Written by Byron Vale
The shadow of last year’s final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer looms large over Wimbledon 2009. The greatest match of all time they called it. How do you top that? You can’t. History cannot be repeated. That glorious match on a rain-interrupted Sunday afternoon is just a memory. It is now a part of Wimbledon legend, like the Borg-McEnroe tie-break, Becker’s victory in 1986 and Fred Perry’s three in a row. Using last year’s tournament as a guide to The Championships this year would be like driving a car using the rearview mirror. In fact the tennis landscape has changed so dramatically in a month that it may be most useful to start with a blank slate. The world number one and reigning men’s champion Rafael Nadal is currently undergoing intensive treatment on his knees and he may not be fit to defend his title. While Roger Federer, who had lost so much in the preceding 12 months, enters Wimbledon having won a first French Open and equalling the record for most Grand Slam wins. Before Nadal’s injury Andy Murray was considered the player most likely to break the Federer-Nadal duopoly. Now the Scot, who has won three titles this year, including two Masters events, on his way to a career-high ranking of three in the world, stands to gain most from the Spaniard’s absence. In the year of Fred Perry’s 100th birthday, could Wimbledon have a British champion again? Anything beyond the second round would be an improvement on last year for Novak Djokovic, but the world number four will not be happy unless he features at the business end of The Championships, not least because he has beaten Federer twice this year and challenged Nadal on his natural home, clay. A strong line-up in the men’s top 10 plus some dangerous unknowns – who would fancy drawing Marat Safin in his final Wimbledon appearance? – make The Championships in 2009 difficult to predict. If men’s tennis has been given an almighty shake, then the woman’s draw has been in a state of flux for some time. Three players have held the number one ranking already this year – two of whom have never won a Grand Slam – so victory at Wimbledon could provide someone with the impetus to take control of the game. Venus Williams must start favourite as she makes her second attempt at a Wimbledon hat-trick. The last time, in 2002, she was thwarted in the final by her sister, and Serena Williams appears the one most likely to derail her Championship ambitions again. A Wimbledon title, meanwhile, will give legitimacy to the claims of current number one Dinara Safina, who has now lost three Grand Slam finals and another former number one Jelena Jankovic. The French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova has reached the quarter-finals three times at the All England Club but this is the first time she enters the tournament with Roland Garros under her belt. The glamour names on tour, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, are fighting back from injury and indifferent form respectively. Both were eliminated early in 2008 and neither will be planning a repeat. While Andy Murray won’t be the only Brit flying the Union flag. British women will be well represented in the main draw, particularly worth watching will be Anne Keothavong and last year’s junior winner Laura Robson. The players are the same but different this year, and so is the All England Club. The roof over Centre Court has been completed, successfully tested and is ready for use. While the new sunken No.2 Court will also make its Championship debut. So many stories this year, so many possibilities, but on 5 July there will only be history again.
Michael Bernstein is president of Championship Tennis Tours. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tennistours.com.
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