Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: The Nadal-less Factor

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Is there life after Rafa?

Now that we've had time to digest and come to terms with the STUNNING turn of events at the 2012 Championships at Wimbledon, let's look ahead to see what doors were opened by the SHOCKING second round loss of World No. 2, 2-time champion and 5-time finalist Rafael Nadal. His second-round defeat has already been labeled as perhaps the biggest upset in tennis history.

But the show must go on--

There's no doubt Nadal's bracket is now wide open and there's a better than likely possibility that whomever comes out of it will play in their first-ever Wimbledon final. The only player remaining (on that side of the bracket) who has ever played in a Wimbledon final is No. 30 Andy Roddick but it's highly unlikely that the aging Roddick has the goods to prevail. It's just too bad that World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and World No. 3 Roger Federer are in the same bracket because (at best) we can only get a semifinals match from them. It would've been great to see these two great champions clash in the final but it can't happen. If they both hold serve, their semifinals match should be a bigger event than the eventual final itself.

So that leaves an excellent opportunity for World No. 4 Andy Murray to reach his first-ever Wimbledon final if he holds serve based on his seeding. Murray has reached the semifinals three consecutive years (2009, 2010, 2011) but has been stopped short by Roddick in '09 and the last two years by Nadal. He is no doubt the fourth best player in the world and had it not been for the Big 3 (Djokovic, Nadal and Federer) he probably would have had a few Grand Slam titles up to this point. But the pressure on the Scotsman is unlike any other player on the tour. He isn't only trying to win a major for himself but for the entire British empire. Great Britain hasn't had a Grand Slam champion since 1936 and Murray is there best and only hope. I'm sure the young man feels the intense pressure.

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Three other players to keep an eye on are No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 7 David Ferrer and No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro. No. 5 Tsonga stunned Federer last year to reach the semifinals, so he's no stranger to the big stage at Wimbledon. No. 7 Ferrer is one of these players that on any given day has the ability to beat just about anybody. He beat Murray in the quarterfinals of the French Open last month to reach his 3rd career Grand Slam semifinals, so he too has tasted big stages before. Ferrer is on a collision course to clash with the dangerous No. 9 del Potro in the 4th round. Del Potro, himself, is no stranger to pressure and big stages. Let's not forget when he shocked then-World No. 1 Roger Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final. Aside from Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, he is the only man in the current Top 25 with a Grand Slam title under his belt. But between del Potro and Ferrer, neither man has ever made it past the 4th round at Wimbledon but I think this is the year that one of them will break through and reach their first-ever Wimbledon quarterfinals and perhaps their first-ever semifinals.

With the absence of Nadal, this is how I see the semifinals shaping up--
  • No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 3 Roger Federer
  • No. 4 Andy Murray vs. No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro
Unless, of course, there's another SHOCKER waiting in the wings.

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