Olympic Tennis Draw Analysis and Predictions
It seems like déjà vu all over again doesn’t it? Tennis has never been greatly emphasized during the Olympic Games, partially due to the summer being the height of Grand Slam season, and that the Olympics have really never taken place at a showcase tennis venue. But the London Olympics should bring fresh excitement into the tennis competition, as the world’s best once again square off on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon mere weeks after the Grand Slam’s conclusion. Winning Olympic gold on the sport’s most prestigious court could prove to be a shining moment for tennis players.
Before the usual draw dissection, I must clarify a few things about Olympic tennis that differentiate it from traditional Wimbledon. Matches are played best two out of three sets, save for the men’s singles final, which is best three out of five. There’s a match to determine the bronze medal between the losing semifinalists. There are 64 players, instead of the Grand Slam sized 128. Rafael Nadal is hurt and isn’t playing (he was Spain’s flag-bearer, this is a huge blow). And the Wimbledon tradition of wearing all-white is thrown out during the summer games, so expect to see your favorite players tearing through the grass in bright, foreign colors. All of this sets up a stirring Olympic draw.
The triumphant Roger Federer stands atop the Olympic draw, back at a familiar position, the number one player in the world. Fed faces off against Alejandro Falla in his first round match, a Colombian who took the champion to five sets just three Wimbledon’s ago. However, Roger shouldn’t be wary of any opponent until the quarters, where he could find grass enigma John Isner. Last Olympics, Federer lost to James Blake, so strange things can happen when playing for your country. Still, I can only see Fed moving on to the semis. The other semifinalist from this half is harder to predict. Nadal’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the draw, filled with a lot of weak grass-court players. The two top seeds: David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro, are uncomfortable on grass (though Ferrer just made the quarters and gave Andy Murray a spirited match). Australia’s Bernard Tomic is the only Wimbledon semifinalist in this group, he was there in 2011. However, the Aussie’s game has seemed to go awry recently. Could Grigor Dimitrov, the enigmatic Bulgarian, finally reach his potential while representing his homeland for the first time? All of these storylines are ambiguous, but could unfold in a fascinating manner. I’m going with Dimitrov for kicks, he’s still quite young, and his stylish game is well-suited for grass.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray landed on the same-side of the draw, and they seem to be on a collision course to the semifinals. Not so fast though, Murray hardly ever fares well after a big Grand Slam loss, and Djokovic was not moving well on grass this year. They both also face very tricky paths to the semis; especially best two out of three sets. The Scot has rough luck in facing a player just recently out of the top 10 in Stan Wawrinka (with an Olympic gold in doubles) as his first match, followed by a possible third-round with the unpredictable Richard Gasquet and a quarterfinal with former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. Djokovic doesn’t have it easy either, likely facing Andy Roddick in the second-round, and then confronting a brute in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Quarters. Other players to watch on this side are Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic, and Feliciano Lopez (all in Djokovic’s section). I don’t see either of the top seeds in this half surviving to a medal round. Tsonga has been this close to breaking through at a big event, and his erratic game is particularly dangerous in a best two out of three format. Murray’s confidence could be shattered after his Wimbledon loss to Federer, and even with London still on his side, I can easily see him losing early. I’m going with Tsonga and Berdych through to the semis.
Tsonga with the gold, Federer stuck with silver, Dimitrov with bronze, and Berdych a sad consolation loser.