Wimbledon Preview: In the 125th, There are Five
No one really knows what'll happen at the 125th edition of Wimbledon, but unlike at Roland Garros, we probably have a pretty good idea about which players have a chance to win the title.
In Paris, you could easily go double-digits deep when it came to trying to come up with a list of potential champions. But now we're talking about London. Truthfully, I think there are only five women who could actually WIN the title. Here's the list: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Li Na. Not that I think all of them have an equal chance. I don't. I don't even think that that we'll necessarily see the Ladies' final be a match-up of TWO of those players, or that even as many as two will certainly reach the semis. But I think at least one WILL reach the final, and she will win the title. I'd have to see a whole lot of refuting evidence over the course of this Wimbledon to make that opinion change. You know, like having all five exit before the final Saturday. Only then would I really believe that ONE of them won't be the champion in the end.
A year ago, I wouldn't have included Kvitova on that list. I do now. Of course, the '10 semifinalist is often her own worst enemy, as frighteningly inconsistent as she is thrillingly lethal. Plus, first-time slam champions are rare at SW19. Only six have been crowned there in the Open era (compared to fourteen at RG). Li wouldn't have been on the list a year ago, either. But she's a proven slam force now, has a grass court pedigree and reached the QF a year ago. She's got a tough draw, but if she survives the first week, her chances of doing something that could give her a shot at reaching #1 before the end of '11 get better and better. Sharapova stepped into the WTA spotlight at Wimbledon in '04, but her grass court results ever since aren't as great as most probably think they are (she hasn't reached the SW19 QF since '06, and hasn't won a title on the surface since '05). But the draw is favorable to her (though she could face Li, who's beaten her in matches on grass for two year's running, in the semis), and her confidence should only continue to tick upward after her RG experience. If Kim Clijsters were in the draw, she'd be on the list. But she's injured. Again. (And, really, what are the current odds that she'll play at all in '12? I'd say they're about one more injury from being so small we'll need the Hubble telescope to find them.) Elena Dementieva would be, too. But she's retired, two years after having held match point against Serena in the SF in '09. Such bad timing for Punch-Sober.
Not to ignore the rather significant elephants in the room.
Serena and Venus, back from their long injury layoffs, haven't lifted singles titles in quite a while. But since when has that ever stopped them before? They're in London, and that makes them contenders. While they showed they weren't unbeatable in Eastbourne, they both got important match play and wins (or near-victories) over very good players. More than any other players over the past decade, the Sisters use the weeks and tournaments before slams to start to construct their foundation for slam success, then they build upon it through every round over a two-week slam period. So far, it's worked out twenty times since 1999. #21 could very well come at this Wimbledon.
But the possibly of #21 aside, the countdown begins at Five. Let's see how many of their number are left two weeks from now. There only needs to be one... and I like the chances of that.
Here's a quick overview of the draw, quarter-by-quarter:
...here, it's Maria and everyone else. If she holds here serve together, it's hard not seeing the Russian being the more-than-odds-on favorite to win this quarter.
1. Maria Sharapova (#5)... I still give her a better shot at the Open, but things could very well play out to her advantage in London. Unlike in Paris, it's easy to predict her in the semis -- at least -- from Day 1 without blinking an eye. At that point, it's kind of up to her.
2. Caroline Wozniacki (#1)... she's this high mainly on ranking, since I question her preparation and don't count her in the Group of Five (maybe Ten?). Not this year, at least. She could get a test in the 2nd Round vs. the Razzano/Mirza winner, and things only get tougher from there -- Gajdosova (3rd), Cibulkova/Goerges (4th) and Sharapova (QF). It should be noted that the pattern of an aggressive hard-hitter taking the Dane to task that we've seen so often in '11 really got a foothold at last year's Wimbledon, as Kvitova destroyed her 6-2/6-0 in the Round of 16
3. Jarmila Gajdosova (#27)... she reached the Round of 16 in '10, and could send the Dane off to start her North American hard court circuit prep a little earlier than she'd prefer. Well, unless she decides she just has to go to Sweden to play on clay the week after Wimbledon, that is.
4. Peng Shuai (#20)... is Li's slam success contagious? Unlike Li, Peng never seems to get the HUGE win, though.
5. Samantha Stosur (#10)... watching her in the Eastbourne semis, I realized that I no longer have any faith in her whatsoever. She lost in the 1st Round a year ago, and while I don't expect anything like that again, I truthfully don't care when she bows out. Like an annoying gnat on a hot day, I just know that at some point she'll go away... likely earlier than she probably should, too.
6. Dominika Cibulkova (#24)... she's due for a good Wimbledon result. She's reached at least the 4th Round at all the other slams.
THE BRACKET BUSTER: Lucie Hradecka... the potential for a big serve is never something to sneeze at at Wimbledon
THE POOR SOUL: Anna Chakvetadze... was it really only four years ago that she was a Top 10er and slam semifinalist? She gets Sharapova in the 1st Round.
...intrigue is possible here, but if Serena is sound she might make it all moot. A potential Li/Lisicki 2nd Rounder might be a match to determine who'll be around to opportunistically pick up the pieces of the draw should Williams stumble. Meanwhile, Bartoli is something of an itch that I can't quite bring myself to scratch in this section.
1. Serena Williams (#7)... sure, it's an absurd idea that she could defend her title after missing 49 weeks. But it's not absurd for HER, and that's all that really matters.
2. Li Na (#3)... if she can survive the first few rounds, don't count her out for a third straight slam final.
3. Marion Bartoli (#9)... she's one of the few in the draw with a grass court title AND a Wimbledon final on her career resume.
4. Sabine Lisicki... before all her injury troubles, she reached the QF in '09. She rebounded from her Paris implosion by winning in Birmingham. If she faces Li in the 2nd Round, we'll find out how much she REALLY learned from her near-miss at RG against Zvonareva.
5. Agnieszka Radwanska (#13)... she's reached at least the Round of 16 in four of her five trips to SW19.
6. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (#30)... although she doesn't have much Wimbledon success in her past. She might have a better shot at making noise in doubles.
7. Ana Ivanovic (#18)... though I have about as much faith in her as I do Stosur. Which is pretty much at a sub-zero level.
THE BRACKET BUSTER: Tamarine Tanasugarn... so what if she's 34, it's grass so she has to be given respect.
THE POOR SOUL: Aravane Rezai... she gets Serena in the 1st Round. I guess that streak of consecutive events with one-or-fewer match wins won't be ending here.
...this is the section with the most turn-over-the-card-table potential. The top seed is a medical emergency waiting to happen, and the next highest is arguably an underdog in her 1st Round match. In the middle are two players who rose into the Top 5 together... nine years ago.
1. Daniela Hantuchova (#25)... before she retired from the Eastbourne SF, she was in a much stronger position in the quarter. Under the right circumstances, she could actually reach the final. Of course, being Hantuchova, her budding confidence could disappear in the blink of an eye, too. Maybe with her health an issue, it ALREADY has.
2. Victoria Azarenka (#4)... she's the top-seeded player here, but now she can't put together two tournaments together without retiring from one. On the bright side, she retired from her LAST tournament, so she'll probably make it through this one. I really don't think she'll get past Hantuchova, though, in the 3rd Round. And, remember, the last six players to defeat Azarenka went on to win the tournament in which they beat her.
3. Jelena Dokic... Dokic made her mark at Wimbledon in 1999-2000, and has never lost to her 1st Round opponent, #6 Francesca Schiavone. It's not out of the question that we could see her and Hantuchova battle it out for a shot to reach the SF once the considerable dust clears in the quarter. Back in the Top 50 after her Netherlands final run, Dokic really couldn't have asked for a better quarter in which to land. Let's see if she can make it work to her advantage.
4. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (#14)... she nearly reached the RG semis, and one day should be a good grass court player. I'm not sure that day will come in 2011, though.
5. Francesca Schiavone (#6)... two years ago, she knocked out the first seed to fall in the 1st Round and reached the QF. Last year, still weary from her RG celebration, she herself was the first seed to lose. In what mindset does she arrive in London, and does her winless record against 1st Round opponent Dokic mean as much as some people (all right, me) hope it does?
6. Kaia Kanepi (#17)... she almost reached the semis a year ago, but her recent results say she might be lucky to survive her 1st Round match with Sara Errani.
7. Andrea Petkovic (#11)... she's never won a match at Wimbledon, but she's got a year of success at the other three majors on her side.
THE BRACKET BUSTER: Ekaterina Makarova... no one flies under the radar better than the Russian, and there she is again waiting the shadows for the survivor of the Dokic/Schiavone tet-a-tet two rounds later.
THE POOR SOUL: Nadia Petrova... sure, she's got a shot to make some noise in singles, but I just know I'll be typing "Oh, Nadia" by the middle Sunday. Probably after she meets up with Pavlyuchenkova in the 2nd Round.
...if there's a loaded quarter, it's this one. A five-time champ, a 2010 finalist and two semifinalists, a two-time slam champ and a former #1-ranked player are all in attendence. Whoever comes out of here is going to be battle-tested, or totally strung-out.
1. Venus Williams (#23)... she got her work in in Eastbourne, and somes to SW19 feeling good about her chances. She should. But it won't be anything resembling easy.
2. Petra Kvitova (#8)... with her everything-but-the-kitchen-sink point-by-point style, she can come back in ANY match, no matter how far down she is. Just ask Kanepi. She can also turn any advantage into a deficit in the span of two games, then turn things back around in her favor two games later, then fall behind again two games after that with her opponent often having very little to say about any of it. It makes her very exciting to watch, but nothing is EVER to be taken for granted. She CAN occasionally dial things down a half-notch and clean up some of her mistakes, though. If she ever comes to London and can harness her game's craziness for seven straight matches, she'll win this title. It could happen this year. But I'm not feeling it.
3. Vera Zvonareva (#2)... it's easy to forget that she made the final a year ago. With the likes of Venus and Kvitova in her way, if she just stays steady she might slip through again while they self-destruct before her eyes.
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova (#12)... after intitially having good success at SW19, the last four years her results have gone from QF to 4th Round to 3rd to 2nd. Might 1st Round opponent Zhang Shuai be about to get a nicely-wrapped gift?
5. Jelena Jankovic (#15)... JJ has to be getting desperate right about now. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.
6. Yanina Wickmayer (#19)... if she can keep from knocking herself out with a ball ricocheting off her racket on the court, that is.
THE BRACKET BUSTER: Roberta Vinci... of course, she's not likely to have her opponent double-fault six times in the 3rd set like Dokic did against her in the 's-Hertogenbosch final. Hmm, well, she might face Kvitova in the 3rd Round. So don't count those chickens just yet.
THE POOR SOUL: Tsvetana Pironkova... she has zero chance of defending her SF points from last year. And she knows it, too. If by some miracle of fortune she gets past Zvonareva in the 3rd Round, who would she probably play next? Yep, Venus. The player she beat in the QF a year ago. And you KNOW that result ain't going to be repeated.
TOP PLAYER: Alexa Glatch/USA
...knowing what it used to be like to be dubbed the latest "hope for a tennis generation," Glatch showed little mercy in her 6-1/6-0 dispensing of Roland Garros starlet Caroline Garcia, then she outlasted Galina Voskoboeva 12-10 in the 3rd to grab the final qualifying spot in this year's Wimbledon main draw. Hey, it's wasn't an Isner/Mahut style marathon, but it's pretty good.
RISERS: Marina Erakovic/NZL & Mona Barthel/GER
SURPRISES: Lesia Tsurenko/UKR & Camila Giorgi/ITA
VETERAN: Tamarine Tanasguarn/THA
COMEBACK: Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN
FRESH FACES: Irina Falconi/USA & Kristyna Pliskova/CZE
DOWN: Urszula Radwanska/POL & Caroline Garcia/FRA
OTHER QUALIFIERS: Chang Kai-Chen/TPE, Vitalia Diatchenko/RUS & Misaki Doi/JPN
WILD CARDS: Naomi Broady/GBR, Elena Daniilidou/GRE, Sabine Lisicki/GER, Katie O'Brien/GBR, Laura Robson/GBR, Heather Watson/GBR, Emily Webley-Smith/GBR
LUCKY LOSER: Stephanie Dubois/CAN, Stephanie Foretz-Gacon/FRA
Q1: Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN d. #21 Urszula Radwanska/POL 6-4/6-3
Q2: Lindsay Lee-Waters/USA d. #3 Arantxa Rus/NED 6-7/7-6/6-4
Q3: Alexa Glatch/USA d. Galina Voskoboeva/KAZ 3-6/7-6/12-10
*WIMBLEDON "Q-PLAYER OF THE WEEK" WINNERS*
2006 Meilen Tu/USA
2007 Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE & Olga Govortsova/BLR
2008 Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP & Eva Hrdinova/CZE
2009 Viktoriya Kutuzova/UKR
2010 Kaia Kanepi/EST
2011 Alexa Glatch/USA
*2011 SLAM QUALIFYING LEADERS*
[slam qualifying runs]
2...Mona Barthel, GER (R/W)
2...Marina Erakovic, NZL (R/W)
2...Irina Falconi, USA (A/W)
2...Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN (R/W)
[most qualifiers by nation, w/ Wimb. total]
6...United States (2)
2...Great Britain (0)
2...New Zealand (1)
=POTENTIAL FIRST SEEDS OUT?=
#31 Lucie Safarova/CZE vs. Lucie Hradecka/CZE
...always capable of an upset. Always capable of being upset.
#6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA vs. Jelena Dokic/AUS
...Schiavone has never beaten Dokic, going 0-4 in junior and WTA match-ups. Dokic beat her en route to her Kuala Lumpur title earlier this year, and is coming off a final run in the Netherlands.
#17 Kaia Kanepi/EST vs. Sara Errani
...Kanepi held match points for a SF berth a year ago.
#4 Victoria Azarenka/BLR vs. Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
...probably not, but better safe than sorry. Rybarikova isn't a likely champion, though, and the last six players to defeat Azarenka -- whether via a retirement or not -- have gone on to win that tournament this season.
#2 Vera Zvonareva/RUS vs. Alison Riske/USA
...Zvonareva narrowly escaped as early upset bid by Lisicki in Paris.
#3 Li Na/CHN vs. Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS
...Kudryavtseva knocked off Sharapova at SW19 in '08.
#14 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS vs. (Q) Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
...Pavlyuchenkova says that people tell her that her game should translate well to the grass. When she truly believes it, maybe it'll be so.
#24 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK vs. Mirjana Lucic/CRO
...Lucic reached the semifinals in '99, but hasn't notched a main draw win at Wimbledon since.
#27 Jarmila Gajdosova/AUS vs. Alona Bondarenko/UKR
...the Aussie reached the Round of 16 in '10, and Caroline should probably root for Alona..
#15 Jelena Jankovic/SRB vs. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP
...defending 4th Round points, JJ might be staring at a very long summer with a ranking outside the Top 20 if she doesn't spark soon.
=POSSIBLE 2nd Rd. MATCH-UPS TO WATCH=
#3 Li vs. Lisicki, #18 Ivanovic vs. (WC) Daniilidou, #14 Pavlyuchenkova vs. Petrova, #15 Jankovic vs. Niculescu, #27 Gajdosova vs. Rodionova/Hlavackova winner, #1 Wozniacki vs. Razzano/Mirza winner
=LAST QUALIFIER STANDING?=
1. Tamarine Tanasugarn/THA... at this point, she'd be a non-factor on any other surface. But this is grass.
2. Marina Erakovic/NZL... faces fellow qualifier Chang in 1st Round, could face (injured?) Hantuchova in 2nd.
3. Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN... if she wins 1st Round, could get Schiavone in 2nd, two years after the Italian knocked HER off in the 1st Round (showing just how much things can change in two years -- at the time, Wozniak was the seeded player of the two)
4. Irina Falconi/USA... faces lucky loser Dubois in 1st Round
=LAST WILD CARD STANDING?=
1. Eleni Daniilidou/GRE... in '05, Daniilidou upset Henin in the 1st Round. This time around, she gets Coco Vandeweghe, and maybe AnaIvo after that.
2. Heather Watson/GBR... Watson was the "Last Brit Standing" in '10, but only because her's was the last scheduled 1st Round match of the six winless Brits
3. Laura Robson/GBR... even if she defeats Kerber in the 1st, likely gets Sharapova in the 2nd
=LAST BRIT STANDING?=
1. Elena Baltacha... gets qualifier Mona Barthel in 1st Rd.
2. Anne Keothavong... hey, if Kvitova's strokes go haywire, who's to say she wouldn't have a shot in their potential 2nd Round match?
3. Heather Watson... hoping for some mojo against Mathilde Johansson
...top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki is the seventh different woman to be seeded #1 in London over the last seven years, matching the current 7-in-7 streak in Paris. If she can hold her top spot until the U.S. Open, she'll become the first woman seeded #1 there in back-to-back years since Martina Hingis topped the draw from 1997-2001.
By comparison, either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal has been the top seed at the last thirty men's slams. With Nadal defending champion's points, though, he could lose his #1 ranking after Wimbledon. The last non-Rafa/Roger #1-seed in a slam? Andy Roddick in Melbourne in 2004. If Nadal and Federer meet in the final, it'd be their 20th meeting in an ATP final, tying the Ivan Lendl/John McEnroe combo for the most on the all-time list.
From 2003-10, either Federer or Nadal has been the Wimbledon champion in each year. With six titles, Federer needs just one more SW19 crown to tie Pete Sampras for the all-time Wimbledon men's record. Also, with 219 career slam match wins, if Federer gets five wins to reach the SF he'll tie Andre Agassi for second on the all-time Open era list. If he reaches the final with #225, he'll be behind only Jimmy Connors (232). With 55 career match victories at Wimbledon, Federer needs five wins to pass John McEnroe for fourth on the tournament's all-time Open era list, behind only Connors (84), Boris Becker (71) and Sampras (63).
...sure, it seems like a joke, but John Isner and Nicolas Mahut REALLY WERE drawn to meet once again in the 1st Round. As you remember, they met in "The Match on the Edge of Forever", the record-breaking three-day, 11:05, 183-game, 216-ace match with Isner winning a remarkable 70-68 5th set in '10. Who wants to bet that the 1st set goes to a tie-break?
...at least one Russian woman has reached the semifinals at twenty-six of the last twenty-nine slams, with Maria Sharapova having been the one Hordette to reach the final four at Roland Garros.
...it's hardly part of the conversation at the moment, but Serena Williams is the two-time defending Wimbledon champion as the 2011 Championships begin. If she wins a third straight title, she'd join the likes of Steffi Graf (1991-93), Martina Navratilova (1982-87) and Billie Jean King (1966-68) as women who have won a third consecutive title in the Open era. Since 2000, the Williams Sisters have won nine of the eleven finals contested, and at least one has appeared in ten of eleven finals, facing each other four times. With Lindsay Davenport thrown into the mix, Americans have claimed ten of the last twelve Ladies' titles, and filled seventeen of the last twenty-four spots in the women's final.
Venus and Serena Williams enter this Wimbledon with neither having won a singles title in 2011. Since Venus became the first of the Sisters to win at SW19 in 2000, such a title-less circumstance has only occurred one other time in the last ten editions of Wimbledon. It was in 2006. That year, an injured Serena didn't play, while Venus was upset in the 3rd Round. Amelie Mauesmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne reached the final. It was the one year in the last eleven that neither Sister played for the title..
...Chris Evert is back on the air on ESPN2 for Wimbledon coverage, her first work as a regular commentator in a decade. She's essentially said that she's not going to hold anything back, so there might be a few interesting moments along the way over the next two weeks.
=ROUND OF 32 PREDICTIONS=
#27 Gajdosova d. #1 Wozniacki
#24 Cibulkova d. #16 Goerges
#20 Peng d. #10 Stosur
#5 Sharapova d. Hradecka
Lisicki d. #30 Mattek-Sands
#13 A.Radwanska d. (WC) Daniilidou
#9 Bartoli d. #21 Pennetta
#7 S.Williams d. (Q) Tanasugarn
Dokic d. #28 Makarova
#11 Petkovic d. Cirstea
#14 Pavlyuchenkova d. K.Bondarenko
#25 Hantuchova d. #4 Azarenka
#8 Kvitova d. #29 Vinci
#12 Kuznetsova d. #19 Wickmayer
#23 V.Williams d. Niculescu
#2 Zvonareva d. #32 Pironkova
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#27 Gajdosova d. #24 Cibulkova
#5 Sharapova d. #20 Peng
Lisicki d. #13 A.Radwanska
#7 S.Williams d. #9 Bartoli
Dokic d. #11 Petkovic
#25 Hantuchova d. #14 Pavlyuchenkova
#8 Kvitova d. #12 Kuznetsova
#23 V.Williams d. #2 Zvonareva
#5 Sharapova d. #27 Gajdosova
#7 S.Williams d. Lisicki
#25 Hantuchova d. Dokic
#23 V.Williams d. #8 Kvitova
#5 Sharapova d. #7 S.Williams
#23 V.Williams d. #25 Hantuchova
#23 V.Williams d. #5 Sharapova
...what do ya know, I actually picked two of The Five to reach the final.
Shocking results just aren't common at this tournament. Conchita Martinez winning in '94 is really the only one in the last forty years. Maybe it's just too anachronistic, or the surface and environment makes it akin to playing on the moon behind closed doors for two weeks out of the year under conditions that no one will see again for another year. Not that that's a bad thing. I actually like it. You can only have so much chaos, you know.
Not that I'm not predicting some wildness with my picks. I have Li going out to Lisicki in the 2nd Round, Gajdosova taking out Wozniacki a round later and Hantuchova and Dokic turning the clock back a decade and facing off in a slam QF. I'd pick Jelena, but I won't put that curse on her back. At the very least, I'm hoping for the Venus/Kvitova QF match-up to play out, just to see how wildly one match could actually swing if both trade off periods where their games go totally out of whack. It could be a crazy match. I could easily put Serena in the final, but I actually prefer to have her "surprise" me... even if nothing she does ever REALLY surprises me at all. I wouldn't put anything past her, including winning her third straight title.
But I'm going with Venus, because Wimbledon has always been HER special slam. And at 31 (as of this past Friday), who knows how many title run possibilities she has left? If Serena is in top form, she generally beats Venus, even on the grass. She's probably not quite their yet, though, so I'll give Venus the nod for old time's sake.
It's been hard to gauge exactly where the top men stand heading into this Wimbledon. Still, as with the women, there are probably only four or five potential champions in the field. If that many.
Roger Federer has the grandest history at the All-England Club, so his two-week layoff since reaching the Roland Garros final is fine. Defending champ Rafael Nadal, though, played on the grass immediately, only to appear tired and lose. Can he gather it together and play the sort of brilliant grass court tennis he's displayed the last few years (he's 26-2 in his last four appearances, and won the title in his last two), especially with a murderer's row draw that could include Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray before the final? Berdych would seem too flighty to reach a second straight final, but I'm -- I can't believe I'm saying it -- really intrigued by Murray at this event. He SHOULD have ended Novak Djokovic's winning streak before Roland Garros, and seemed to gain strength from his performance against the Serb rather than be dragged down by blowing his chance to win the match. He reached the RG semis, then won a grass title a week later. Of course, by the end of two weeks time, the pressure of a semifinal match with Nadal would be more than immense. As for Djokovic, well, he hasn't played since his very un-NewNovak performance in Paris. He began the year focusing on Wimbledon, where he reached the semis in '10, but his long undefeated streak sort of consumed that narrow focus along the way. Can he get it back?
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#1 Nadal d. Rochus
#6 Berdych d. #10 Fish
#4 Murray d. #17 Gasquet
#9 Monfils d. Hanescu
#12 Tsonga d. #7 Ferrer
#3 Federer d. Isner
#5 Soderling d. #11 Melzer
#2 Djokovic d. #13 Troicki
#1 Nadal d. #6 Berdych
#4 Murray d. #9 Monfils
#3 Federer d. #12 Tsonga
#2 Djokovic d. #5 Soderling
#4 Murray d. #1 Nadal
#3 Federer d. #2 Djokovic
#3 Federer d. #4 Murray
...I must have lost my mind, picking Murray to reach the final. Consider this the men's version of my Clijsters-in-Australia gambit from January. That one worked, so I'll stick with this wild notion, too. Plus, it makes it easier to pick Federer, who looked like he had more than enough left in Paris to win in London. That said, I could see Nadal finishing off a 21-match Wimbledon win streak to take his third title.
*MOST SLAM #1 SEEDS - ACTIVE PLAYERS*
8...Serena Williams, USA
4...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, DEN
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
3...Dinara Safina, RUS
2...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
1...Kim Clijsters, BEL
1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
1...Venus Williams, USA
*WIMBLEDON TOP SEEDS*
2002 Venus Williams (RU)
2003 Serena Williams (W)
2004 Serena Williams (RU)
2005 Lindsay Davenport (RU)
2006 Amelie Mauresmo (W)
2007 Justine Henin (SF)
2008 Ana Ivanovic (3rd Rd.)
2009 Dinara Safina (SF)
2010 Serena Williams (W)
2011 Caroline Wozniacki
*WIMBLEDON FINALS - IN 2011 DRAW*
8 - Venus Williams (5-3)
6 - Serena Williams (4-2)
1 - Maria Sharapova (1-0)
1 - Marion Bartoli (0-1)
1 - Vera Zvonareva (0-1)
*RECENT WIMBLEDON SEMIFINALISTS*
2006: Mauresmo (W) - Henin-Hardenne (RU) - Sharapova/Clijsters
2007: V.Williams (W) - Bartoli (RU) - Ivanovic/Henin
2008: V.Williams (W) - S.Williams (RU) - Dementieva/Zheng
2009: S.Williams (W) - V.Williams (RU) - Dementieva/Safina
2010: S.Williams (W) - Zvonareva (RU) - Kvitova/Pironkova
**LOW-SEEDED WIMBLEDON SEMIFINALISTS - since 2000**
wild card - Zheng Jie, 2008
unseeded - Jelena Dokic, 2000
unseeded - Petra Kvitova, 2010
unseeded - Tsvetana Pironkova, 2010
#23 - Venus Williams, 2007 (W)
#18 - Marion Bartoli, 2007 (RU)
*WIMBLEDON TITLES - OPEN ERA*
4...Billie Jean King
*FIRST-TIME SLAM CHAMPS AT WIMBLEDON*
1968 Billie Jean King
1978 Martina Navratilova
1994 Conchita Martinez
1998 Jana Novotna
2000 Venus Williams
2004 Maria Sharapova
*EARLIEST EXITS BY #1 SEED AT WIMBLEDON*
1994 1st Rd. - Steffi Graf lost to Lori McNeil (*)
1999 1st Rd. - Martina Hingis lost to Jelena Dokic
2001 1st Rd. - Martina Hingis lost to Virginia Ruano Pascual
1962 2nd Rd. - Margaret Court lost to Billie Jean Moffitt (King)
(*)- also earliest loss by a defending champion
*WIMBLEDON WOMEN'S FINALS - since 2000*
2000 Venus Williams def. Lindsay Davenport
2001 Venus Williams def. Justine Henin
2002 Serena Williams def. Venus Williams
2003 Serena Williams def. Venus Williams
2004 Maria Sharapova def. Serena Williams
2005 Venus Williams def. Lindsay Davenport
2006 Amelie Mauresmo def. Justine Henin-Hardenne
2007 Venus Williams def. Marion Bartoli
2008 Venus Williams def. Serena Williams
2009 Serena Williams def. Venus Williams
2010 Serena Williams def. Vera Zvonareva
*WIMBLEDON GIRLS FINALS - since 2002*
2002 Vera Dushevina/RUS def. Maria Sharapova/RUS
2003 Kirsten Flipkens/BEL def. Anna Chakvetadze/RUS
2004 Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR def. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
2005 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL def. Tamira Paszek/AUT
2006 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
2007 Urszula Radwanska/POL def. Madison Brengle/USA
2008 Laura Robson/GBR def. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA
2009 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA def. Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
2010 Kristyna Pliskova/CZE def. Sachie Ishizu/JPN
Oh, and of course, how could we kick off Wimbledon without a moment of silence -- err, I mean recognition for Bethanie Mattek-Sands' tennis ball dress, put together for her by Lady Gaga's designer and debuted at the players' party the other night. Hmmm... you know, for Bethanie, it's actually quite tame.
All for now. Day 1 awaits.