|ESPN.com: Wimbledon 2008||[Print without images]|
LONDON -- Roger Federer had the luck of the draw at the French Open. Novak Djokovic didn't land in his half and, as it turned out, the beleaguered Swiss avoided top-20 foes until the final. We all know what happened against Rafael Nadal.
|He lost in the Wimbledon final in 2006 and 2007, but Rafael Nadal (left) has closed the gap on grass against Roger Federer.|
Djokovic is in Federer's half this time, along with a few potentially tricky opponents. Speaking of tricky, the ultra-confident Nadal won't have the easiest ride to the final, either. That said, a Federer-Nadal finale appears likely for a third straight season.First Quarter: Interesting for Fed
Federer's probable second-round tilt with Swede Robin Soderling figures to be more compelling. Soderling, he of the huge serve and forehand, extended Nadal to five sets in a tempestuous third-round battle last year.
Elastic Frenchman Gael Monfils, who battled Federer tough in the French Open semis, or Kei Nishikori might emerge in the third. Nishikori took a set off Nadal at the recently completed Artois Championships, prompting the world No. 2 to suggest the Japanese is a future top-five certainty.
By name, a Lleyton Hewitt-Federer matchup in the fourth round intrigues. The former champion, though, is dealing with a hip injury and has lost 11 straight against Federer.
The bottom half is wide open. Fifth-seed David Ferrer doesn't prosper on grass, so Mario Ancic might be the guy in the quarterfinals, if he can navigate past dangerous floater Michael Llodra in the first round. Ancic is the last man to down Federer on grass, six years ago.Prediction: Federer Second Quarter: Djokovic's domain
Ferrero's taking a set off Federer in last year's quarterfinals was an anomaly, and the surging Wawrinka didn't play any warm-up events.
The bottom half is where the action is. David Nalbandian, prone to early-round losses in slams, could exit in the first against Canadian Frank Dancevic, a winner of the Surbiton grass-court challenger two weeks ago. Feliciano Lopez, the 2005 quarterfinalist, looms. Another mouth-watering third-round match may see the reviving Marcos Baghdatis tangle with ace-leader Ivo Karlovic.
A Baghdatis-Djokovic quarterfinal was a treat in 2007. It went five sets and five hours.Prediction: Djokovic Third Quarter: A-Rod and Blake
The two-time Wimbledon finalist should meet the unpredictable Janko Tipsarevic in the second round. Then in the third, it might be Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. Mahut's most productive surface is grass and he blew a match point against Roddick in the final of last year's Artois Championships.
Blake will kick himself if he doesn't advance to the last 16. He opens against qualifier Christophe Rochus, with another struggling veteran, Rainer Schuettler, a possible second-round opponent.
His probable third-round opponent, Nicolas Almagro, is 0-3 at Wimbledon.
Fourth-seed Nikolay Davydenko hates playing on grass. Looking at the draw, the Russian should change his mind. He could get a crack at exacting some revenge on Ivan Ljubicic in the third round. Ljubicic rallied from two sets down to eliminate Davydenko at the French.Prediction: Roddick Fourth Quarter: Interesting for Nadal, too
Former University of Georgia standout John Isner or Ernests Gulbis awaits.
Isner, at 6-foot-9, is a less polished version of Karlovic, and Gulbis can be a genius (and awful, too).
Nicolas Kiefer, who knows how to play on grass, and the always dangerous Radek Stepanek are Nadal's expected third- and fourth-round challengers. Stepanek injured his ribs this week, so his health is under scrutiny.
The top half features an intriguing opener between Mardy Fish and 2007 semifinalist Richard Gasquet. Gasquet came to life by reaching the quarterfinals at the Artois, showing some emotion along the way.
Fabrice Santoro has always wanted to play a singles match on Center Court, and his wish could come true. The 35-year-old magician, perhaps in his final season, battles British hope Andy Murray in the first round.Prediction: Nadal Semifinals
Djokovic is improving on grass, although he admitted he's still having problems moving on the surface, evidenced by his slips against Nadal in the Artois final. He continues to say Federer isn't as dominant as before, which is true. But why give him more motivation?Prediction: Nadal, Federer to advance Final