25 June, 2012

Wimbledon 2012 Men's Bracket Breakdown



With Wimbledon fast approaching, Blacklabel Tennis' hiatus is over.  Here is our look at the 2012 Wimbledon men's draw, the players who should emerge to take the court on the final weekend, plus twenty matches you should keep an eye out for on ESPN3 in our new "First Round Five" capsule plus just more general Wimbledon bracket busting madness.  Without further ado, let's get to it:


First Quarter

The top section of the draw is headlined by 2011 champion and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.  While he’s in control of his own destiny as the world’s best player, he’s far from the worldbeater he was a year ago when his scorched Earth campaign led to titles virtually everywhere he set foot in the first half of the year.  Djokovic opens against a big name, but unlikely threat in ex World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero before potentially facing fiery American Ryan Harrison.  The next round is likely to produce Czech veteran Radek Stepanek giving Djokovic (with all due respect to Ferrero and Harrison) his first true test of the fortnight.  The section producing Djokovic’s fourth round opponent is clay court nation. The seeds are Juan Monaco and Marcel Granollers, with Filippo Volandri, Juan Ignacio Chela and Jeremy Chardy in the mix as well.   In other words, the winner of the opening round tilt between Granollers and Djokovic’s countryman, the slumping Viktor Troicki is most likely to play the sacrificial lamb to a returning-to-form Djokovic in the 4th round. 

Tomas Berdych headlines the other section of the quarter, opening against long-time Latvian next big thing Ernests Gulbis.   After what could be a difficult test, Berdych should have smooth sailing through the second round against Simone Bolelli.  The next section houses talented players including 31 seed  Florian Mayer, Dmitry Tursunov, Philipp Petzschner and Blaz Kavcic.  Of the four, we would project one of the Germans, likely Petzschner, who reached the finals in S’Hertogenbosch last week.  Nicolas Almagro  and the surging Richard Gasquet top the seedings in the other half of this section, but a trio of talented Belgians: Ruben Bemelmans, Steve Darcis and the ageless Olivier Rochus are here as well.  Rochus faces Almagro in an opener that could be an upset, with the winner possibly facing Darcis in the second round.  The winner of this section is likely to face Berdych for a berth in the round of 16 and a shot at Djokovic.

First Round Five: 

1. R. Stepanek/S. Stakhovsky
2. M. Granollers/V. Troicki
3. F. Mayer/D. Tursunov
4. J. Monaco/L. Meyer
5. N. Almagro/O. Rochus

Dark Horse: Petzschner

Semifinalist: Berdych


Second Quarter 

Roger Federer may have the kindest draw of the ATP Big 3 ("Oh yeah, I said it")opening versus Spaniard Albert Ramos, before taking on the winner between Fabio Fognini and Michael LlodraJulien Benneteau is the other seed here, but Gilles Muller, Benneteau's first round opponent has been in good form and could pull the upset.  Gilles Simon and Fernando Verdasco are the seeds in the next section.  Verdasco commences against unheralded qualifier Jimmy Wang of Taiwan, then the winner of two wild cards Grega Zemlja and Brit Josh Goodall both of whom have a golden opportunity to gain major-level points for essentially a challenger level win.  Simon faces a tougher challenge opening against veteran countryman Paul Henri-MathieuXavier Malisse is likely to be Simon’s second round foe.  Considering Verdasco should have a relatively easy path through his early rounds, he should meet Simon for a crack at the Fed.

The eighth seed, Janko Tipsarevic headlines the bottom section, with red-blooded American redwood John Isner on the opposite side.  Tipsarevic has perhaps the most intriguing first rounder in this section, opening against Kicks Ahoy, aka David Nalbandian, in the first round.  That match Is a pick ‘em, either man can legitimately make it to the next round, with Nalbandian, just a slight favorite.  The winner of this match should finish off the winner of Ryan Sweeting and Potito Starace in round two.  Italian Flavio Cipolla and Russian Mikhail Youzhny should be expected to face off in the Round of 32 with the winner taking on Nalbandian (or maybe Tipsarevic) for a spot in the Round of 16.  Isner opens against able Colombian Alejandro Falla before presumably making his annual reunion with Nicolas Mahut in round two.  23rd seeded Italian Andreas Seppi should be there to face down Isner in the 3rd round and while it wouldn’t be a shock to see him move on instead of the baby-faced big man, we’ll go chalk here on this side.  Isner v. Nalbandian (or Tipsarevic) in the Round of 16 with a shot at derailing the Fed Express on the line.  For Isner the key is avoiding another draining, interminable tussle; for Nalbandian (or Tpsarevic), it’s getting a few cracks at the Isner’s serve.  So many would love to pick Isner against Federer in the quarters, but the sage among us realize that Isner would need to get there…and even if he did it, there's likely to be enough tread off the tires to make him easy pickings against a Big Three talent.

First Round Five: 

1. J. Tipsarevic/D. Nalbandian
2. F. Fognini/M. Llodra
3. G. Simon/P_H. Mathieu
4. J. Benneteau/G. Muller
5. M. Youzhny/D. Young

Dark Horse: Nalbandian

Semifinalist: Federer




Third Quarter 

The Wimbledon seeding committee likes David Ferrer’s chances so much that they bumped his seeding down from 6th to 7th.  He responded sticking up his middle fingers and winning the title in S’Hertogenbosch.  Ferrer opens in what could be an entertaining match of pace changing shots from Jamaican-cum-German qualifier Dustin Brown.  Ferrer shouldn’t face any real issues until his third round match with the Phoenix risen, Andy Roddick after a year pockmarked with injury and retirement talk, Roddick responded the best way he knew how taking a wild card into Nottingham and leaving with the hardware.  The American opens against a Brit wild card, Jamie (My Name Is not Brian) Baker then most likely German journeyman Bjorn Phau.  The 30th seeded Roddick and the 7th seeded Ferrer should be expected to meet in a blockbuster third rounder.  Surprisingly, despite Roddick having taken up residence in the top 10 for almost a decade, that head-to-head stands at 6-4 Ferrer.  No, they’ve never played on grass, but Ferrer is 2-1 in their last 3 meetings all on quick hardcourts last year with wins in Shanghai and in Davis Cup in Roddick’s adopted hometown of Austin.  But wait, there’s more, at the bottom of this section of the quarter is No. 9 seed Juan Martin del Potro.  The Argenine faces a tough opener against Robin Haase before facing Igor Kunitsyn  and then the other seed in his section Kei Nishikori for a shot at the Roddick/Ferrer winner.

The top seed in the bottom half of this quarter is the Almost Great Scot, Andy Murray, bidding to make at least the English contingent of the UK forget about penalty kicks as he works his way into Wimbledon.  It’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Murray, who after having emerged as part of a Big Four seems to have been relegated to also ran status.  He couldn’t have been cheered to see Nikolay Davydenko across from his name in the first round.  The Russian who always gives his all (unless he doesn't…but...) will be the first big name to swipe at Murray, then the hits keep coming.  Big-serving, but less lethal than many would have you believe Croat Ivo Karlovic looms literally large in the second round, while Kevin Anderson or a suddenly steadying Grigor Dimitrov stands as his likely third rounder.  If Murray gets past this grass court gauntlet, his next task would be to finish off either Milos Raonic (who despite his weapons has little in the way of grass court credentials), Marin Cilic, the 16th seeded Croat or just maybe Sam Querrey.  In other words, if Murray’s really one of the best returners in tennis we should find out by the middle Sunday.  If he’s not, the team at the Newport ATP event should stay near their phones.  Every time I see Murray’s name in the draw of late, I’ve felt he was vulnerable.  He’s had his swoons before, but he’ll want to right the ship and give the London tennis fans a memory or two, if not now, then very, very soon.

First Days Five

1. A. Murray/N. Davydenko
2. D. Ferrer/D. Brown 
3. M. Raonic/S. Giraldo  
4. J-M. Del Potro/R. Haase 
5. V. Pospisil/S. Querrey

Dark Horse:  Roddick

Semifinalist: Cilic



Fourth Quarter

Rafael Nadal got few favors in his quest for a sixth Wimbledon final in seven years, opening versus longtime next big thing Thomaz BellucciIvan Dodig, a big-serving Croat is Nadal’s likely next opponent followed by the winner of the German battle between Philipp Kohlschreiber and Tommy Haas.  Kohlschreiber, as you may remember, beat Nadal in Halle.  That said, let’s be clear, Halle ain’t Wimbledon, end of conversation.  At the top of this section is Feliciano Lopez.  The 30 year old Spaniard has felt ripe for a big run here for a while and although his opener against Jarkko Nieminen is likely to be competitive, we see the 14th seeded Spaniard coming through.  American qualifier Brian Baker received a relatively kind opener against Portuguese journeyman Rui Machado.  Benoit Paire who had a solid run at s’Hertogenbosch Is here as well, the likely second round opponent of the lower seed in this section, the erratic Alexandr Dolgopolov.  As we type this, Nadal seems most likely to run into (and through) his countryman Lopez in the Round of 16.

The top side of this quarter is headed by flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who opens his quest for another deep run at the Big W versus sentimental favorite and 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt.  The Aussie battler comes into the tournament a wild card this year on the back of numerous injuries and surgeries, but we’d bet he gives all the fight he can muster before the Frenchman moves on.  Things seem straightforward for the Frenchman after that, the next real challenge being the winner of the opening round battle between 25th seed Stanislas Wawrinka and barely unseeded (35th ranked) Austrian Jurgen Melzer.  The other side of this section houses Mardy Fish, back for the first time since discovering a worrying heart ailment.  He opens versus Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.  Normally Fish would be the overwhelming favorite, but he hasn’t played in months and may just not be match tough enough to stick with the veteran Spaniard.  The winner there will probably get James Ward, a British wild card we’re picking to upset Spanish clay court specialist Pablo Andujar...no, not really, sorry Britain.  The winner gets Andujar.  At least, they'll get a much easier assignment here than it would’ve been at Roland Garros before taking on the winner of the “Great Expectations Bowl” between 20th seeded Bernard Tomic who electrified Aussie fans with a run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year and David Goffin who made a name for himself with a gutsy display against Federer at Roland Garros.  Tomic is the seed here, but Goffin’s got the momentum.  Being a first round match and given Tomic’s recent form (or lack thereof) Goffin stands a nice chance of getting through.  If he does, Karol Beck and Andujar, may be the only thing between him and a second week appearance versus Tsonga for the right to most likely face Nadal in the game’s most hallowed venue for a spot in the semifinals.

First Round Five: 

1. Kohlschreiber/Haas
2. Tsonga/Hewitt 
3. Wawrinka/Melzer 
4. Tomic/Goffin 
5. Dolgopolov/Bogomolov

Dark Horse: Tomic

Semifinalist: Nadal


Semifinals: Federer def. Berdych, Nadal def. Cilic

Final: Nadal d. Federer

As Wimbledon 2012 draws to a close, we expect the tournament to ratchet up the drama.  As we see it, Novak Djokovic might have trouble finding the level he needs to get past Tomas Berdych on the grass ending his title defense prematurely.  While Andy Murray with his bad back and under the full glare of the tabloid press falls short of his goal as well.  With those two out of the event, the semifinals may lack a bit of drama, but then there's the final.  For the first time at Wimbledon since their 2008 epic, we're predicting Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to reach the Wimbledon final.  The deciding factors if the matchup comes to pass, Federer's form and Nadal's belief.  Federer could well get to the final only facing one top ten opponent.  While he's not playing full-flight tennis, at Wimbledon, Federer losing to a player outside the top ten would be a shock.  Nadal, for the first time in about a year, is playing with confidence.  Say what you will  about the guy, when he's accustomed to winning somewhere he tends to make a habit of it.  With Djokovic swooning and Federer falling short of his best stuff of late, we're picking Nadal.  I mean, don't all men's major picks come down to the Big 3?

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