2018 Wimbledon Preview – Ladies’ Singles

The sight of glorious green grass, the sight of delicious strawberries and cream, the embracing of tradition and prestige, a special place with the motto “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same”.

It is the All England Club, it is Wimbledon, and it is The Championships, and the ladies’ singles championship is the most wide open I have seen in years, possibly ever, with numerous players in the field capable of going deep into the second week.

So, here is a look at the ladies’ singles draw for 2018.

 

Section one

The Roland Garros champion Simona Halep has a comfortable draw in the early rounds before meeting Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, and then either Johanna Konta, Dominika Cibulková, or Elise Mertens in the fourth round as Halep looks to complete the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double, which no one outside of Serena Williams (2002, 2015) has achieved since Steffi Graf in 1996, but Halep will have tremendous competition from the quarter-finals and beyond.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Simona Halep vs. (22) Johanna Konta

 

Section two

Two former Wimbledon champions in Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitová, and the 2017 Roland Garros champion in Jeļena Ostapenko are all in this section of the draw, with Sharapova and Ostapenko set to meet in the third round, before meeting Kvitová in the fourth round in what is a brutal draw for the 2004 champion, while the 2014 champion could face either Daria Gavrilova, Peng Shuai, or Samantha Stosur in the third round before the match-up with Sharapova, but after her title in Birmingham, Kvitová will be very hard to beat here at the All England Club.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (24) Maria Sharapova vs. (8) Petra Kvitová

 

Section three

The defending Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza has got a good draw in the opening three rounds before meeting Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round, but given Muguruza’s past struggles to back up to play well at the All England Club after performing brilliantly at Roland Garros, where she made the semi-finals this year, she is definitely no certainty to progress beyond the fourth round.

As for Barty, who comes into SW19 in wonderful form after winning in Nottingham, and making the quarter-finals in Eastbourne, has a difficult second round against 2014 finalist Eugenie Bouchard, before a meeting with the young and talented Daria Kasatkina in the third round before a potential “death row” of big hitters as she aims to become the first Australian female to win at Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won as a mother in 1980.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (17) Ashleigh Barty

 

Section four

Section four of the ladies’ singles draw is quite simply full of quality, with 2016 finalist Angelique Kerber, rising Japanese star Naomi Osaka, as well as Carla Suárez Navarro, Belinda Bencic, and Caroline Garcia, but in saying this, there is the potential for plenty of upsets in this section, but I think Osaka, who made the semi-finals in Nottingham, and Garcia, who made the quarter-finals in Mallorca, are the in-form players here.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (18) Naomi Osaka vs. (6) Caroline Garcia

 

Section five

Talking about sections loaded with quality, there is huge amount of talent here with 2016 US Open finalist Karolína Plíšková, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, rising star Aryna Sabalenka, Romanian player Mihaela Buzărnescu, 2016 Roland Garros semi-finalist Kiki Bertens, and five-time Wimbledon champion and last year’s finalist Venus Williams, who has been knocked out in the opening round of the first two Grand Slams in 2018.

While I will pick Williams to go through to at least the fourth round on reputation alone, I am going to pick a Belarusian to face her in the fourth round, but not the one you would expect, and she will be arguably one of the big stories of The Championships in 2018.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: Aryna Sabalenka vs. (9) Venus Williams

 

Section six

This section features last year’s US Open champion, and this year’s Roland Garros finalist in Sloane Stephens, and Julia Görges, who made the quarter-finals in Birmingham, and despite a tough first round encounter against Donna Vekić, who made the semi-finals in Nottingham, I am picking Stephens to make the fourth round (and probably the quarter-finals beyond that) based on reputation alone, and if she plays to her potential, anything is possible, but I think her level will be just a touch shy of that level here.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (13) Julia Görges vs. (4) Sloane Stephens

 

Section seven

23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is in this section of the draw, and has been given a seeding from the seeding committee despite getting into Wimbledon via a protected ranking following her return after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, and has a comfortable start before meeting Elina Svitolina in the third round, and fellow American and 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys in the Round of 16, whose toughest challenge on-route to meeting Williams will be last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdaléna Rybáriková in the third round.

Keys, in my opinion, is primed to go deep here after making the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, and the semi-finals at Roland Garros. A real contender!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (25) Serena Williams vs. (10) Madison Keys

 

Section eight

Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is in the very bottom section of the draw, and has found some great form on grass, winning in Eastbourne, but has never made the quarter-finals at the All England Club, being knocked out in the fourth round on six occasions (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017), but has a good draw in the opening two rounds before meeting 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwańska in the third round, who has not made a Grand Slam quarter-final since the 2016 Australian Open, when she made the semi-finals, before meeting CoCo Vandeweghe in the fourth round, who has had a disappointing year, winning 10 of her 20 matches.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (16) CoCo Vandeweghe vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (8) Petra Kvitová

(17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (18) Naomi Osaka

Aryna Sabalenka vs. (4) Sloane Stephens

(10) Madison Keys vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(8) Petra Kvitová vs. (17) Ashleigh Barty

Aryna Sabalenka vs. (10) Madison Keys

 

My predicted final match-ups

(17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (10) Madison Keys

 

My predicted 2018 Wimbledon champion

(17) Ashleigh Barty

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2018 Wimbledon Preview – Gentlemen’s Singles

The sight of glorious green grass, the sight of delicious strawberries and cream, the embracing of tradition and prestige, a special place with the motto “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same”.

It is the All England Club, it is Wimbledon, and it is The Championships, and the defending champion Roger Federer is going for an unprecedented ninth crown after winning his eighth without dropping a single set last year, but he has plenty of competition, with a number of contenders, including Rafael Nadal, Marin Čilić, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev, and Juan Martín del Potro, looking to dethrone the king at SW19.

So, here is a look at the gentlemen’s singles draw for 2018.

 

Section one

Roger Federer, who is looking for his 21st Grand Slam singles title, and is seemingly in better form than what he was last year after winning in Stuttgart, and making the final in Halle will be very satisfied with his draw with a couple of comfortable matches to start off with, a potentially complicated third round against either Ivo Karlović, Mikhail Youzhny, Jan-Lennard Struff, or Leonardo Mayer, but it will get tougher from the start in the second week, where he will likely meet Borna Ćorić, the man who defeated Federer in Halle, and has really come on in 2018, rising 27 spots from 48th to 21st in the ATP World Rankings. However, Federer is primed for another shot at the trophy.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Roger Federer vs. (16) Borna Ćorić

 

Section two

This section looks weaker on paper compared to some, but it is deceptively strong, with all-French battle in the opening round between Gaël Monfils, and Richard Gasquet being the headline act, but are not the two strongest players with Sam Querrey, who made the semi-finals last year, and the 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson appearing the most formidable opponents, with one of them likely to meet the king in the quarter-finals.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (11) Sam Querrey vs. (8) Kevin Anderson

 

Section three

And talking about formidable opponents, there are two potential championship contenders here with both Marin Čilić and Milos Raonic, who have lost the last two Wimbledon finals to Federer (2017) and Andy Murray (2016) respectively, set to meet in the fourth round blockbuster with five sets written all over it, with perhaps the winner being the biggest threat to the No.1 seed in the top half of the draw. Only Lucas Pouille can really trouble these two at his best, but Čilić, after winning at the Queen’s Club, and Raonic, after making the final in Stuttgart and having an injury-affected year so far, look ready to peak.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Marin Čilić vs. (13) Milos Raonic

 

Section four

John Isner and Grigor Dimitrov, who of course made the semi-finals here in 2014, have the most-suited games to the grass at Wimbledon, and should meet in the fourth round for a place in the quarter-finals, but Dimitrov has a tough one in the opening round on paper against Stan Wawrinka, but hasn’t found form on his return from a knee injury, and has slipped to 225th in the world, so really should be a comfortable one for Dimitrov, and while Pablo Carreño Busta and Stefanos Tsitsipas are very capable, it is tough to see them getting past Isner and Dimitrov to make it to the quarter-finals.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (9) John Isner vs. (6) Grigor Dimitrov

 

Section five

The three-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is in this section of the draw, as well as Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem, and while Djokovic has a good draw in front of him for the first two rounds before meeting Australian Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund in the third round, Thiem, who hasn’t made the quarter-finals at any other Grand Slam outside of Roland Garros, has a difficult draw, facing Marcos Baghdatis, who is nearing the end of his career, in the opening round, before meeting either David Ferrer or Karen Khachanov in the second round, with Fernando Verdasco or Julien Benneteau waiting in the third round before he can think about Djokovic, who should have Thiem’s measure on grass in four or five sets.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (7) Dominic Thiem vs. (12) Novak Djokovic

 

Section six

This is a blockbuster section of the draw with two possible championship contenders in Nick Kyrgios, who made the semi-finals in Stuttgart and at the Queen’s Club, and Alexander Zverev, and while Zverev looks to have a comfortable passage through to the fourth round, Kyrgios has couple of complicated opening round matches, facing Denis Istomin (first round), and Robin Haase (second round), before meeting either Kei Nishikori, or fellow Australian Bernard Tomic, who he was due to meet in the opening round at Roland Garros before Kyrgios pulled out due to injury.

In saying this, Kyrgios should get through this draw, including Zverev, and is a real chance of becoming the first Australian male to win at the All England Club since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (15) Nick Kyrgios vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

 

Section seven

Juan Martín del Potro is in this section of the draw, and despite a difficult second round against Feliciano López, who makes his 66th consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearance, breaking Roger Federer’s record, and Denis Shapovalov in the third round, the Roland Garros semi-finalist should make it through to the second week, where despite the presence of Jack Sock and David Goffin, could meet a surprise packet in the form of Matthew Ebden, who made the quarter-finals in Halle, as well as the semi-finals at Stuttgart, and the challenger event in Surbiton, before the challenge gets tougher.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Juan Martín del Potro vs. Matthew Ebden

 

Section eight

And that challenge is the man who he lost to in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal, and the 11-time Roland Garros champion, who hasn’t made the quarter-finals at SW19 since 2011, has a favourable draw to make it through to the final eight. Only Vasek Pospisil appears to have the game to bring Nadal down on grass, and while there are numerous good players in this section, including Australian young gun Alex De Minaur, who won the challenger event in Nottingham, they don’t have the game at this stage to create problems for the two-time Wimbledon champion before he faces del Potro in the quarter-finals, whose game matches up better to Nadal on grass compared to the clay of Roland Garros.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (14) Diego Schwartman vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Roger Federer vs. (11) Sam Querrey

(6) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (13) Milos Raonic

(12) Novak Djokovic vs. (15) Nick Kyrgios

(5) Juan Martín del Potro vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Roger Federer vs. (13) Milos Raonic

(15) Nick Kyrgios vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

 

My predicted final match-ups

(1) Roger Federer vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

 

My predicted 2018 Wimbledon champion

(1) Roger Federer

A look at some of the upcoming rule changes in Grand Slam tennis

The start of the 2018 season of tennis is not too far away from beginning with the world’s best players busily training and preparing themselves for the start of the 2018 ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) World Tour and the 2018 WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) Tour seasons, and the first big event of the year, the first Grand Slam of the year, the 2018 Australian Open down in Melbourne at Melbourne Park.

However, there have been five major rule changes that have been announced recently by the Grand Slam Committee, one which will come into affect for Grand Slam tournaments beginning in 2019, four coming into affect for Grand Slam tournaments beginning in 2018, with one of those rule changes coming into affect for qualifying at the 2018 Australian Open.

So, here are the major rule changes for Grand Slam tennis from 2018 and/or beyond!

 

Rule 1: A 25-SECOND SHOT CLOCK BETWEEN POINTS.

This new rule will come into affect for qualifying at the 2018 Australian Open, and is something which has been discussed numerous times among tennis commentators around the world, and in fact the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has had a rule for many years with a time limit of just 20 seconds in-between points, but this has been leniently policed to say the least, and the ATP World Tour and the WTA Tour introduced a much more policed time limit of 25 seconds back in 2012 for 2013. If the server breached the time limit, they would receive a warning for the first violation of the rule, and then on subsequent breaches of the rule, they would lose a first serve. If the returner breached the time limit, they would receive a warning for the first violation of the rule, and then on subsequent breaches of the rule, they would lose the point.

It is going to be intriguing to see how this is policed, perhaps in a similar way to the way they police it right now, but it may get the crowd or spectators more involved into the match, which in actual fact could cause more problems for both the chair umpires and players alike, which would extend the length of matches, rather than reduce the length of matches due to the supposed “unsportsmanlike behaviour” of the crowd.

The only potential benefit I can see with this rule is to punish a player(s) who are in poor, physical condition, especially after a long rally or point, to get back to playing the next point within 25 seconds, which could break matches wide open in favour of the fitter player over the unfit player relatively speaking. Whether this outweighs the potential negatives of this rule that I mentioned in the previous paragraph remains to be seen! However, would the chair umpire, who is just as engrossed in a match as the players and crowd, show common sense to the players to give them more time to get ready for the next point after a long rally, or would the chair umpire show no discretion to the players involved, and perhaps lose control of a match like some officials in other sports which have problems with officiating standards, and unintentionally destroying the fabric of the game?

I know the game of tennis has created this new rule with good intentions, but I am not sure it will work, in part due to the lack of “perceived” tennis education of the people (in some parts of the world) who attend these big events just for the social experience of watching tennis, rather than for the love of the game! Maybe they can use the money raised from the next rule change to improve the education of the fans of the game.

Rule 2: PLAYERS WILL BE FINED UP TO $20,000 FOR EXCEEDING THE PRE-MATCH WARM-UP TIME LIMIT. PLAYERS GET ONE MINUTE TO BE READY FOR THE PRE-MATCH MEETING, FIVE MINUTES FOR AN ON-COURT WARM-UP AND ONE MINUTE TO BE READY FOR THE FIRST POINT.

This rule change, which will come into affect at the 2018 Australian Open, where players will be fined up to $20,000 for exceeding the time limit for the pre-match warm-up will have little effect on players who are already wealthy in world tennis in my opinion. Men’s world number one Rafael Nadal is an unbackable favourite to be fined the most for breaching this new rule, assuming that he plays in all four grand slams, and plays a good number of matches, while other wealthy players on both the ATP World Tour and WTA Tour will be happy to sacrifice some of their prizemoney if it helps them win a Grand Slam title.

However, it will penalise the players who aren’t wealthy, and make them change to conform to the rules! However, like with Rule 1, many of the young players, often less wealthy than their older counterparts, who have come onto the various tours in recent years are quick in getting ready, and quick in their time of getting ready for the next point.

I see no beneficial impact with this rule change that comes to mind and that I truly believe in, and I believe instead of narrowing the gap between the “rich” and the “poor”, it will do exactly the opposite, making the game less attractive to people and children to take up and play!

Rule 3: A MAIN DRAW SINGLES PLAYER WHO IS UNFIT TO PLAY AND WHO WITHDRAWS ON-SITE AFTER 12PM ON THURSDAY BEFORE THE START OF THE MAIN DRAW WILL RECEIVE 50 PER CENT OF THE FIRST-ROUND PRIZE MONEY, DESPITE NOT PLAYING. THE ‘LUCKY LOSER’ WHO REPLACES THE INJURED PLAYER WILL RECEIVE THE REMAINING 50 PER CENT.

In principal, I like this new rule, which will come into affect at the 2018 Australian Open, where by a main draw singles player can “admit” to being injured, and say that they will be unable to take their place in the particular Grand Slam singles main draw, and receive a portion of the first round prizemoney on offer before the start of the tournament, but I don’t think it will sort out the problem of players retiring in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments.

In 2017, 16 men and four women retired from first round matches in Grand Slam tournaments. In comparison to recent years, this isn’t the most since 2013, in both cases, with 19 men retiring from first round Grand Slam matches in 2014, while eight women retired from first round Grand Slam matches in 2016.

On average in the last five years, a total of 14.4 men have retired from first round Grand Slam matches across a single year, which is slightly lower than the number of male players who retired from first round Grand Slam matches in 2017. However, when you remove the seven male players who retired in the first round at the All England Club in 2017, then the number of first round retirements at the other Grand Slam events in 2017 is well below the average at the other three Grand Slam tournaments.

With the women, a total of 4.6 on average have retired in the first round of a Grand Slam per year over the last five years, which is a higher number that the four who retired from first round Grand Slam matches in 2017.

Overall, I don’t think there is a general issue with players playing with injury, and then retiring with injury early in an opening round match of a Grand Slam, and I don’t believe it will fix any “perceived” problems with players retiring from first round matches early!

Rule 4: A MAIN-DRAW SINGLES PLAYER WHO RETIRES OR PERFORMS BELOW PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS MAY BE SUBJECT TO A FINE UP TO THEIR FIRST-ROUND PRIZE MONEY IN 2018.

This rule, which will come into affect at the 2018 Australian Open, is perhaps the worst rule change out of the five, and it will be very hard to policy because if you suddenly suffer a devastating injury while you are on the court, are you going to be subject to a fine of up to your first round prizemoney when you are screaming in pain, and facing many months on the sidelines due to injury?

In addition to this, it is very difficult to interpret or see who is giving their best effort, and who is not giving their best effort, because someone could win 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 and not be giving anywhere near their best effort, while someone who lost 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 could be giving everything that they have to no avail, so I believe this new rule will do nothing other than give the ITF to punish who they see as “perceived” troublemakers on the tour.

Rule 5: THE NUMBER OF SEEDED PLAYERS IN MAIN-DRAW SINGLES WILL REDUCE FROM 32 TO 16.

This rule, which will come into affect at the 2019 Australian Open, appears to be a really good rule change on paper, giving us some big matches during the opening three rounds of a Grand Slam.

The 32-seed system in Grand Slam tennis has been in place since the start of Wimbledon back in 2001, and since then only two unseeded men (Goran Ivanišević, and Gastón Gaudio), and four unseeded women (Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Jeļena Ostapenko, and Sloane Stephens) have won Grand Slam singles titles in the 32-seed era to date, and only three men (Albert Costa, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer), and three women (Venus Williams, Francesca Schiavone, and Flavia Pennetta) have won Grand Slam singles titles in the 32-seed era to date when they have been seeded 17th to 32nd.

I don’t necessarily mind cutting the seeds down from 32 to 16, but I don’t think it is going to necessarily create more even matches during the first week of a Grand Slam on its own!

The most important thing that the ATP World Tour and the WTA Tour need to change is their ranking system to a two-year ranking system, similar to the world rankings in golf, which will solve the issue of injuries and mental illness in many top-level players, giving them time to sort out their issues properly without placing pressure on them to come back too quickly. Only then will the 16-seed system seem fair to everyone!

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So, what are your thoughts on these major rule changes in Grand Slam tennis?

 

My thoughts on Bernard Tomic

Throughout his career to date, Australian professional male tennis player Bernard Tomic has come under plenty of criticism, some of it warranted and some of it not so warranted.

However, his comments after losing in the opening round at Wimbledon in straight sets against 27th seed Mischa Zverev, implying that he was bored with the game of tennis, and not enjoying being out on the tour, has really got a lot of people worked up, saying that he is a disgrace to tennis, and that he should not be on the tour if he is not enjoying the game.

Others, albeit only a few, have come out in support of Tomic, saying that he is speaking honestly about most players on tour, and their feelings about the enjoyment they have playing the game of tennis as a profession.

Sponsors have come out not in support of his comments, with HEAD cancelling the sponsorship arrangement that they had with Tomic, despite sticking with Maria Sharapova during her 15 month drugs suspension.

However, what seems to be missing from all of the coverage of Tomic’s trials and tribulations is the cause of what is causing him to lose motivation for the game of tennis?

Does Tomic have a mental health issue or illness that he is not willing to reveal?

Does Tomic have a physical health issue, illness or injury that he is not willing to reveal?

Is there something happening within his private life away from the tennis court, such as with himself, his family, and/or his relatives that he is not willing to reveal?

No one that has been close to Bernard Tomic, or has anything to do with him during his life and career to date has said anything about his state of mind specifically, and whether he has some kind of issue that has been diagnosed.

However, throughout his career, there has been a history of hate from within the hierarchy of Tennis Australia towards Tomic, his father John Tomic, and towards the Tomic family, something which has happened for years.

Tennis Australia have hated that John Tomic has wanted to be so involved in the career of his son and of his daughter, Sara Tomic, and have wanted more control over Bernard Tomic’s career and progression.

However, Tennis Australia have failed to understand Tomic as a person, and as a tennis player. They have tried to change him into playing like everyone else, wanting him to embrace the training methods and techniques that most professional athletes, let alone tennis players.

It is clear to me looking in as a outsider that Tomic is not a great gym trainer, and that the gym is not the best place to improve his athletic ability. The best place to improve Tomic as an athlete is outside in the open.

Long distance running, repeated sprints (simulated to tennis conditions), agility testing, hill running among other exercise training, and less training in the gym.

Tomic is not a tennis player that was built by a machine, he is an organic player, a player with unique skills which have the ability to take him to the top of world tennis if he was trained in the right manner and fashion.

However, Tennis Australia have continued to ignore him, continued to not understand him, and has led Bernard Tomic to the position where he is currently today.

A man who is totally lost touch with himself and the game that he once loved.

Every organisation in any profession in any industry must understand and learn to embrace people with difference, learn what makes them tick, and allow them to develop in a way that suits them, not in the way that necessarily suits the particular organisation in question, particularly the short-term obligations of the particular organisation in question, and not threatening their dignity, or their sense of place.

In my opinion, Tennis Australia is a sporting organisation that is completely underachieving in this regard, and have for a long time with a number of different players, players who had huge amounts of ability, but were let down by an organisation that never tried to understand them.

I don’t think they know that!