How will Canada Fare at Wimbledon?
Every tennis fan knows that the beginning of summer can mean only one thing – Wimbledon. It is simply the oldest of the grand slam tournaments and the only remaining major to be played on grass. Many eyes will be on the dominant players such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and on the women’s side Maria Sharapova and defending champion Petra Kvitova among others. However, being Canadian, my attention will be directed towards the four Canucks who will be showcasing their grass court game at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club.
Canada’s top hope will be Milos Raonic, the owner of arguably the best service game in tennis today. Raonic comes into Wimbledon ranked number 21, and has been on a very good run recently including a personal best 3rd round appearance at the French Open and a Quarter Finals appearance in Halle. What made the German grass court result interesting was the fact that Raonic went to a final set tiebreak with the great Roger Federer, a showing that he can definitely be proud of. Raonic will be looking to ride this momentum into a deep run at Wimbledon.
Raonic was forced to retire from last year’s tournament due to injury in the second round, which was obviously terribly disappointing. His powerful serve and forehand are immensely effective weapons, especially on grass, and he will look to use those tools to erase last year’s debacle from memory with a strong showing in 2012. The road to the round of 16 for Raonic is daunting, yet I believe very manageable. One big challenge appears to be number 16, Marin Cilic, the big serving Croatian who he might meet in the third round. Cilic however, has struggled at Wimbledon, suffering elimination in the first round the last two years.
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, there is a potential second-round obstacle in Sam Querrey, who may pose a threat despite not having played at Wimbledon in the past two years. Querrey has an impressive resume and won’t be an easy match.
If Milos is fortunate to find himself into fourth round he will likely run into hometown hopeful, Andy Murray. Raonic and Murray have split their season series 1-1, and if his serve holds true Milos has a chance to send many British fans home unhappy. Look for Raonic to make the round of 16, but I imagine few will have him going and further. I believe Milos has the skills to pull off an upset and advance to his first Wimbledon QF and perhaps beyond. Some tennis analysts are even picking Raonic as their dark horse to win the title, which would be historic for Canadian tennis.
On the way to the much-anticipated matchup with Murray, Milos may have to face another Canadian in the second round. Vasek Pospisil will make his first Wimbledon appearance in the main draw this year and will be warmly welcomed by Sam Querrey in the first round. Pospisil is coming off a very close defeat at the hands of talented young American Ryan Harrison and has shown that he can handle himself on grass, if he manages to get past Querrey we will likely see an all-Canadian matchup in the second round, from which Raonic will almost assuredly emerge. Pospisil is only 22 and a win over Querrey would be a big accomplishment, yet I just can’t see that happening. He will have to utilize his two-handed backhand and hope Querrey’s strong serve is not in top form to advance. You never know.
On the women’s side of the draw there are also two Canadians in the mix, and oddly enough they are also matched up-quite closely in the draw. Aleksandra Wozniak has been a staple of Canadian women’s tennis for quite a while and at one point made a healthy run at the top 32. She had a good showing at the French Open making the third round, but she tends to be more successful on clay than grass. Her first round opponent is Vera Dushevina, who Wozniak defeated in their only previous matchup on grass in 2009. Wozniak should take this match as she is the better player and will likely move on to possibly face another Canadian, Stephanie Dubois.
Dubois is a feisty 5’4″ counter-puncher who is very fun to watch when she can get a good rally going, however, she is in tough against number 25 Zheng Jie in the opening round. Zheng plays a similar back and forth athletic style game to Dubois. She has excellent shot placement and has fantastic speed and movement. Dubois will face a nearly impossible task in advancing past the first round to meet Wozniak. The probable second round matchup between Wozniak and Zheng will be interesting. Wozniak defeated Zheng at the French but Zheng is much stronger on grass, having reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon a few years ago. However, in their only other match in 2009, Wozniak defeated Zheng in a grass tournament so the history is in favor of Canada, and Wozniak is a serious threat to make the third round for the first time in her career. If she does make round 3 she will run into the buzz saw that is Serena Williams who will be looking to erase her first round loss at the French. I’m hoping for a miracle, but if Wozniak makes it to Serena this match will likely end poorly for Aleksandra. A third round appearance would certainly be a nice feather in her cap.
It is worthwhile to mention Rebecca Marino who will miss Wimbledon as she continues to recover from a very difficult 2011 and early 2012. Hopefully Canadian tennis fans will see the 6 foot tall power player return soon as her serve and forehand are a pleasure to watch.
In the end, Raonic is Canada’s star and I expect he will give Canadian tennis fans a lot to cheer for in the next two weeks. As a bonus it would be nice to see Wozniak go deep as well. All four Canadians will be in action on Tuesday and a 4 for 4 day is a great way to prepare for July 1st weekend.
…and that is the Last Word.
Feel free to comment below.