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Wimbledon promises to surprise again

Update: June, 19/2005 - 00:00

Wimbledon promises to surprise again

Master of her domain: Defending Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova after she defeated Lindsay Davenport in the Tokyo Pan Pacific Open in early February. — AFP/VNA Photo

(19-06-2005)

Tony Wilander has worked around the world as a tennis coach. His appointments have included the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Florida, from where Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras graduated. He has also been the coach of the Ha Noi tennis team.

by Tony Wilander & John Loizou

If you were to ask any of the world’s best tennis players the tournament they would most like to win, I would wager that they would say Wimbledon.

But as German great Boris Becker, who is celebrating his first triumph 20 years ago, says not many of the world’s modern players know how to win on grass.

And that is part of Wimbledon’s charm.

The grand slam tournament that predates the Australian, French and US Open is the only to be still played as traditional lawn tennis.

It means that for the next 14 days of high summer, London will be the focus of the world of sport.

This year, Swiss player Roger Federer is favoured to win his third title in succession.

The bookmakers are sure to have him as favourite.

But Wimbledon, especially since Australia’s Rod Laver won the first open tournament in the 1960s, is always likely to surprise.

This year is unlikely to be an exception.

Mats Wilander won one of his three French Opens without serving a single double fault.

His purpose was to keep the ball in play.

It is not like that on the lightening fast grass.

The winner will need to a have a heavy serve – Roddick has been timed at almost 250km/h over 24m – that gives the ‘receiver’ less than half a second to react.

But the player who can best return the thunderbolts is also in with a chance.

The best at this, if he were playing, would have been veteran Andre Agassi and perhaps Lleyton Hewitt.

Of the women, I think that Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne, who has just returned from injury to win the French Open, is the hottest of favourites despite her lowly 11th seeding.

It is a seeding that will make life difficult for her in the last 16 but if she survives she will be very difficult to beat.

And remember in tennis, the best player wins regardless of the their seeding. — VNS


The coach's guide to Wimbledon

by Tony Wilander

Five of the best:

Roger Federer: The two-times champion is rightly favourite to make it three in succession. He has the complete all-round game and the confidence to believe he can beat them all. I will be very surprised if he does not win.

Leyton Hewitt: Fastest of them all around the court and a fighting heart that always puts him in with a chance. But a lack of match play may thwart this former title holder.

Andy Roddick: If he serves at less than 200kmph it is a surprise. He has a strong baseline game but his inability to serve and volley makes his chance of winning problematic.

Marat Safin: Conqueror of Federer and then Hewitt in the Australian Open, he is a complete player who at his best can beat them all. But a volatile temperament makes him suspect. If he keeps his cool, he should be favourite.

Three outsiders: Joachim Johansson, Tim Henman and Rafael Nadal. From the thunderous serve of Johansson to the home-court advantage of Henman and the exuberance to French-open winner Nadal, all are capable of upsetting the favourites.

The women:

Lindsay Davenport: Former champion, sound serve and complete all-round game. Hampered by heavy feet but is quicker than before.

Maria Sharapova: Title holder with a big heart and a game that is still developing. Perhaps the pressure of being the prey will prove too much.

Amelie Mauresemo: Has the ability to win one of the world's four grand-slam titles, but is apt to be betrayed by her nerves. Very fit and if she can control her emotions will threaten all in the draw.

Serena Williams: Lost last year's final and wants to make amends. Serena has no obvious weaknesses and seems to have recovered momentum from a family tragedy.

Justine Henin-Hardenne: French open winner who has recovered from injuries and although she is eleventh seed, Justine is well among the favourites. My favourite to win.

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