadal, the four-time defending champion defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2014 final to win his ninth French Open title and his fourteenth Grand Slam title, he had become the first player to win five consecutive titles – makes you think about the situation if Roger Federer hadn’t won that lone title in between; that would have been legendary. It is the kind of brutality that Nadal has shown on this kind of surface, especially at the biggest tournament on clay.

I was saddened by Simona Halep’s loss to Maria Sharapova in last year’s final more than Djokovic’s loss though. I thought that Simona had enough to win, which didn’t really happen in the end. I have mostly wished to have a new champion at each slam, and world’s only clay grand slam had only two for the last ten years, and both are still playing. The rest of the world has been denied this slam for too long. May be this year will provide one, as 2015 seems to be the year which has brought more balance to clay than any other surface – the title is more open than ever. Let’s see the chances – it still favours the champion, but with changes.

1. Rafael Nadal: The first name in the list remains the same. Nadal has been the undisputed king of clay for so long, and his recent troubles even in his favourite surface might not carry to the grand stage. But he has still weakened from what he used to be, and he is no longer the invincible person whom he used to be, as he had his early exits in too many tournaments, and he just had his first loss on clay to the less competent clay player of the Big Four, Andy Murray. Still, he is always back at the French Open, and considering how hard working the man is, we can only expect him to make things work better. He has been the risk-taker, and luck favours his kind. 43–6 record in clay court finals, 66-1 at the French Open and 81 consecutive wins on clay – this is his yard even when not in form. Let’s not worry about the fact that he is ranked 7 now.

And there is always the Djoker looking for his opportunity.

And there is always the Djoker looking for his opportunity – the first French Open.

2. Novak Djokovic: With the current form, he is the best on the court. There cannot be many arguments against that. He is the world number one and is going to stay there for a very long time as the total points suggest – he has already had more time at the top of the tennis world than Nadal, and has more weeks at the top than any other active men’s player except Federer who holds the record. Nadal has denied him more than once, and lets see how he will face the Djoker at a time when he is at his worst form on clay, and with Djokovic at the peak of his career – Australian Open reclaimed; can Novak Djokovic claim the title which has stayed away from him and complete his list of slams? We will see. This might be his best chance to do the same.

3. Andy Murray: Just now, we have to think that Murray has more chances than Federer. Madrid Open is the second clay title which he has won one after another, and he hadn’t won any before that. This last title is special because he defeated the king of clay, Nadal in the final to claim the glory. He hasn’t lost a match after his marriage and is going on with an awesome post-marriage winning streak. But what gives him more confidence than anything else should be that straight sets win against Nadal – the race is now open and the world of clay is no longer a property of Nadal. This is his time to re-write his records on clay, and this could be the slam in which he silences the critics and becomes the integral part of Big Four rather than make it more inclined towards the Big Three who have won more slams than him. After all, he is the current world number three.

As all good things begin and end with Roger Federer.

All good things begin and end with Roger Federer, and the legend continues.

4. Roger Federer: Eternal favourite – this is what Federer remains. Even at his age, the father of four is not someone who will be an easy challenge even in a tournament which he has only won once in his career. But one of the greatest players of all time won’t go away that easily as he did make a nice comeback to his least favourite surface by winning the Istanbul Open and remains the world number two as of now. He is the legend, and beating him at a grand stage needs a lot of work. Federer might not be the best at his game now, but he is still at a higher level in the all-time best list. He can surely have another grand slam at his less interesting venue, and it will do nicely – what is there to lose for the man who has nothing more to prove?

David Ferrer might bring surprises this time too, and the young Kei Nishikori brings the Asian hopes to the draw. In the women’s division, it is more difficult to guess though, but Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams should remain the top contenders once again. Simona Halep, the last year’s runner-up and current world number two will have something to say about that. Then there is Petra Kvitová who won the Madrid Open. Caroline Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic also remain good contenders to the title. The women will bring the biggest surprises this time too, even in the doubles division. I would hope for new names on the trophy – may be Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, but Roger Federer winning will always be the biggest joy to watch! Let’s also see what happens with Internazionali BNL d’Italia!

***The images used in this blog post are from the Official Facebook Pages of the tennis players.

TeNy