Rusedski’s picks for Wimbledon
With Wimbledon starting on Monday, all eyes turned to the event in Eastbourne. It became very interesting because of Serena and Venus Williams participation. Serena has not played since winning Wimbledon last year because of a freak accident in Munich, were she stepped on broken glass while walking to her hotel room after a night out. She was walking bare foot and cut ligaments in her feet as well as cutting her feet up badly. It took her nearly a full year to recover.
On the other hand her sister Venus hasn’t played much due to a hip injury this year. I believe this is only her third event of the year. Serena played really well considering her lay off and beat Pirokova in the first round in 3 sets after starting very poorly. Pirokova was a tough match because she has made the semi-finals at Wimbledon and plays well on grass. Due to the long layoff Serena was not seeded at Eastbourne, because she has lost all her ranking points from last year. The ranking works on a 52 week calendar and if you don’t defend your points, your ranking disappears.
In the next round Serena lost to the top seed and world number 3 Vera Zvonerava. Serena actually served for the match in the 2nd set, but unfortunately did not come through. She is not that far off in her game considering she has been away for so long. Expect a good Wimbledon run from Serena and if the All England Club seeds her, she could be very dangerous. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that is allowed to seed players however they like because they say grass is a specialist surface. It is also based on your last 3 years’ performances at Wimbledon. I totally disagree with this and believe the seeds should be based on official rankings. Grass courts are not a specialist surface anymore because they have slowed down the courts by getting rid of the thistle in the grass, and changing it to rye grass a few years ago. They have also slowed down the balls through ball pressure and the cover on the ball. Grass plays more like a medium hard court and is slower than the French Open.
Venus looks very good at the moment even though she lost in the quarter-finals at Eastbourne. She will be a threat at Wimbledon. A lot of people’s favorite is Sharapova after her great run to the semi-finals at the French Open and also because she has won Wimbledon before. It is wide open on the women’s side again with other threats; Li Na, who became the first Chinese player to win a singles grand slam at the French Open two weeks ago, Petra Kvitova, the talented left handed Czech player, Victoria Azarenka from Belarus, and last year’s finalist Vera Zvonerava all contenders.
The men’s championship will be more predictable with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray, most likely all getting to the semi-finals. I can’t see anyone winning the championship outside of these four players. Nadal is my favorite for the tournament. Mentally there is no one stronger. Federer is playing great again but over the last few years hasn’t been able to beat Nadal at the majors. How will Djokovic react at Wimbledon after losing his 41 match winning streak? If he plays like he has throughout that streak, he could win. At the moment Nadal does not know how to beat Djokovic. Murray is playing well and needs to take it on in the semi-finals when he gets there, and go after it if he is to make his first Wimbledon final. That is what Darren Cahill has brought to Murray; a more aggressive style of play and a better mental approach on and off court. Murray will feel very good about his chances of winning and with the crowd behind him has a great chance.
The most interesting first round match this year is John Isner versus Nicolas Mahut. It is a rematch of the longest match in grand slam history which was well over 11 hours. I was lucky enough to do the final set which only lasted 8 hours and 11 minutes and took 2 days to complete, finishing 70-68 in the final set. Hopefully it won’t be a repeat.
This past week has been busy for me with an exhibition match in Eastbourne on Monday with Martina Hingis, Conchita Martinez and Henri Leconte. After the match I watched the British men play at Eastbourne. I also had the club opening for the new Telford tennis center which is a great center with 4 indoor courts and 4 outdoor courts. It is a club where you don’t have to be a member, you can just show up and play. I also opened the new outdoor courts at High Ercall. I enjoy these openings because they make it easier for kids and adults to play tennis. There are now over 22,000 courts in Britain. To find them click here which can help you find courts to play on, people to play with, and also find coaches in your area – and it’s free to join. I also played an exhibition tournament in Liverpool with Richard Krajicek, Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova, and Jan Michael Gambill. From Monday morning I will be at Wimbledon working for the BBC throughout the championships. Looking forward to watching some great tennis!