Much like in golf, there is usually a lull of at least a few weeks in tennis following a Grand Slam tournament before all of the big names reconvene at the next big event. And that lull is usually a bit longer after Wimbledon because that tournament comes so closely on the heels of the French Open.
But this year, things will be different. That’s because London is hosting the 2012 Summer Games and the men’s and women’s tennis competition will be held at the All-England Club, making this year’s Olympics easily the most anticipated since the sport returned to the Games as a medal sport in 1988 in Seoul.
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So the key this year is obviously to determine which players compete best on grass, thus predicting Olympic gold has to take Wimbledon as the main factor into account. By the way, for once we won’t have to see players decked in all white as they will be wearing their countries’ colors at the Games, so that will be interesting to see on the storied grass courts.
First off, the tennis rules in the Olympics, with the competition in that sport beginning July 28 and running through Aug. 5: All matches will be best of two out of three sets except the men's singles final, which is three out of five. The final set in all singles matches will be played to advantage as opposed to a tiebreak. So that’s similar to Wimbledon in that no match will end at 7-6 in the final set but could potentially run forever until a player is up by two games – think John Isner beating Nicolas Mahut, 70-68, in the fifth set of their match at Wimbledon in 2010.
The two biggest storylines in London would seem to be regarding the Wimbledon winners: Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Both are among the best of all-time who have accomplished everything in their careers but an Olympic gold medal. Well, I should give a caveat on that: Serena won doubles gold with sister Venus in 2000 (Sydney) and 2008 (Beijing), while Federer won doubles gold for Switzerland in Beijing with Stanislas Wawrinka. But anyone who plays tennis can tell you doubles is not in the ballpark of singles in terms of importance.
Serena is the 3/2 Bovada favorite on the women’s side fresh off winning her fifth Wimbledon title. Serena simply overpowered the competition with a tournament-record 102 aces, surpassing her own mark of 89 in 2010; it' was also more than any male player had at Wimbledon.
Maria Sharapova, who was the co-favorite at Wimbledon with Serena, is next at 10/3. Sharapova, who had been No. 1 in the world, was stunned in straight sets in the fourth round at Wimbledon by Sabine Lisicki in straight sets. Sharapova then lost her top ranking to Victoria Azarenka. Agnieszka Radwanska (5/1) would have been No. 1 if she had beaten Serena in the Wimbledon final but fell in three sets. Radwanska is now No. 2.
I actually like Sharapova to win gold – she will be the first Russian female flag-bearer at the July 27 Opening Ceremonies. I think that fact spurs her to victory. Plus, Serena might be much more tired, having flown to California after Wimbledon to compete in the Bank of the West Classic.
As for Federer, the new No. 1 is the 5/2 second favorite at the Games after winning his record-tying seventh Wimbledon title. While Federer likely will have another shot or two at a record eighth Wimbledon title, the soon-to-be 31-year-old certainly won’t get another shot at Olympic singles gold. So that is plenty of motivation. But I think winning a seventh Wimbledon was his top goal of the year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a letdown.
Novak Djokovic, who lost to Federer in the semifinals at the All England Club, is the 7/4 second-favorite, while Rafael Nadal, who was stunned in the second round at Wimbledon is at 3/1.Djokovic, now No. 2 in the world, hasn’t looked the same since winning the Australian Open back in late January. I’m not saying he was a one-year wonder, but perhaps that kind of dominance is gone for good.
Nadal won gold in Beijing so I’m not sure how super-motivated he will be. Plus I’m also not sure how healthy Nadal’s troublesome knees are. He pulled out of a scheduled charity exhibition with Djokovic on July 14 to rest his knees.
For my betting picks on the men’s side, I like Andy Murray at 11/2. He reached his first Wimbledon final and played nearly well enough vs. Federer to become the first Brit to win that tournament since 1936. Murray, who crashed out in the second-round four years ago in Beijing, took some time off to recharge after Wimbledon and admits that winning gold would ease his Wimbledon pain. You won’t see the timid fans at the Games and I think all that patriotism spurs Murray to a gold medal for Great Britain.
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