Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wimbledon Predictions: The New Big 4 Rising & Venus' Last Hurrah

Hi all. Galileo here.

I'm bored. Yep, bored. I'm bored of picking Serena every time. I'm bored of Serena winning all these slams. Serena's great, and a great ambassador for our sport. But even Federer lost during those dominant years and Serena just doesn't. And watching her play sure is incredible. And we'll probably never see anything like it again.

I'm not bored of Wimbledon, though. Every year Todd and I pick fairly sensibly [he pulls up our average] and we always get it wrong. But this year I have decided to be whacky, especially on the women's tour. It has to be said that some of the big names have been given a horror draw here. So these picks will be like the Wimbledon seedings. They will reflect recent performance.

Now on the men's side, you can absolutely guess who I'll be picking to win. The same guy I always pick to win Wimbledon. Although I refrain from picking him to win everything, I do think he is the favorite to pick up the trophy. There are obstacles in his way but right now he looks strong, very strong. Murray is a favorite. You can't count out Nadal and, of course, Novak is the top seed. I think the winner comes from one of these four.

And a bold prediction now. Kvitova will win five Wimbledon titles in her career. At least. She is nigh on unconquerable on grass. She has won 84 per cent of her matches at Wimbledon. She's the defending champion and second seed. She has a manageable draw here. I rate her as the favorite. But that may not mean she wins.

The above pick is supposing Kvitova does not get some horror injury, like Pierce.

And now a question for you: What edition of Wimbledon is this? If you get within five that's a correct answer.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Dolgopolov d. Edmund
WS 1st Rd: Wickmayer d. Kulichkova

We have the luxuries of the doubles draws being released already. So, let's have a look.

=Ladies Doubles QF=
[1] Hingis/Mirza d. [9] Dellacqua/Shvedova
...a winner this decade and a finalist very recently should be good for the quarterfinals. I'm not sold on Hradecka/Hlavackova.
Williams/Williams [12] d. [3]Mattek-Sands/Safarova
...wise of the AEC to seed the Williams sisters. They've won this doubles event five times. But BMS and her partner have swept the slams so far this year. But I refuse to pick against the Williams in doubles. That is rule #54 in the Backspin's rule book. Thou shalt not pick against the Williams in doubles, especially at Wimbledon. Kops-Jones/Spears are also here and have had a good year, but it's not happening against V.W and S.W.
Babos/Mladenovic [4] d. [7] Hsieh/Pennetta
...finalists from last year, they could go one better this year. The seventh seeds should beat Garcia/Srebotnik but the grass court throws up strange results. The 14th seeds are nothing remarkable, but Koukalova/Pironkova could be dangerous. Or first round fodder. But Pironkova and Wimbledon have a kind of "Shining" thing going on.
Vesnina/Makarova [2] d. Black/Raymond
...this is a weak section. Even the big seeds don't have a history of Wimbledon success. The second seeds play Robson/Keys in the first round. That could be dangerous. Really, the second seeds will come through what is an average section.
=Ladies Doubles SF=
Williams/Williams [12] d. [1] Hingis/Mirza
Babos/Mladenovic [4] d. [2]Vesnina/Makarova
...the finalists return to the final this year. And the Williams once again remind Hingis who is boss. How many number one pairs have they beaten in their time?
=Ladies Doubles Final=
Williams/Williams [12] d. [4] Babos/Mladenovic
...They lost 6-1, 6-3 to Vinci/Errani last time out. If I'm correct and the Williams get to the final, it will be an achievement for them to get more than four games.

=Men’s Doubles QF=
Bryan/Bryan [1] d. [9] Bopanna/Mergea
...Klaasen/Ram may be dangerous. But the Bryans over five is a convincing argument. Mind you that was my basis for picking Nadal. Marc Lopez/Marcel Granollers never do well here. That's why Bopanna/Mergea will be the quarterfinal opponents of the Bryans. Kubot/Mirnyi will upset the Spaniards in round two. They could go on a run.
Rojer/Tecau [4] d. [10] Herbert/Mahut
...seventh seeds Matkowski/Zimonjic look shaky on grass. But it really is a toss up in that bottom bit of the second quarter. Muller/Qureshi also lurk here. Doubles is a mess, especially on grass. Winning the first set just isn't as important. And it's harder to put the opposition away. Tecau is the Novotna of the men's doubles. He and Lindstedt made the final in 2010, 2011 and 2012. They have yet to win it.
Pospisil/Sock [3] d. [11] Nestor/Paes
...there's something to be said for defending a major bit of silverware. Sock has that experience [Oudin turns 24 this year, amazingly] and that should help. Murray and Peers will test them in the third round. And the eleventh seeds will beat Peya/Soares I should think. Wimbledon is not a happy hunting ground for the eighth seed.
Dodig/Melo [2] d. [5] Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini
...the fifth seeds land in a soft quarter with the other seeds preferring dirt. But they themselves aren't that strong on the grass. Still they have won a slam this year so they earn the benefit of the doubt. The second seeds were finalists the year before last. A word of warning -- famous 2012 winners Nielsen/Marray are wild carded here. Could they make a run?
=Men’s Doubles SF=
Bryan/Bryan [1] d. [4] Rojer/Tecau
Posipisl/Sock [3] d. [2] Dodig/Melo
...maybe predicting a top two seeded final just feels dangerous to me. The Bryans are fading, yes. But they are still the Bryans. Pospisil/Sock are looking for the world number one ranking. They may soon have it.
=Men’s Doubles Final=
Sock/Pospisil [3] d. [1] Bryan/Bryan
...I'm more confident of the young pair reaching the final than the Bryans. And that really says something.

Now, finally on to the singles...

1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB...Here we go again. Doesn't it feel as if we were just here yesterday? Anyways, he will still be world number one for the foreseeable future. He is safe there for a while yet. But he is the defending champion and with pressure comes privilege. So said Billie Jean King, a beloved figure at Backspin HQ. And now onto the draw as Djokovic looks to add to his haul of two Wimbledon slams. But he comes into this somehow lacking the Career Grand Slam. Here's Federer breaking the news about Djokovic's failure once again to get that elusive French Open to the other grand slam winners.

And here's Rafa whispering to Stan "thanks".

Of course, the above could just be Backspin speculation but you never know.

Djokovic opens with Kohlschreiber and that is going four. The German is going to push that to four long sets. And it's just such a horrible opener. A big serve, low slice and grass court prowess and experience is a tricky combination for Djokovic to overcome. Then he gets Hewitt. Almost certainly. And Hewitt is going to drag that match out. Hewitt should lose but he is not going quietly. And it may be the last time old Rusty graces these courts. He was always able to find it when it mattered. And he loves five setters. Then he gets the Aussie number two. He gets Tomic. And Tomic is again going to test him in all kinds of ways. The hardest thing, really, is that they're all great on grass and they all test Djokovic in different ways. Three contrasting styles. And then a fourth against Anderson. It's madness. Djokovic could lose six sets just to get to the quarters. And then it's Nishikori. So to get to the semi-finals he might have to play 22 sets. Wawrinka, his projected SF opponent may only have to play 15. And that makes a difference. Djokovic is ultra fit. And he won't be fazed by losing a set here or there. But it isn't just that. He only plays one grass tournament a year. And he has to find his footing. And if he loses all those sets , it's going to affect him mentally and physically.
2. KEI NISHIKORI, JPN... Two quarterfinals this year says he can do it. But I still hold reservations. He is not making the mistake that so many young stars do. He is having a slower but consistent rise. It means he can't drop suddenly. And it means he's always seeded in roughly the right place for a deep run. He opens with Bolelli and Cuevas is his seed. Young star and great junior Zverev is here but, really, this all comes to one thing. Can he beat Cilic? He lost to him in that US Open meekly. He can sometimes struggle with the enormous hitters. The winner gets Djokovic and is capable of winning that. That is the crux of this section.
3. KEVIN ANDERSON, RSA... So dangerous and so solid. Always achieves his seeding and always plays consistent tennis. His level rarely drops. One of the most underrated players on the tour. It took Gasquet with a home crowd on the South African's worst surface over three and a half hours to get the win. He does not get the credit he deserves for how he plays and how he comports himself. Kokkinakis and Janowicz lie on his path. But he should be able to get past them with sheer consistency. What he does is quite simple but it is oh so brilliant. Djokovic will probably end his run but he should and probably will take a set off the top seed. And that's pretty good.

That's why he will always be a dark horse. And particularly here where he has the slice and the big serve. And his volleying ability isn't exactly a hindrance. Hindrance. Now that is a call famous throughout tennis.

Yeah I bet that wasn't the clip you expected, though it does feature Eva Asderaki. Doesn't Serena take it well. Enough of my frivolity. Jerzy runs into Anderson and that is the worst kind of player for him to run into. Can his explosiveness blow down the South African's wall of consistency?
WILDCARD: JOHN ISNER, USA... If only this were America. How is Isner only 9-7 at Wimbledon? With that serve. If he can beat Cilic he has a chance against Anderson. I predict a five setter somewhere for Isner. Isn't that bold?
EARLY EXIT: LEONARDO MAYER, ARG... He landed Kokkinakis, who has the game and the nous to be a top two player if not more. He has a big serve and a solid baseline game. Apart from experience and perhaps net play he isn't really weak anywhere. He is the ying to the Kyrgios yang, though both are going to win slams. And both will win in Australia.
POOR GUY: NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB... That draw is punishing. Usually you look at a draw and you can say right fine, that match is easy and that one will be no trouble. That's a player you can dispatch. There is not one easy match on the horizon.

=In the End...=

1. STAN [the man] WAWRINKA, SUI... It's a crime that Wawrinka has only gone 2-1 in three fourth round appearances here. With that serve and that forehand. He also has a fantastic slice. He could be world number one. Right now I think he is. Right now I can't think of a player who could beat him. Except perhaps Djokovic in Australia. If he were to get a calendar Grand Slam I would also not be surprised. He is for real. He is the real deal. And it isn't many players who go 2-0 in their first two slam finals. Edberg, who plays kind of similar to Vavsy did and he went on to win six, though he started younger than the Swiss number two. Sousa, then possibly Burgos await the fourth seed. Thiem or Verdasco lurk and both can trouble Wawrinka, though on grass the Swiss has an advantage. Goffin is almost certainly going to be his fourth round opponent. Then the other section is a mess, but possibly Kyrgios or Raonic. A big server or Dimitrov is headed his way. It's not easy but it isn't impossible, either. Stan will definitely reach the semi-final stage. Of that I am fairly convinced. But then after that the question is can he deliver for two straight slams. It is now easier to do the French and Wimbledon double. But can he?
2. MILOS RAONIC, CAN... Raonic made the semi-final last year before Federer gave him a grass master class. Usually he would be a quarterfinal lock but this time there are question marks. He withdrew from a slam, a recent slam. Is he fully fit? The answer is probably close enough. Will it affect him? Yes. The next is will that tough draw be a serious problem? Again the answer is likely yes. If he can prove the answer is no to both those he will go far but Backspin is unconvinced. Gimeno then Haas are his first two opponents. Haas has been a world number two and has made a Wimbledon semi-final. He is a fantastic player and he could cause an upset. After that Kyrgios awaits and I think he probably gets revenge. Then Gasquet likely awaits in the fourth. It's a horror draw for the sixth seed. The serve guarantees him two wins usually but that is negated. Gimeno-Traver should be less of a challenge but Haas will be surely too much to overcome with just the serve. That's the kind of second match you don't want when you're still finding your feet. Still, Raonic will have other shots at Wimbledon and one day he may even be the favorite.
3. RICHARD GASQUET, FRA... I think experience sees Gasquet through to another fourth round here. He seems to be the king of fourth rounds though not the king of winning them. He has only won 2 out of about 20, but he is 2-0 in the QF. Still he should beat a slumping Dimitrov. And there is nobody else dangerous here. But can he beat Kyrgios?
DARK HORSE: NICK KYRGIOS, AUS... Was anyone else going to get it? He is in a workable section with a chance for revenge. He can beat Raonic here in the third round and he definitely has a solid chance to do so.
WILDCARD: DAVID GOFFIN, BEL... A run here or anywhere is never out of the question. Zeballos then Broady is a likely route and both have big games but Zeballos is best on clay. And Broady is a junior Wimbledon finalist with a big lefty serve but it probably won't be enough.
EARLY EXIT: GRIGOR DIMITROV, BUL... He has been slumping this season. He has struggled. He has been barely putting together wins. And now he has to defend semi-final points. It just looks so unlikely he'll come out of his slump.
POOR GUY: TOMMY HAAS, GER... He is finding his way back into Wimbledon and he ends up in this section of all sections. It really is bad luck.

=In the End...=
Well, to be honest, this section is a mess. But Wawrinka should be good enough.


1. ANDY MURRAY, GBR... As usual, he has been over-rated by the British media. He has a shot at winning this title but he is not the favorite. The British have rated him as the second favorite which does make some sense but his draw means he will struggle to even make the final. And if for any reason he has a match dragged over to the next day he could be in trouble. The key for him is to conserve enough fight to take on Federer in the semi-finals. Kukushkin and then Haase or Falla await in the first two rounds. Murray should not be too troubled. But then again if any of those players can get into the groove they could make things slightly problematic. Coric also lurks, as does Stakhovsky. Then he probably gets Tsonga or maybe Karlovic and you can bank on that match going four. If it's Tsonga a five setter may ensue. Tsonga has a better serve and a better forehand than Murray. But he does have weak points and Murray will know how to find them. Then Nadal beckons. Can Murray handle Nadal? Murray has taken one set off him on grass in his life. Nadal is 3-0 on this surface and 15-6 lifetime. And they call it a rivalry. Murray may not be the outright favorite but he is one of three, maybe four guys, who could win it. And that is a big thing. But there is no doubt he got handed a rough draw, possibly the roughest draw.
2. JO-WILFRIED TSONGA, FRA... Right now I would pick Jo over Nadal on every court on the world over five except for clay courts. And probably over three, as well. Jo, like Gasquet and Mahut, is a better player on grass. He is top eight easily on grass and he has proved that. I thought a Wimbledon final was almost inevitable but he seems to be always denied in the semi-final stage. Muller is a tough first round but Istomin in the next is more doable. Dolgopolov and Karlovic are also hanging around here and all could be tricky. But Tsonga has his eyes on that fourth round clash and he should get there. He is the most dangerous player in the draw and he has slam momentum. He has the ability to win this event. I certainly think that on his day he could beat Murray in four, but he does need Murray to be less than 100 per cent on his game.
3. RAFAEL NADAL, ESP... Discounting a two time winner and the winner of the greatest match ever to grace this event would be foolish. But Nadal has been poor on this surface since making the 2011 final. I can accept the Kyrgios and Rosol loss to a certain extent. In the Darcis loss Nadal was definitely injured. But he is still Rafa. Sadly he has a difficult draw. But that is no reason to discount him. Bellucci and Brown should be his opening opponents. Troicki and Stepanek lurk here, too. And of course Ferrer himself is seeded eighth and he could beat Nadal. These days it would not be considered that big an upset.
DARK HORSE: IVO KARLOVIC, CRO... Seeded 22 in 2009, he made the quarters. This year he sits at 23 and is just as dangerous.
WILDCARD: FABIO FOGNINI, ITA... A nice little Backspin tradition continues here...
EARLY EXIT: ANDREAS SEPPI, ITA... That final run in Halle was deceptive. He doesn't do so well on the grass. He should beat Klein, who defected from Australia to Britain, but Coric or Stakhovsky should have the beating of him.
POOR GUY: RAFAEL NADAL, ESP... He can't seem to catch a break. To do well he needs easier early matches. He is most definitely on the wane. It will be interesting to see what he decided to do after the 2016 Olympics.

=In the End...=
I think it is difficult to pick against Muzza. I think it is difficult to pick Ferrer here, too. And a Murray/Nadal clash here would be fascinating. Could Nadal intimidate Murray into a loss?


1. ROGER FEDERER, SUI... Seven Wimbledon titles and nine finals. Any questions? Win this and Nadal can't catch his haul of majors. Neither can Djokovic. In fact win this and he probably has that record till kingdom come. You're definitely sick of me by now so why not have a read of this. Federer has Lopez in the fourth and Berdych in the quarters. That's his route. Aside from that you know the drill with Federer by now.
2. TOMAS BERDYCH, CZE... Since that final he is just 9-4 here. He is really patchy here. He could make the final. He could go out in the second round. He could make the quarterfinal and then get just a handful of games. He opens with Chardy and then he gets Mahut. Should he manage to survive those mines he probably gets Gulbis and then possibly Monfils. Or maybe Simon. It's a weaker section and he should get to the quarters but Federer will have too much. Berdych, Berdych, Berdych. Always the guy just on the cusp. But has he fulfilled his talent, has he made the most of what he has? Is he an over-achiever or an underachiever? And the answer I think, though it may be different for you is that two slams would be an over-achievement and one would be just right. But if he makes another final or two at that level, beating a big guy along the way, that may suffice.
3. FELICIANO LOPEZ, ESP... The one Spaniard who loves grass more than he loves clay. Well, on the men's side currently, at least. I see you there Conchita! He always wins a couple of matches here, hits some lovely shots and generally has fun until he runs into a big fish. His simple yet ridiculously effective game does wonders and never more so than on this surface.
DARK HORSE: ERNESTS GULBIS, LAT & LUKAS ROSOL, CZE...These two form the basis of both the wildcard and dark horse. They play one another and then the winner likely gets Garcia-Lopez. Then Berdych looms. Gulbis has upset Berdman before and he could do it again. He has done it here, too. Both are capable of big wins and both can ride their luck and their form as far as they need to go. And I think they are both due a big run. It could happen.
EARLY EXIT: GILLES SIMON, FRA... He gets Almagro first up and Almagro is better on grass than one would think. He has upset potential abound. Then Kavcic and then Monfils. If any of those players can hit and maintain their top form, Simon could crash out on his worst surface.
POOR GUY: SAM QUERREY, USA... He could have been very dangerous here, but Federer is far too close. He has to serve his way through the great man and it just isn't going to happen.

=In the End...=
Federer cruises. Berdych threatens. And Gulbis makes me weep with frustration. So what else is new?



...I was tempted to pick Wawrinka to win this. I really was. The hangover from the French may still affect Djokovic. But Wawrinka crashed and burned at the last major he played where he had won the previous slam, and that was on his best surface. And there has gotta be a reason the Swiss number two has never done well here before. There was a time when Murray could reliably beat Federer on this surface. I think that time has passed for Murray. I think Fed will have too much and I just think that in the final Djokovic wins in five. But I'm not confident about that. There is an asterisk. And if Djokovic should falter, Federer may take this title for the loss of only two sets.

#15 Williams d. #1 Williams
#23 Azarenka d. Pironkova
#4 Sharapova d. #24 Pennetta
#6 Safarova d. #11 Ka Pliskova
#10 Kerber d. #31 Giorgi
#18 Lisicki d. #26 Kuznetsova
#8 Makarova d. #21 Keys
#2 Kvitova d. #13 Radwanska

...The seeds and some of the players in the sections are similar to that of the French, though not so similar it's boring. The Williams are again slated to meet in the fourth round. But this time I have picked Venus. Something always happens to Serena. Usually something so unforeseeable nobody even dreams of calling it [Lisicki was callable, but Cornet was left field] but this time I've decided to call it. There's just something about Venus. And something about Venus here at SW19. Watson and Garcia is a great first round match. So is Cibulkova against Hantuchova. Brengle and Vinci are here. Schiavone is a sure fire upset over compatriot Errani.

The next section is a mess. CSN and Ivanovic are the seeds here. Bencic against Pironkova is the big clash. The real power lies with Azarenka and Pironkova. Both got decent draws, draws they would have taken with all four limbs at the start. The winner of their clash could be the tournament Cinderella. If you can call Vika a Cinderella.

'Pova has to break through this 'curse' at some point. And with only the winner of Begu and Gavrilova looking dangerous, this is likely the tournament she'll break her 'curse.' Pennetta and Diyas play in the first round. Petkovic is here, too, but does not share her compatriots' love of SW19. Stosur/Pliskova is the key match and that favors Pliskova. But if Stosur can get to the second week, the courts begin to suit her more. If Sam can win she could go further than expected. Kanepi and low-seeded Strycova are here, too, but Safarova is in world beater mode right now. But it could all come crashing down. Still, the lefty had a great Wimbledon last year. She should be fine. And then she should have too much for whoever wins that third round match.

Wozniacki on grass combined with the fact there's nobody else vaguely threatening here, means Giorgi makes a second fourth round here. Kerber has a tougher draw but Muguruza prefers clay and Lucic-Baroni isn't as dangerous as she was. Shvedova is here but, really, Kerber won't drop a set until the fourth round. Kerber's experience should be too much for the younger Giorgi who lost to Radwanska in the fourth in 2012. Here lies the traditional crazy Kuznetsova pick. Halep on grass is susceptible to an upset. And Puig lurks. So do Niculescu and Kuznetsova. Three quarterfinals here for Kuznetsova and she could do it. But if Lisicki can get past Gajdosova's big serve [which she will] she will beat Timea and cruise through.

Cornet plays Konjuh. That's the best first round match in this section. Makarova has just too much for anyone else in this section, though. Keys will beat Vogele and Wickmayer. She may not need to get past a slumping Bouchard but can if need be. And probably will. But then can Keys really beat Makarova? I doubt it but she does have the ability. Paszek/Dellacqua is a great first rounder to watch. The winner gets Svitolina and then they get to have a real go at Radwanska. Tomljanovic adds a bit of spice but Radwanksa should be too good here. Kvitova has a recovering Robson and a Jelena Jankovic, who is in nowhere land. Kvitova breezes through here, maybe dropping a bagel on an opponent en route to the quarterfinals. Five consecutive quarterfinals beckon.

#15 Williams d. #23 Azarenka
#6 Safarova d. #4 Sharapova
#18 Lisicki d. #10 Kerber
#2 Kvitova d. #8 Makarova

...Well, once Venus wins, if it happens how I think it will, the draw just opens right up. And she leads Vika 4-2 in the head to head. And this is grass. 'Pova has had a real problem with Lucie and it continues. But a quarterfinal here is a solid bounce back from that disappointing French Open campaign. Kerber never should have beaten Lisicki in that quarterfinal. Lisicki wins through to another semi-final here.

And that Kvitova match will be great, especially for you lefties watching. But nobody can out Kvitova Kvitova on her turf. Podj!

#15 Venus d. #6 Safarova
#2 Kvitova d. #18 Lisicki

...Venus just keeps rolling. Picking her to beat Serena is risky but after that every match she can win. And Kvitova beats Lisicki in a classic with a breaker somewhere. If the Kvitova/Lisicki quarter comes to bear, look for there to be 25 aces in that match at least.

#2 Kivitova d. #15 Venus

...I think if Venus wins I may tear up. It will still be sad to see her lose this final in some ways. But Petra will be too strong.

Anyway, thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please. They have milkshakes.

ANSWER: This is the 129h edition of the event.

I'll be seeing you all soon and far too frequently for your liking.


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