Nick Bollettieri: Federer's vulnerable so any of these eight could claim the glory
Wimbledon Notebook plus today's big match: Laura Robson v Jelena Jankovic
Monday 21 June 2010
Let's not beat about the bush: Andy Murray has had a crappy year. Since losing in the Australian Open final to Roger Federer, the edge has come off the Scot's game and he hasn't looked like a Slam contender.
I don't say this with anything but sympathy because Murray is a huge talent. But at this stage in 2009, he'd played almost 40 matches and won four titles. In 2010, he's gone out early in events so often that he's only played half that number of matches – and won nothing.
And yet I still put Andy in a group of at least eight who enter the men's singles event at Wimbledon this fortnight with a realistic chance of going all the way. Because this is the most wide open championships I have known.
Roger Federer's years of invincibility are over. A lot of players thus come into contention. I'll run through the main contenders as I see them.
If I were forced to put some cash on one player, it would be on Roger Federer, but not with the same conviction as before many recent Wimbledons. The Swiss genius has slipped, by his own ethereal standards. He lost a final, on grass, to Lleyton Hewitt in Germany recently.
Before that, his game fell to pieces at the French Open, where his astonishing consecutive Grand Slam semis sequence ended. But Wimbledon is Federer's domain – the draw has been kind, and let's not forget, he remains, for now, the greatest.
Rafael Nadal may have a thing or two to say about that in the years to come. He's still only 24, yet firmly established already as the best clay-courter the game has ever seen. Nadal's draw is much tougher, but clearly the Spaniard is a contender.
Andy Roddick, three times a beaten finalist at Wimbledon, is in good shape and loves this arena. He has an excellent chance of making the semi-finals, at least. If he gets there, he might have had to beat two of the other other guys I consider 'live shots' for title.
Lleyton Hewitt is always going to fight to his last breath as long as he's fit, while Novak Djokovic is a danger. The draw means Hewitt and Novak Djokovic could meet in the fourth round, with the winner facing Roddick in the quarters.
If there's one player I think could cause Federer problems in the top quarter, it's Tomas Berdych. He's played some wonderful tennis this season, on his way to a Masters final in Miami and then the semis at the French Open.
The penultimate player in my eight is Andy Murray. His draw couldn't have been kinder, with winnable matches all the way to the semis, where he might meet Nadal. The eighth player is John Isner, the 6ft 9in giant from North Carolina. The surface is going to suit his massive serving game in the first week at least and he could trouble Nadal if they met in the fourth round.
On top of those eight, we must add that Robin Soderling has proved himself a constant threat, Marin Cilic can damage opponents on grass and Murray's quarter of the draw is so navigable that if he doesn't get to the semis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or several others might well ghost to the last four and then, who knows?
The women's singles is open too but with Serena and Venus Williams seeded No 1 and No 2, and with their amazing records at Wimbledon, it wouldn't surprise me if they ended up contesting a fifth all-Williams Wimbledon final. I'd be truly surprised if we don't have at least one of the sisters in the final.
If Robson comes out swinging she can knock confidence of Jankovic
Holy mackerel! What at opportunity for your British heroine Laura Robson, getting to play on the greatest court in the world on the opening day of the most prestigious tournament in the world. That's why this is my match of the day, at least as far as British interest is concerned, because the 16-year-old upstart, who shoots from the lip, also has a game that can take her places.
Let's cut to the quick; she's an outsider today for a reason and I don't, frankly, expect an upset. But that's not to say she has no chance of winning because anything can happen, especially in the early rounds and when the pressure is on the higher-ranked, more experienced player.
In this case, that player is Jelena Jankovic, someone I know very well because she spent years living and training at my academy, and she's been training with us this year.
The match will be interesting because Robson has earned her day in the limelight with precocious, feisty tennis. She's a leftie, thus tricky, but Jelena is going to move her around that court and try to shake her up that way.
Robson has to serve well, and she has to pounce on any tentative second serves by Jankovic. She also has to come out relaxed rather than awed. She needs to be loose as a goose and come out swinging, because if she gets off to a storming start, she can knock Jankovic's confidence, not vice versa.
Robson doesn't want to be thinking about the result of this match before it starts. She doesn't want to be thinking she can win it, in my humble opinion, because if the early stages go against her then mentally she's in a difficult place. Equally, she doesn't want to be assuming she'll lose. She just needs to play it a point at a time, play her best, play offensively, and see where the cards fall.
Jankovic is beatable despite being back to No3 in the world. She's never got beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon, but then she has been working recently with my director of tennis, Chip Brooks, so she's made positive changes.
Look for Jankovic to use her improved serve, superb movement, two-handed backhand (and down the line) to control the court and attempt control of the match from the start. Her experience is a massive boost, as is crowd support for Robson.
Today's big match: Laura Robson v Jelena Jankovic
HOW THEY MATCH UP
......... British ......... Nationality ......... Serbian
......... 16 ......... Age ......... 25
......... London ......... Residence ......... Dubai
......... Left-handed ......... Plays ......... Right-handed
......... 5ft 10in ......... Height ......... 5ft 9in
......... No234 ......... World ranking ......... No3
......... 0 ......... Career titles ......... 12
......... $83,000 ......... Career prize money ......... $10.9m
......... W0 L1 ......... Wimbledon record ......... W13 L6
......... 1R (2009) ......... Wimbledon best ......... 4R (three times)
......... None ......... Head-to-head ......... None
......... 7-1 ......... Odds ......... 1-7
Bollettieri's prediction: Jankovic in two
World Cup of Tennis
Now I'm not the biggest soccer expert in the world, but I am of Italian heritage and I do know there's a tournament in South Africa that some of you English sports fans have been keeping an eye on. I believe you've even had the good taste to hire an Italian coach, although perhaps less said about that, the better – for a few more days, until you get into the next phase!
The World Cup got me thinking about some of the great players I've worked with and watched in my 50-plus years in coaching, so each day I'll be having a bit of fun trying to predict World Cup match scores (about which I have little, verging on no, expertise) through imaginary tennis match-ups. Confused? Great. Let's begin.
Chile v Switzerland
Chile play Switzerland today in the football, so what would have happened if Chile's Marcelo Rios, in his prime, had played Switzerland's Roger Federer?
I worked with Rios and he was a leftie (and therefore a bit nuts!), but also the single most talented tennis player – in terms of natural gifts – that I have ever coached. He was strong and quick and creative on the court and reached No 1 in the world – on his day could beat anyone. Off the court, he could be surly, rude, selfish and objectionable.
Federer is the greatest player of all-time, the man who, at his peak (not so long ago), had it all and was unbeatable. At Rios's peak, it would've been close. I predict a draw in today's football.
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