The grass is watered, the dress code has been enforced, the cream is chilling and the strawberries have been picked....it must be Wimbledon! It is crazy to think we are already at the 3rd Grand Slam of the tennis season, time flies when you are having fun I suppose. The tradition of Wimbledon is unmatched by the other three slams and players either really love to play here (see RFed) or absolutely hate the grass court season (see most Spanish players). Before I reveal my #TwineTime predictions, here is a quick overview of who should win, who could win and who could surprise us all. The dark horse picks have to be players unseeded who may not be a threat to win the championship (although perhaps they could) but more a player who could take down a few top names and wreck the draw for many.
Novak Djokovic (#1) - The top player in the world enters Wimbledon off a huge disappointment from the French Open. Losing the final to Stan "The Man" Wawrinka had to sting a bit with Novak looking to complete the career grand slam. Novak's game suits the grass though and he should recover quite nicely. He is the defending champion after all. He has a tricky opening match with the big German Phil Kohlschreiber and then he could find himself facing 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in round two. But, realistically, the draw gods shined down on him as he should see little hiccups until the semi-final.
Serena Williams (#1) - The top player on the WTA remains Serena and we all know that when Serena is at her best, she is unstoppable. Serena has half of the calendar Grand Slam already under her belt, winning the Australian Open and French Open. She is a 5-time Wimbledon champ but has hit a small slump by her standards. Her last triumph at the All England Club came way back in 2012. Her draw is favorable, although a possible 4th Round match up with sister Venus is intriguing and a quarterfinal draw against perhaps old rival Victoria Azarenka could add drama to her quest for the title. If she does succeed, she will complete the Serena Slam once again by holding all 4 slams at titles at the same time, just not in the same calendar year.
Watch Out For
Andy Murray (#3) - The 28 year old Scot enters The Championships fresh off a Queen's Club title and has the added advantage of Jonas Bjorkman in his box as a coach. Murray rises to the occasion playing at his "home" grand slam and seems to actually thrive off the pressure. The 2013 champ will want to do better than his quarterfinal appearance a year ago. Luckily he finds himself on the opposite side of the draw to his main rival Djokovic. A possible quarterfinal match with Nadal and a semifinal versus the Federer/Berdych survivor could derail his championship hopes though. The early rounds are light but it will get tricky as he advances. If he can make the final, Djokovic or not on the other side of the net, I would not bet against him.
Petra Kvitova (#2) - The defending ladies champ is up to #2 in the world and, being seeded #2 here, avoids Serena until the final. Consider that already a win for her. There has been concern over her health, withdrawing from a tune-up event because of an illness, but I think Petra will put all of that doubt to rest in her opening match on Tuesday. If you follow her on twitter you will see she seems quite healthy and ready to defend. The knock of Kvitova has always been her up and down play, she can beat the best but suffers some uncharacteristic losses to players she should easily beat. She is a two-time champion here though (2011,2014) and owns a health 27-5 record all-time on the green grass. I wouldn't be surprised if we see a repeat champion here.
The Dark Horse
Borna Coric (#40) - The 18-year old Croatian is becoming the talk of the men's tennis world. Remember when players like Dimitrov and Raonic were fresh out of juniors and starting to take the tour by storm? Well enter Coric, his time is now! He reached the second round of the US Open last year, winning his first grand slam match. Last month in Paris he advanced one round further, making a young career best 3rd round showing. Just think, back in 2013, Borna was winning the Junior Men's US Open and now he is ranked in the top 40 in the world. That is quite the climb! He has a victory already over Rafa Nadal (2014, Basel) and Andy Murray (2015, Dubai). Ok sure both of those are hard court events but still, impressive victories over major champions. His draw is tricky, facing the 2013 RFed killer Stakhovsky in the opening round and possibly 25-seed Seppi in round 2. If he can survive both of those matches, which is not out of the question, he would draw Murray in the third round. It might be too much to see an upset there but a strong showing this week could propel Coric into the top 32 in the world over the summer, meaning a seed at the US Open in August. Side note on why I also love Coric, he and #TwineTime share birthdays (only a FEW years apart mind you)! Gotta cheer for a fellow Scorpio :)
Kristina Mladenovic (#37) - "Kiki" has been the player on the rise this year. She reached her first career WTA final at Strasbourg, repeated her 3rd round appearance at the French Open and stunned seeded players Genie Bouchard (again!) and Simona Halep en route to a semi-final appearance at the tune-up Aegon Classic event in Birmingham. Mladenovic is a perfect example of a player who has used her experience and success in doubles into a new career on the singles tour as well (see Sam Stosur). She was a women's doubles finalist last year (with current partner Hungarian Timea Babos) and won the mixed doubles title in 2014 (with Canadian doubles legend Daniel Nestor). Her draw should see her be a favorite early on until a possible third round encounter with Vika. If Azarenka is not in top form or is caught looking ahead in the draw, the upset could happen. Survive Azarenka and "Kiki" could find herself in her first career grand slam quarterfinal vs. Serena.
(1) Novak Djokovic def. (14) Kevin Anderson
(9) Marin Cilic def. (5) Kei Nishikori
(4) Stan Wawrinka def. (16) David Goffin
(7) Milos Raonic def. (11) Grigor Dimitrov
(10) Rafa Nadal def. Vasek Pospisil
(3) Andy Murray def. (23) Ivo Karlovic
(6) Tomas Berdych def. (12) Gilles Simon
(2) Roger Federer def. (15) Feliciano Lopez
(1) Djokovic def. (9) Cilic
(7) Raonic def. (4) Wawrinka
(3) Murray def. (10) Nadal
(2) Federer def. (6) Berdych
(1) Djokovic def. (7) Raonic
(3) Murray def. (2) Federer
MEN'S SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP: (3) Andy Murray def. (1) Novak Djokovic in 4 sets - Something about Murray this year, entering his favorite grand slam, that makes it very difficult for me to bet against him. As is often the case, #TwineTime can be completely wrong here but I just cannot see the Djoker pulling out this championship. Call it too much pressure or being newly married or a new father or whatever but I feel this really is Murray's event to lose. Honestly, I even see Novak losing to Federer if they were to meet. Andy wants this title back and after the recent disappointment losses to Djokovic, time to get back on track, gain the confidence, beat the best and retake your Wimbledon title!
MEN'S DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP: (2) Ivan Dodig / Marcelo Melo def. (4) Jean-Julien Rojer / Horia Tecau
(1) Serena Williams def. (16) Venus Williams
(23) Victoria Azarenka def. (30) Belinda Bencic
(4) Maria Sharapova def. (14) Andrea Petkovic
(6) Lucie Safarova def. (11) Karolina Pliskova
(10) Angelique Kerber def. (31) Camila Giorgi
(18) Sabine Lisicki def. (3) Simona Halep
(21) Madison Keyes def. (8) Ekaterina Makarova
(2) Petra Kvitova def. (13) Aggie Radwanska
(1) S. Williams def. (23) Azarenka
(4) Sharapova def. (6) Safarova
(18) Lisicki def. (10) Kerber
(2) Kvitova def. (21) Keyes
(4) Sharapova def. (1) S. Williams
(18) Lisicki def. (2) Kvitova
WOMEN'S SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP: (4) Maria Sharapova def. (18) Sabine Lisicki - Going with a huge upset here. First, picking Maria to beat Serena in a slam semi is almost unheard of. Serena OWNS Sharapova at slams so this would be a massive upset if it were to happen. I like Sharapova though. Her serve is going to be her weak spot of course but she returns well and, when her focus and drive is on point, she can beat any player in the world. Remember Sharapova won her first grand slam here in 2004....but that was 11 years ago. Time to turn the clock back a bit and rediscover her grass court glory. The other big shocker of my pick is her projected opponent, Lisicki. Lisicki has the big power serve and game to also knock off anyone on tour. Let's also remember she is a former finalist (2013). Recently she set a new record for most aces served in a match, 27, in a battle with Bencic in Birmingham. If she finds that serving rhythm, doesn't matter who you face, an ace beats you every time. Plus Lisicki has a relatively easy draw until the semifinal. Don't be surprised if the big German is contesting for the championship once again.
WOMEN'S DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP: (1) Martina Hingis / Sania Mirza def. (4) Timea Babos / Kristina Mladenovic
All right ball boys and girls, there you have it. A #TwineTime preview of what to expect over the next two weeks as well as predictions on how I foresee the tournament unfolding. Share you thoughts, agree or disagree, on here or engage me in a conversation on twitter.
Also, hopefully some of you signed up to participate in the Talk About Tennis Wimbledon Suicide Pool. I join the suicide pool for all the majors (username: CanuckRaonic). It is a fun way to participate and elevates your interest in the event. I will be tweeting out my daily picks for as long as I remain alive...