What a lot of massive sport there is coming up in the next few weeks . The Tour De France , Test Rugby , The Open Championship , the culmination of the Fifa World Cup and of course Wimbledon .
This year Andy Murray will be defending his long awaited title . The first Brit in 77 years to capture the Wimbledon Men’s Singles crown , he won in fine style , defeating then World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets in last year’s final .
The Women’s Champion was far more of an upset . Marion Bartoli achieved her childhood dream , winning Wimbledon . In a stunning run to the title , she defeated Sloane Stephens in the Quarters , Kirsten Flipkens in the Semis and then took down Serena Williams’s conqueror , Sabine Lisicki , 6-1,6-4 in the final . She then retired less than 2 months later , sighting constant pain during matches and a lack of motivation having now achieved her tennis dream .
The men’s side of the draw is , in my opinion , more open than the French Open . In Paris , realistically it was between Nadal and Djokovic , but on the lawns of SW19 , I’d throw in Murray right alongside the two big boys . I also give Federer a reasonable shot at creating history and winning a record eighth Wimbledon title . Throw in the mercurial talents of messes Wawrinka , Berdych , Raonic and a revitalized Ernests Gulbis , as well as players like Tsonga , Isner, Janowicz and Dimitrov , who can all cause major upsets on grass and you have a cracking Championship in prospect .
The ladies side of the draw is even more open than the men’s , providing of course Serena Williams doesn’t find her best form . She’s been knocked out early in the first two Grand Slams of the year , by Ana Ivanovic in Australia and then by Ana’s Spanish look-a-like , Garbine Muguruza in Paris . I count as many as ten players who are capable of lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish presented to the ladies champion . Williams , Li , Halep , Sharapova , Bouchard , Azarenka , Ivanovic , Kvitova , Cibulkova and Lisicki all have the weapons necessary to go all the way .
My key matches in the men’s draw (if things go to plan) :
ERNESTS GULBIS vs TOMAS BERYDCH is a mouth watering 4th round clash , that could be a repeat of the Roland Garros Quarter-Final in which Gulbis dismantled Berdych . Should these two get through their first three matches , it’s anyone’s guess who will win out on the day . I’m anyone and my guess is Gulbis to come through .
NOVAK DJOKOVIC vs ERNESTS GULBIS : Should Gulbis come through as I just assured everyone he would , he has the exciting prospect of Novak Djokovic in the Quarters . Gulbis’s coach doesn’t even believe that Ernests is good enough at this juncture to beat Novak , so who am I to argue , Djokovic through to the semis .
STAN WAWRINKA vs ROGER FEDERER is a likely Quarter-Final match-up that will pit the two Swiss maestros and friends in a dogg eat dogg battle . The prize , a Semi-Final spot in the biggest tennis tournament in the world . This match will only come to pass though if they can both get past tough 4th round opponents . Stan has the giant American , John Isner to deal with and Rog has the giant Pole , Jerzy Janowicz in his path . These two big serving goliaths will prove very tricky , but I feel the shot making and guile of the Swiss men will prove decisive .
So to their match-up . The two men both have similar styles . Strong serves , big forehands , one-handed backhands and an easy elegance that make them a joy to the eye . Federer is probably still a better mover than Stan , but Stan has more power these days . Roger obviously has a huge edge when it comes to experience , but Stan has more power and that , in my opinion will be the deciding factor . Wawrinka through to the semis .
MILOS RAONIC vs RAFAEL NADAL is the quarter-final at the bottom of the draw that I expect to see happen . The tennis juggernaut against the young pretender . A clash of styles . The big serve and forehand of Raonic against the energizer bunny with that huge buggy-whip forehand , Nadal . Everybody knows about the brilliance of Rafa , but on grass Milos will be more than a handful . Expect to see some tie-breaks in this one , but I’m still going for the experience in big matches of Rafa . Nadal into semis .
NOVAK DJOKOVIC vs ANDY MURRAY : I expect Andy to come through his Quarter handily , which will most likely mean a rematch of last year’s final in this year’s semi . These two men have met 20 times on tour , with Djokovic prevailing 12 times and Murray 8 . Everyone is interested to see what Andy’s new coach , Amelie Mauresmo will bring to his game , although it might be a bit to soon to see major changes . Novak will no doubt be his consistent self , but if Andy can play aggressively , up near the baseline , then I give him the edge on the lawns . MURRAY into his third consecutive Wimbledon final .
STAN WAWRINKA vs RAFAEL NADAL : A lot of people will be hoping this semi turns out to be another Nadal v Federer classic at Wimbledon . They haven’t met on grass since that epic 2008 final and this might be one of the last chances for another Wimbledon battle to happen . Wawrinka against Nadal could be a classic in its own right though . It would be a repeat of this year’s Australian Open Final , which turned out to be one of the strangest grand slam finals in memory . Rafa will want to erase that memory with a victory that will take him back to a Wimbledon final for the first time since 2011 . Stan will have other ideas though and with the grass keeping lower than the other surfaces , it will help his one-handed backhand against Nadal’s big top-spin forehand . I think the encounter will hinge on the form of Wawrinka . If he’s striking the ball crisply and moving sharply then he might have Nadal’s number on the grass , but he’s inconsistent and thus I’m picking Nadal’s consistency to prevail . Nadal through to his sixth Wimbledon final .
ANDY MURRAY vs RAFAEL NADAL ” The Final” : These two have never met in a grand slam final , but they have met 8 times in grand slams , with Nadal leading 6-2 . This one’s going to be different to most of those matches though . Murray’s going to step in and be aggressive , he’s going to shorten the rallies , he’s going to out serve Rafa , quite simply , he’s going to win . MURRAY Wimbledon Champion .
On the women’s side , there are far to many upsets and unpredictable results for me to foresee key matches . So I’m just going to give a quick rundown of each of my contenders .
SERENA WILLIAMS : Serena is the out and out favourite in every grand slam she enters . With 17 grand slam titles , she is far and away the dominant player of her era and perhaps the greatest of all-time . Her early exits in Australia and Paris will only serve to motivate her . She is after Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam singles titles and a win at SW19 this year will put her one step closer . Serena will be very tough to beat and I tip her to win it all .
LI NA : The darling of Chinese sport , Li is now the number 2 player in the world . She has 2 grand slam titles , including the Australian Open this year . On her day she is a devastating player , good off both wings , she produces piercing ground strokes that leave her opponents breathless , but as she showed in Paris , losing in the first round to Kristina Mladenovic , she has quite a number of off days . Which Li Na will show up this fortnight is anyone’s guess , but if she brings her best stuff , she will be final bound .
MARIA SHARAPOVA : Maria captured her 5th grand slam title in Paris a fortnight ago . It was a grueling two weeks that no doubt took a lot out of her both physically and mentally . I think it will be hard for her to bounce back from such a high , so quickly . She is seeded to meet Serena in the Quarters and with her disappointing record against the American , I can’t see her winning that match . For Maria to go all the way , I think she needs some easy early round wins and then hope Serena gets knocked out early .
SIMONA HALEP : Simona was magnificent in Paris , she played inspiring all court tennis that took her all the way to the final . She lost to Sharapova in the final , but the little Romanian proved herself as a future grand slam champion . Her game reminds me a lot of Justine Henin and that ain’t no bad thing . She has quite a favourable quarter so I would be surprised if she didn’t go all the way to the semis , where she will probably have to face Serena . I personally would love to see that match .
EUGENIE BOUCHARD : The Canadian is the new pin-up girl of tennis and she has a lot of game to go with her looks . She made the semis in the first two grand slams of the year and at 20 , is a star in the making . She finds herself in a really tough quarter , with Serena and Maria , so it will be an unbelievable achievement if she can match her performances in Melbourne and Paris .
VICTORIA AZARENKA : The tall Belarusian has been out for 3 months with a foot injury . She will want to work her way back into tournament play with a couple of comfortable wins and then put her best foot forward and cruise back into her old form . She has a fairly favourable draw and with her talent , I wouldn’t put it past her to make a semi .
ANA IVANOVIC : The Serbian stunner has had a resurgence of late and her attacking , go for broke style , makes her a dangerous opponent for anyone , just ask Serena Williams . Ana won her first tournament on grass a week ago in Eastbourne and with her confidence surging , she will look to match her best finish at Wimbledon , a semi-final in 2007 .
PETRA KVITOVA : After her commanding win at Wimbledon in 2011 , I and many others expected her to kick on and become a dominant force in the women’s game . She hasn’t been able to duplicate that form though , with inconsistency plaguing her . She’s in the bottom Quarter with Li Na . a match-up that seems to crop up regularly . I wouldn’t be surprised to see them battle it out again and from there , who knows , I certainly wouldn’t want to play her .
DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA : The pint-sized powerhouse has come into her own as a player this year . She lost in the Final of the Australian Open to Li Na and will be looking to go one better this fortnight . She’s drawn in a Quarter with Radwanska and Azarenka , two players I really think she can beat right now . Look for Dominika to make another grand slam semi at Wimbledon this year .
SABINE LISICKI : Last year’s finalist seems to save her best tennis for Wimbledon . She hasn’t done much this year , but with her power and her love of SW19 , don’t put it past her to rediscover that Wimbledon magic and make another run this year .
With the players primed and ready , it promises to be another enthralling two weeks at the most prestigious of all the slams .