Wimbledon, the historic tournament at the All England Club, is already upon us and in full swing. The world’s favorite player and the one player whom everyone wants to see win one last time withdrew from the tournament a week ago – Andre Agassi is still recovering from the back pains that caused him to lose in the first round of last month’s French Open. This is the second year in a row that Agassi has withdrawn from Wimbledon.
The clear favorite to win this year is none other than No. 1 Roger Federer. This man is amazing. His style of play is reminiscent of pre-metal racquet players like John McEnroe and Pete Sampras. It’s no wonder why he is so dominant, and it’s surprising that more players don’t adopt his standard of play. Roger Federer has won this Grand Slam two years in a row, and is looking to three-peat.
The No. 2 Andy Roddick is looking to add a second Grand Slam title to his 2003 U.S. Open crown. His 150+ mph serve works the best on grass, as does his powerful forehand. But he almost refuses to volley, which works the best on this court surface. Just ask Sampras who won this championship a record seven times. The last time a serve-and-volleyer didn’t win Wimbledon was 2002 when Lleyton Hewitt dominated the tournament and 1992 before that when Agassi won his first Grand Slam title.
You might be seeing the last of classic serve-and-volleyers with the way that tennis has evolved. Before today’s ultra modern aluminum racquets, matches were played with wooden racquets. Volleying was a natural thing to do when balls weren’t traveling at 100+. Most of the players on the ATP and the WTA are baseline players who rarely volley. Even a classic baseliner like Agassi was playing against the norm during the early 90s. It’s become incredibly difficult to volley shots when the racquets can hit them to serving speeds. McEnroe and Martina Navritalova both called for a return of wooden racquets to professional tennis a few years ago, but to no avail.
England’s last great hope for a men’s Wimbledon champion is Tim Henman who barely survived his first round match against Jarkko Nieminen by winning in five sets. The last British man to win the championship was Fred Perry in 1936. Tim Henman has reached the Wimbledon semifinals four times, the quarterfinals four times, never reaching the finals and has had overwhelming pressure on him to win the title for his home country for the past decade.
My man Marat Safin is on his way to the second round after his win over former top 25 ranked Paradorn Srichaphan in three sets. Nadal proved in the French Open that there is another man on the tour other than Safin who can beat Federer. But Nadal isn’t as strong on grass as he is on clay. And my prediction is this year’s Wimbledon title will be Safin’s third Grand Slam title. I hope.