The French Open is in the rear view mirror, but Wimbledon is already less than a month away. Here are a few storylines to watch as the pros shift from clay to grass.
Any chance of the “Euro Double”?
Given the quick turnaround and difference between the two surfaces. winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year is one of the toughest feats in sports.
Could it happen this year? Newly crowned ten time French Open champion Rafael Nadal has done it twice before, but has not been beyond the quarterfinals of Wimbledon since 2011. It was announced yesterday that he will not play again before Wimbledon His stiffest competition will come from a rested Roger Federer, a home standing Andy Murray and possibly Novak Djokovic or Milos Raonic.
Calling Nadal the favorite is a stretch, but it is foolish not to put him fairly high on the short list of contenders.
The idea of surprise French Open ladies winner Jelena Ostapenko pulling off the feat might sound nutty to some, but not me. I am all in on the hard hitting 20 year old Latvian after her display as an unseeded player in Paris.
She absolutely crushes the ball off both sides. She misses a lot, but when she hits, it is intoxicating to watch. Her movement is better than most realized. The serve needs work, but she protected it well at Roland Garros.
Her style that often leaves her with quadruple the winners (and errors) of her opponents actually translates better to grass than clay. We have seen so many female players make a breakthrough and then disappear in recent years. Something tells me Ostapenko is different. While the field is still very wide open, Ostapenko is among my Wimbledon favorites along with Venus Williams and two other players in different stages of returns to the game.
Petra, Vika, and Roger are back… Maria isn’t:
Petra Kvitova made her return from a stabbing injury at Roland Garros. However, make no mistake, she had her eye on Wimbledon all along. The lefty is a two time champion at the All England Club. She has never reached a major final anywhere else.
Her first grass court event is next week in Birmingham, England. With Serena Williams out of the picture, Kvitova is as good a bet as any at Wimbledon.
Former World No. 1 and new mom Victoria Azarenka is making her return to the circuit next week in Spain. The two time major winner has never fared all that well on grass by her lofty standards. Even so, there just are not many players I would feel comfortable picking to beat her.
On the men’s side Roger Federer is back after electing to skip the entire clay court season. Clearly rusty, Federer lost to soon to be retired former world No. 2 Tommy Haas in his first match back this week. It was just his second loss of the year. However, with one more tune up event, extra rest, and the form we have seen in 2017 from the reigning Australian Open champ, it is hard not to peg the 35 year old as the favorite heading into his most successful major.
For all the big names that are returning on the grass, Maria Sharapova will still be missing. She had been given a wildcard into Birmingham and was set to play Wimbledon qualifying, but has failed to recover from a small calf tear suffered in Rome. The issue of how Sharapova’s comeback from a doping suspension should be handled has divided the sport.
I fall into the camp of Sharapova equals intrigue. Thus, let her play whenever and wherever she wants. Even those who despise the five time major winner would take note if she were back in the fold on a consistent basis.
Despite Sharapova racking up wildcards to play in North America over the summer, a long and varied injury history makes one start to wonder if we have seen the end of a spectacular yet somewhat tainted career.