I'm still working on my big French Open piece--which will be awesome, don't you worry--but in the meantime, today's the first day of Wimbledon. Wimbledon is my favorite tournament. I gotta talk a little about Wimbledon.
Novak Djokovic: The obvious questions: Can he make it five Slams in a row? Can anyone even push him? He certainly looks invincible in Slams right now. It doesn't look like anyone can beat him and it doesn't look like he'll beat himself. If that turns out to be true, then I guess the only remaining question is how many sets he will lose.
Andy Murray: His first Slam since re-hiring Ivan Lendl as coach. The French wasn't very long ago, let's remember, and Andy played a great tournament, finishing runner-up, which is about as good as could be expected, considering Novak's level right now. He even avoided his usual patterns of wasting energy by falling into negativity. Can Lendl make any real difference in such a short timeframe? As crowd favorite and the justified 2-seed, we should expect him in the finals, where he'll run into the invincible cyborg, Novak Djokovic.
Roger Federer: Despite very little tennis this season, he's still the 3rd seed. His results in the warm-up tournaments at Stuttgart and Halle were okay but not great. He's almost certainly not in full match fitness, so it's silly to imagine he'll reproduce the quality that he showed at last year's Wimbledon. Given all that, it's hard to imagine he won't slip up somewhere before the semis (at which point he'd face the invincible cyborg, Novak Djokovic.) If that's right, whom will he lose to? Nishikori in the quarters? That seems possible. His section of the draw (prior to the quarters) contains Monfils, Gilles Simon, Dimitrov and Dolgopolov. A Federer at full strength would easily handle any of them, but he can't possibly be at full strength, can he?
The Stanimal: After a so-so season so far this year--a couple of wins in lesser tournaments and a semifinal appearance at the French being the highlights--how far will he go here? He'll play Murray in the semis if they both make it that far, but a major stumbling block could be the potential quarterfinal match-up against in-form Dominic Thiem.
Kei Nishikori: My favorite player after Roger. A match-up against hard-serving Sam Groth in the first round can't be be ignored. Still, given that Federer is unlikely to be at his best, if Nishikori plays up to his potential he could be around to challenge Novak in the semis.
Milos Raonic: Can we still call him of the next generation at 25? I think we can. He's still clearly improving. He's also fun to watch. Seems like a really nice guy. He's Canadian, after all. Some tough potential match-ups in his section--Anderson, Sock and Goffin.
Dominic Thiem: His first Slam as a top-10 seed. After his break-out Slam at Roland Garros, a lot more eyes will be on the 22 year old. He beat Federer in the semis at the Mercedes Cup on his way to hoisting the trophy, but lost in the semis at Halle to his first round opponent here, Florian Mayer. Assuming he gets through that, his second and third round matches should be relatively straightforward, but in the fourth he's likely to face either 10-seed Tomas Berdych or--more juicily--Sasha Zverev, in a replay of their thrilling third-round match at the French.
The Young Guns: Let's call Thiem, Goffin, Zverev, Coric and Kyrgios the exciting up-and-comers. I already spoke about Thiem. Goffin: Can his roadrunner-like game translate to grass? (The potential third-round match against Kevin Anderson should tell us a lot.) Zverev: Tough draw. Berdych in the third, Thiem in the forth, Stan in the quarters if he makes it that far. Coric: Karlovic, always fearsome on grass, in the first; Cilic in the third; Nishikori in the fourth. He's not going past that, I bet.
Kyrgios gets special mention. He's been the most hyped of any of these guys. He has all the physical gifts of a future Slam winner, but his head doesn't seem to be on straight. How far before he flames out this time around? His first-round opponent, Radek Stepanek, took Andy Murray to five sets at Roland Garros, but doesn't seem likely to have a game that translates well enough to grass to pose much of a problem. He's likely to face mercurial Dustin Brown in the second round--Dustin Brown who beat Rafa here last year. That's no simple match. And then a likely match against Feliciano Lopez in the third round. Should he manage that, he'd probably face Andy Murray in the fourth. Making it that far would justify his 15 seed. I certainly see him doing no better than that.
The Americans: I'm the wrong person to ask. The thing I like best about Isner is that he bounces the ball from back to front between his legs as part of his service ritual. Other than that I find his game dull as dishwater. Jack Sock is about as interesting as the eponymous piece of clothing. My favorite American player is probably Donald Young, because he fights hard and because he's not a big guy with a big serve and because he wears Boast clothing, the logo of which is a Japanese maple leaf but looks for all the world like a marijuana leaf, which clearly is viewed as a feature, not a bug, by their marketing department, which made me laugh at the US Open last year and has me laughing still.
Serena: Can she finally match Steffi's record? If she doesn't win here, she's likely to drop out of the number one spot in the rankings. Wow, right? Plenty of tough players in Serena's side of the draw, including a possible third-round match-up against Kristina Mladenovic.
Garbiñe Muguruza: The finalist here last year, and the woman who three weeks ago beat--truly beat--Serena in the French Open final. We've been waiting for someone to rise up and become a serious rival to Serena. Could it be Mugu? She's under major pressure. She's young and her mental game comes and goes. But for the first time in a long time, a potential 1-2 final looks genuinely possible and genuinely intriguing.
Sam Stosur: I like Stosur. I like her grit. She was a semi-finalist at the French. Clay is her best surface, though. Will she survive all the way to her potential fourth-round match against Mugu?
Venus Williams: The 8-seed. Still classy. Always classy. No idea how far she'll go, but she's always gracious. Would be fun to see her survive to play Mugu in the quarters.
Johanna Konta: The great British hope. A tough match against Puig in the first round, Eugenie Bouchard possibly in the second, Cibulkova, maybe, in the third, and then Radwanska in the fourth. That's a tough road. But England needs something to cheer itself up right now.
The Ladies' Young Guns: Mugu we've already mentioned. Bencic is the seven seed, which doesn't seem to be justified by her play so far this year. (Too many injuries, unlikely to be fit enough.) Madison Keys, the nine seed and ascending, has a possible fourth-round match against either Simona Halep or French Open breakout Kiki Bertens.
Radwanska, Kerber, Halep, Vinci: the three through six seeds, and part of the reason I call the women's top ten a bunch of also-rans. How surprised would I be if none of them made the quarters? Unsurprised. Ladies: prove me wrong.
Flavia Pennetta: As I just said, too much of the women's game is comprised of a bunch of also-rans right now. Pennetta hasn't played a match since she won the US Open, and still she's the 15th-ranked player in women's tennis.
How many times will you hear the word(?) Brexit during the telecasts?