Some Wimbledon thoughts

June 24, 2009 |

   I know I am cheating a little by not posting this until after the first round ended, but this is when I got around to it. I am going to give you my top 5 contenders to win the championship, plus a couple of darkhorses who could do much better than expected. Afterwards I am going to re-post my top 20 players of the Open Era, that I originally put up before the French Open. Partially because there is a slight change and partially because it was when my blog was still hidden away in the contestants section. So Ladies first , here is my outlook on the Wimbledon Championships.

 

                     2009 Women’s Wimbledon contenders

5.  Jelena Jankovic

Currently ranked 6th, she has the game to defeat the Williams sisters, the only question is does she believe that.

4.  Maria Sharapova

She is just now rounding back into form, but she loves faster surfaces and has won here before. I expect her to make a statement.

3.   Dinara Safina

   She has made three Grand Slam finals and is ranked number one in the world. She is ready to break through, but emotions have got the better of her in big matches in the past.

2.  Venus Williams

The two time defending champion has to be respected. She is no longer even close to her sister on any other surface, and I might not have included her in the top 5 anywhere but here. But, at Wimbledon she has enjoyed tremendous success and could bring back her “A” game here once again.

1. Serena Williams

As much as I hate say it. She is the best in the world right now. Safina may be ranked higher but that is just a technicality. She has to be the favorite, although she hasn’t won here since 2003.

 

Women’s Darkhorses ( not expected to win, but could go far)

Jie Zheng  and Virginie Razzano

Zheng has shown a propensity on Grass and although a 4th round match against Serena will be tough, if she gets by that…watch out.  Razzano is playing the best tennis of her career and has a favorable draw into the quarters.

 

                                    2009 Men’s Wimbledon contenders

5.  Jo-Wilfred Tsonga

 People have been waiting for him to break through for a few years. He has made one Grand Slam final and likes faster surfaces. He could surprise.

4.  Fernando Verdasco

   Currently ranked eighth in the world, Verdasco has really stepped up his game in the past year. Without Nadal in the draw, this is the best chance for his fellow Spaniard to break through.

3.  Andy Roddick

   Roddick is still a very good player on fast surfaces, he just hasn’t been able to keep up with Nadal and Federer. With one gone, this is one of his best chances to win another major. He’s made two finals here and looks focused.

2.    Andy Murray

This may be the best chance in a half a century for a British man to win the Wimbledon Championships. He is the second highest ranked man  in the field and if he makes the final will have a whole nation behind him. He made the US Open final last year and that experience may be just what he needs to win this one.

1.   Roger Federer

 It is impossible to go against the 5 time champion, especially after his history making win at the French. If he can take home this title he will stand alone with 15 Grand Slams. A Murray/Federer final could be another epic Wimbledon final.

 

   Men’s Darkhorses ( not expected to win, but could go far)

Lleyton Hewitt and Igor Andreev

The2002 champion Hewitt has fallen to 56th in the world, but he has been playing better lately. If he can come up with a big win over Juan Martin Del Potro on Thursday, the draw opens up for him until the quarters. I don’t really have a good reason, but I like Andreev here. Marin Cilic is the only top player in his section of the draw; and after his 5 setter with Federer in the US Open last year, he’s shown he can step up his game.

 

                   Now here is my updated TOP 20 List.

 

     TOP 20 Male Tennis Players Of The Open Era (Since 1968)

                 ( active players can still move up later, of course)

20.  Lleyton Hewitt

19.  Stan Smith

18.  Arthur Ashe

17.  Ilie Nastase

16.  Jim Courier

15. Guillermo Vilas

14.  Rafael Nadal

13.  Stefan Edberg

12.  Ken Rosewall

11.  Mats Wilander

10. Boris Becker

Won six Grand Slams. Made the Semis at the French 3 times. Made 7 Wimbledon finals (winning three). Had a great Davis Cup career and was the number one player in the world in 1991.

9.  John McEnroe

  Won seven Grand Slams, all US Opens and Wimbledon’s. Won 82% of his ATP matches. Was number one for large chunks of 1981 to 1984. He would be ranked higher but he only spent 7 years as a truly elite player.

8.  John Newcombe

  Won 7 Grand Slams (5 in the Open Era). Had a big upset of Jimmy Connors in the 1975 Aussie final at 31. Had tremendous success in Davis Cup and as a doubles player. He was considered the best player in the world during the time between Rod Laver’s prime and Jimmy Connors.

7.  Ivan Lendl

 Often overlooked, but he won 8 Grand Slams. He did it by beating players like McEnroe, Wilander and Edberg in finals. Only the great grass court play of McEnroe and Becker kept him from elusive Wimbledon. He played in a record 19 Slam finals.

6. Andre Agassi

   He has the aforementioned elusive career Grand Slam. He won eight overall and had a tremendous rivalry with Pete Sampras. He was number one for most of 1995 and then again in 1999 and 2000. If he hadn’t disappeared for awhile in between the two, he’d be rated higher. In his case image didn’t turn out to be everything. He was a great and gutsy player as well.

5.   Rod Laver

      Many consider him the greatest of all-time. He won 11 Grand Slams, but only 5 were during the Open era, which is why he is only fifth in this poll. His 1968 Grand Slam has never been duplicated, but it was on three grass surfaces that year. That’s something Becker or Sampras would have loved. He never made another grand slam final after 1969 but was competitive until 1974, when he was 36 years old.

4. Pete Sampras

    Pete has won 14 grand slam titles, the most in history. 12 of them came at Wimbledon and the US Open. He was number one for most of 1994 to 1998. He is probably the greatest grass court player of all-time. He would be higher on the list, but was dreadful on clay and had little competiton in the late 90’s. Too many Todd Martin and Cedric Pioline finals.

3.  Bjorn Borg

       He won 11 Grand Slams. Never able to take the US Open, but he made 4 finals there losing each time to McEnroe or Connors. He won 5 straight Wimbledons and three times won the French and Wimbledon back to back. That only happened again last year when Nadal did it 28 years later. He made 16 Grand Slam finals and was number one from 1979 to 1981.

1. (tie)  Roger Federer

     He is tied for first with 14 Grand Slam titles. 5 Wimbledon, 5 US Open, and 3 Australian and now 1 French. He sits alone with Borg and Sampras as the only men with at least 5 titles at two Grand Slams. Unlike Sampras, he has been excellent at the French Open making four finals, winning one. Only Nadal’s brilliant clay court play has kept him from that trophy more often. He has won 81% of his lifetime ATP matches. He currently has either won or lost to the eventual champion at 19 straight Grand Slam tournaments. He was number one for 237 consecutive weeks from 2004 to mid 2008. In time he will probably ascend to number on on this list alone. But for now……..because I feel that during his prime he’s had only one true contender to deal with (Nadal), I only place him in a tie for first.

1.  (tie)     JIMMY CONNORS

       He won 8 Grand Slam titles, even though he rarely played the French or Aussie Opens in his prime. He did make the French semis (the only one he never won) four times. He won 82% of his career tennis matches and he won 147 tournaments, the most in the modern era. His 1241 singles victories is also the most all-time. He won 5 total US Opens, 1 on Clay, 1 on grass, and 3 on hard courts. He showed he was competitive on any surface. He was the number one ranked player for all but one week between July 1974 and July 1979, an amazing 244 out of 245 weeks. He was also number one on various occasions in 1982 and 1983. He had almost 10 years between his first and last number one ranking and for an amazing 14 years from 1973-1986 he was ranked in the top 5 in the world. No one else has had that kind of longevity with their excellence. That combined with the fact that he had to contend with the 3rd, 7th, and 9th players on this list during the bulk of that run makes him (at least for now) tied as my best player ever.

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