08 July 2006

Will Wild Wimbledon Come to Wild End?

I predicted wins by Mauresmo and Federer a few days ago. I've been rethinking that in the last 24 hours, though.

Tennis has always had no.1 vs. no.2 rivalries: Evert - Navratilova, Graf - Seles, Borg- McEnroe, Connors - McEnroe, Becker - Edberg, Becker- Sampras, Sampras - Agassi, Williams - Williams. The rivalries at the top are always there, and it's great because it pushes each player to greater heights. Sampras routinely credited Agassi with making him a better player.

But Federer - Nadal is a special case. For one thing, it's really taken only 6 months for this to become a truly titanic rivalry. For another, Federer is so much better than everyone else on the tour that no one else has even come close to challenging him. He is 1-5 this year against Nadal but 55-0 against everyone else.

For Federer to make the Wimbledon finals 2 weeks after the French finals is amazing. For Nadal to do the same thing is even more amazing.

I was disappointed in the French final; it wasn't Federer's best performance, and the match wasn't that good. I hope it's different this time, and I have a feeling it will be. I'm hoping for a big time 5-set fight.

I don't necessarily give the edge to Federer. I think the pressure is on him. Nadal's play so far suggests that Federer won't have the advantage on grass that everyone assumed he would. If the match goes the way I think it will, there will be plenty of big points and pressure moments. And I think that's where the match will be decided. Nadal never chokes on pressure points. I'm not so sure about Federer.

Basically what it comes down to is one of my old rules: when in doubt, pick the crazy person. Therefore I completely reverse my former predictions and predict Henin-Hardenne and Nadal.

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