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June 18, 2010 Article

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Between The Lines By Ray Bowers
 
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Predicting Wimbledon 2010
by Ray Bowers

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

Wonderful Wimbledon is with us again, complete with Centre Court's convertible roof, which in its first year, 2009, was more useful in providing shade for spectators than in protecting from rain. Two prime favorites stand out among the contenders for each of the two singles crowns -- Federer and Nadal for the men's, Serena and Venus Williams for the women's. While in both cases the two leaders are clearly ahead of all others in their credentials, there is a strong population of other contenders, all capable if performing at their best of toppling the front-runners.
 
Every year, predicting results at Wimbledon entails a special problem, as the Wimbledon Swing offers only two weeks of grass-court tune-up events. The first week is of limited help to the predictor, as players have scarcely adjusted to the unique surface. Then the second week's play has just reached the late rounds when the Wimbledon main draw becomes known and this column is wrapped.
 
Watching play on the green lawn at historic Queen's Club, London, last weekend via The Tennis Channel was an exciting start to the season's grass-court circuit. It was good to see that the grass stayed thick through the final round except in the immediate serving-stance areas, and bad bounces seemed less common than usually seen at Wimbledon. Meanwhile, the early-round losses by several members of the world's first ten underscored the current depth in the men's game. Federer's unexpected defeat by Lleyton Hewitt at the Halle tune-up suggested the same point.
 
Following the trend of recent times, all-out net-attacking was rare at Queen's. Today's pros, who seldom play on grass, have developed styles emphasizing strong serving, strong ground-strokes, and a propensity to strike early from close on baseline or just inside. In general the net is the place to be only when opponent is under heavy pressure. Indeed, bringing opponent forward against his or her inclination by using drop shots or angled plop shots is especially useful on soft surfaces including grass, where the bounce is low and the footing slippery.
 
But the most marked feature of today's grass-court game lies in the advantage it gives to the player serving. Data from late rounds starting in 2006 show that servers won 84% of the games at Wimbledon, only 78% at Australian and U.S. Opens, 76% at Garros. Aces occurred on 10% of the points at Wimbledon, about 8% at Australia and U.S., 6% at Garros. Players who are extremely strong servers -- the likes of Soderling, Berdych, Dent, and Roddick -- are assuredly at their most effective on grass and other fast-bouncing surfaces. The women's list of strong servers (as measured at Garros 2010) includes the Williams sisters, Petrova, Li Na, and American Shennay Perry.
 
WOMEN'S SINGLES -- THE BIG TWO
 
Sisters Venus and Serena Williams, age 30 and 28, respectively, have together captured eight of the last ten singles crowns at Wimbledon, the sport's most revered setting. Venus has won five times and Serena three including last year. They have played each other in the finals four times including in the last two years.
 
Late 2009 began a good run for Serena. She won the year-end tournament at Doha -- the Masters Cup equivalent -- along with first place in women's points race for the year. Soon afterwards she won Australian Open, the first Slam of 2010. But after that triumph Serena stayed on the sidelines for several months resting a troublesome knee. Venus meanwhile showed mixed success, but neither sister went beyond the quarter-finals on the Garros clay, which has historically been their poorest surface. Serena continues atop the women's rolling-12-month points standings. Venus leads in the 2010 year-to-date race.
 
The reasons for their high success at Wimbledon seem fairly clear. Both are extremely strong servers -- able to produce aces or quick points in serving on any surface but especially on the fast-bouncing grass. Both can take early command of points with their ground-stroke firepower, including in aggressive returning of opponent's serves. Their athletic prowess enables them to adjust quickly to the vagaries of grass-court bounces. Both sisters, especially Venus, can be intimidating at net. All these assets are reinforced at Wimbledon.
 
Here are estimated odds for winning the crown:
 
S. Williams, 3-1
V. Williams, 4-1
Stosur, Henin, each 13-1
Clijsters, Wozniacki, each 15-1
Azarenka, Sharapova, each 20-1
Schiavone, 25-1
Rezai, Petrova, Li, Jankovic, each 50-1
all others, 100-1 or longer
 
PREDICTIONS -- TOP QUARTER
 
Seeded in the upper half of this quarter behind Serena is Maria Sharapova, how 23, herself a former Wimbledon champion, having won the tournament six years ago. Maria, who recently returned from long absences caused by shoulder trouble, played well at Garros last month but lost when an overnight interruption saved Justine Henin from imminent defeat. (Maria had been close to her old self when darkness intervened, serving with good effect and seeking the initiative relentlessly against a tiring opponent.) But the Wimbledon grass should help Maria's big-serving and big-stroking game considerably.
 
Serena should survive Safarova, and Maria should survive Hantuchova, so that the two highest celebrities in women's tennis should meet in the fourth round. The match-up repeats the 2004 Wimbledon final, won by Maria. Sharapova won four matches in reaching the grass-court final at Birmingham last week, but otherwise the current auspices all favor Serena, including head-to-head wins in their last four meetings starting in 2005.
 
Serena's next, quarter-final opponent should be Li Na. Tallish at 5-7 and aged 28, and having shown improved results of late, Na now ranks inside the first twelve both in the 12-month and year-to-date standings. Her W-L record in the last three Slams is 11-3, where all three losses came against the eventual champions, including a loss in two tiebreak sets to Serena Williams at Australia 10. (She shows career record of 3-4 against the Williams sisters.) A strong server and striker from the baseline, Li defeated Rezai and Sharapova in winning the grass tournament at Birmingham early this month. She should beat a slumping Kuznetsova to reach her meeting with Serena, and she can be counted on to make things interesting for the American. An upset is remotely possible here if Serena plays below her best, but the comfortable prediction here favors the defending champion.
 
SECOND QUARTER
 
The match-ups in this quarter are among the most intriguing of the tournament.
 
A newcomer to the upper level at age 26 this year is Samantha Stosur, whose fine serving and forehand work carried her to wins over Henin, Serena Williams, and Jankovic at Garros, lifting Samantha into the final round. Sam's power will be valuable on grass, though her excellent topspin in serving and forehand stroking will probably be less useful on clay. She is best known for her past success in doubles, but she showed weaknesses in her net game in the Garros final. Her best-ever showing at Wimbledon came last year when she lost to Ivanovic in the third round.
 
She should face Aravane Rezai -- a heavy hitter both in serving and stroking, who has shown major improvement since late last year. Aravane beat Henin, Jankovic, and Venus in winning on clay at Madrid this spring, then lost an extended battle with Petrova at Garros. Her grass-court preparation included three wins before a three-set loss to Li at Birmingham, and then a win over Wozniacki before retiring in her second match at Eastbourne this week. Age 23 and height just 5-5, to reach her date with Stosur Aravane must first defeat Pennetta, whom she beat at Sydney earlier this year.
 
The call is close in Stosur's fourth-round meeting with Rezai. Sam too had a good grass-court run-in, defeating three opponents at Eastbourne before a semi-final loss. Acknowledging her runner-up finish at Garros 10, the choice here is Stosur.
 
The quarter's other fourth-rounder is just as lustrous. Caroline Wozniacki has a strong game, built on mobility, placement, and avoidance of error but with improving capacity for aggressiveness. At age 19 and height 5-10, she is third in the rolling-12-month WTA rankings. A contemporary and rival is heavy-hitting and mercurial Victoria Azarenka, 20, who turned around a disappointing season with wins over Radwanska, Clijsters, and Bartoli to reach the final round at Eastbourne this week.
 
The two rising stars -- Wozniacki and Azarenka -- have dissimilar styles and temperaments, but they are close in height, weight, and tennis ability. They have divided equally their four meetings as main-tour pros, all in the last two years. I have gradually come to believe that Wozniacki is the more effective court warrior, so the choice here goes to Caroline.
 
Finally, in predicting the winner of the quarter-final showdown between Stosur and Wozniacki the nod favors Samantha.
 
THIRD QUARTER
 
Amazingly, the two great Belgians are aligned to meet in the fourth round.
 
Justine Henin, now 28, has won seven Slams but never Wimbledon. She has reached the semis there five times, however, the final round twice, all prior to her two-year retirement in 2008. Since her return in January 2010, she has shown her past magnificent stroking and mobility. Doubts remain, however, as to her physical stamina after her difficulty against Sharapova and loss to Stosur at Garros last month. To reach the fourth round at Wimby, she must beat strong Nadia Petrova, whom she defeated in their last five meetings. Meanwhile Kim Clijsters shows two semi-final appearances in seven tries at Wimbledon -- worthy achievements but a less distinguished record than hers elsewhere. Sidelined by foot injury in April, Kim at 27 returned to action at Eastbourne this week, where she scored two impressive victories prior to losing to Azarenka. Meanwhile Henin won her first four matches enroute to the final round on grass at 's-Hertogenbosch.
 
In short, although Clijsters won their two meetings in early 2010, both in split sets, Justine shows not only the stronger historic record at Wimbledon but also the better performance in the current grass-court tune-ups. The selection must be Henin.
 
Justine's opponent in the quarter-finals should be Jelena Jankovic. The heavier-stroking Henin should prevail, as she has done in all ten of their past meetings.
 
BOTTOM QUARTER
 
Francesca Schiavone's sterling win over Stosur in the Garros final immediately lifted Francesca into the prime group for Wimbledon. The Milan-born star showed athletic mobility, stinging serving and stroking, plus fine variety in use of angles, drop shots, and net-approaching, all of which should translate into success on grass. Last year at age 29 (now 30) Francesca recorded her best-ever result at Wimbledon, reaching the quarters. After that, she scored several good wins at U.S. and Australian Opens, suggesting her readiness to move upward.
 
Francesca's grass-court journey this season began with a first-round loss at Eastbourne, even as her possible third-round Wimbledon opponent, Martinez Sanchez, was beating Zvonareva and leading Rezai when the latter retired. Francesca's other possible third-round opponent is energetic Marion Bartoli, Wimbledon runner-up in 2007. Clearly, prospects for the Italian star seem less than strong.
 
But if her chances at Wimbledon for the Italian star seem to have faded, her remarkable finish at Garros cannot be overlooked. It seems to me that Francesca, especially if her grass comfort grows in her initial matches, has the ability to reach a fourth-round encounter with Venus Williams. But answering Venus's weight of shot and actually beating Venus on grass are much more difficult tasks. Francesca won the first set in the last two matches between the two, both in 2010, but she has never beaten Venus in any of their seven lifetime meetings. Venus should advance to the final four.
 
FINAL FOUR
 
We are left with Serena, Stosur, Henin, and Venus.
 
Justine's slight physique suggests trouble against the battering tennis of the physically larger Serena and Venus, and the historical record agrees. Serena leads Justine in head-to-head matches on nonclay surfaces, at W-L 7-2, including 1-1 at Wimbledon; Venus leads Justine on nonclay by 6-1. A semi-final victory for Venus over Justine rests largely in Venus's hands -- i.e., in Venus's ability to produce her best heavyweight tennis.
 
The picture between Serena and Stosur is not very different. Stosur has more firepower in serving and stroking than does Henin, but her weapons remain less potent than Serena's. Schiavone blunted Samantha's power at Garros by her all-around brilliance. Serena can do the same by her applying her usual rocketry backed by almost unmatched athleticism in defense and countering.
 
It should be another all-Williams final. Venus has more Wimbledon crowns than kid sister. But if both play at their best, or at equal fractions of their best, the winner must be Serena.
 
MEN'S SINGLES
 
The long-standing dual monarchy atop men's tennis -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal -- will stand out in tennis history. For the last five years the two megastars have dominated in the winning of Slams and as top dogs in the annual points races, to a degree never before seen. Much of their drama has unfolded at Wimbledon, where one or the other has won the crown in every year starting in 2003. Roger and Rafa have met in the final round on Centre Court three times. Roger won their Wimbledon final in 2006 in four sets, Rafa in 2007 in five, and Roger again in 2008 in five.
 
The dual monarchy continues in 2010, Roger and Rafa having divided the year's two Slams to date. As the high seeds for forthcoming Wimbledon, the two megastars are placed at opposite ends of the draw, each favored to reach the final over an array of dangerous opponents. Nadal at 24 should be at his prime age, though Rafa's history of knee trouble lurks to perhaps dim his future. Meanwhile Federer will soon reach age 29, and it is not surprising that his losses are becoming more frequent with every year. Indeed, his career W-L pattern clearly suggests that although there will be triumphs ahead, his magnificent mid-career peak has assuredly passed. It is striking simply to compare the number of losses each year:
 
Roger's W-L History:
 
Year 2000 (age 19), W-L 36-30
Year 2001 (age 20), 49-21
Year 2002 (age 21), 58-22
Year 2003 (age 22), 78-17
Year 2004 (age 23), 74-6
Year 2005 (age 24), 81-4
Year 2006 (age 25), 92-5
Year 2007 (age 26), 68-9
Year 2008 (age 27), 66-15 (recovery from mononucleosis)
Year 2009 (age 28), 61-12
Year 2010 to 14 June (age 29), 27-8
 
Our Calculation 1 is designed to measure outcomes at Wimbledon 2010, where each player's results of the last year are so are converted into a score, "Ssk". Comparing our Ssk scores of Rafa and Roger, which include the recent grass-court results at Queen's and Halle, the narrow edge is Rafa's, though Roger has been generally favored by most odds-makers.
 
Rafa, Roger, and the next five in our Ssk rank order constitute our prime candidates. All but the last are among the top eight seeds in the tournament. Also given below are estimated odds for winning the tournament, where the stated odds generally follow the Ssk order but are not directly calculated from them.
 
#1. Rafael Nadal, age 24, height 6-1, prediction score Ssk 20.48. Rafa's return to full leg health, verified in his unprecedented success in the recent clay season, suggests that he is capable of repeating his Garros-Wimbledon double of 2008. Odds 7-2.
 
#2. Roger Federer, 28, 6-1, Ssk 19.70. Roger's losses since January have been discouraging, though scarcely disqualifying for his chances of capturing Wimbledon. Odds 4-1.
 
#3. Andy Murray, age 23, height 6-3, Ssk 17.10. Andy reached the semis at Wimbledon last year, losing closely to Roddick. He had just won Queen's two weeks earlier, and enjoyed extreme crowd support as home-nation favorite at Wimbledon. Since then, however, Murray has not closed the gap on the top two, and his results have declined in 2010, including a loss to Mardy Fish in his second match at Queen's this month. He is a fine mover and a potent server and stroker, but his preference for overly patient, indeed defensive, play seems to have retarded his success. A more aggressive style seems called for at Wimbledon. Odds 12-1.
 
#4. Novak Djokovic, 23, 6-3, Ssk 15.18. Nole won Australian Open in 2008 but has not reached a Slam final since. Like Murray he has shown indifferent results in 2010 to date, and like Andy he lost his second match at Queen's. There have been hints in several recent matches that his past breathing problems still lurk. But tall, strong of muscle, supple in movement, and powerful in serving and stroking, Djokovic's chances seem favored by the fast grass and the likely absence of draining temperatures at Wimbledon. Odds 13-1.
 
#5. Andy Roddick, 27, 6-2, Ssk 14.88. Roddick's long battle in losing to Federer in the final round at Wimbledon 09, score 16-14 in the fifth set, was Andy's third runner-up finish there. That 2009 loss may be remembered longer than Andy's U.S. Open crown in 2003. But a disappointing summer 2009, including close losses to rising Americans Querrey and Isner, was followed by knee trouble late in the year. Andy's excellent results at Indian Wells 10 and his triumph at Miami followed, but the recent clay season brought no joy, and there was a second-match loss at Queen's, scene of much past success. Andy's potent, amazingly high first-serving-percentage makes him always a threat on grass. Odds 14-1.
 
#6. Robin Soderling, 25, 6-3, Ssk 11.54. The Swedish star vaulted to superstardom by beating Nadal and reaching the final round at Garros 09, and since then his crushing serving and stroking has kept him among the strongest contenders. He currently ranks third, well behind Nadal and closely behind Federer in the 2010 year-to-date race. He won three matches at Wimbledon last year but then lost to Federer in three close sets, two of them tiebreakers. He did not play in the grass tune-ups this year. Odds 15-1.
 
#7. Tomas Berdych, 24, 6-5, Ssk 10.02.The enormous promise seen in his tall physique and crushing serving produced only occasional triumphs over the years, and indeed he slipped backward in the rankings after finishing at world #13 at age 21 in 2006. Watching him here in Washington last summer made the reversal in his career hard to understand. His current blossoming began in a runner-up finish at Miami 10, but then hip and ankle injuries produced withdrawals in the clay season. Three good wins without loss at Dusseldorf then preceded a fine run at Garros 10, where he carried Soderling to five close sets in their semi-final. A strong performance at Wimbledon is absolutely to be expected. Odds 20-1.
 
THIRD TIER
 
Several others require special comment here apart from their Ssk standing.
 
His early age and impressive development call attention to Marin Cilic (21, 6-6, Ssk 9.45). He is the youngest player seeded in the first sixteen, showing stroking and movement primarily in baseline play remarkable for a player his height. At Australian Open last January, he won five matches, three of them five-setters including over Roddick, before losing in the semis to Murray in four. Since then he has steadily maintained ranking close to or just inside the world's top ten. Odds 25-1.
 
It is sometimes forgotten that the last player to win Wimbledon other than Federer and Nadal is none other than the champion in 2002, Lleyton Hewitt (29, 5-11, Ssk 7.04). Multiple injuries coincided with his subsequent declining results, but -- determined as always -- he returned from hip surgery in early 2009. He then won two matches at Queen's and four at Wimbledon 09, losing closely to Roddick at both grass events -- including in a five-setter at Wimbledon. His win over Federer at Halle 10 verified his grass-court skills, built on his excellent, formerly superior, court mobility. Odds 30-1.
 
American Sam Querrey (22, 6-6, Ssk 6.93) commands attention for his winning Queen's 2010. The field there was strong but Sam, who was seeded seventh, did not have to face another seeded player. Sam's potent serving is assuredly effective on grass, and his court movement and baseline play are surprisingly strong for so tall an individual. Last year I wrote that Sam was nearly ready to overtake Roddick as the top American. That has not happened, but Sam (and two other strong-serving Americans -- John Isner (25, 6-10, SSk 5.43) and Mardy Fish (28, 6-2, Ssk 4.74) -- will be dangerous opponents for anyone at Wimbledon. Isner has been sidelined lately, Fish lost to Sam in the final at Queen's. Of the three Americans after Roddick, Isner is the most determined and potent in attacking net. Querrey odds 40-1. Isner odds 100-1. Fish odds, 100-1.
 
Nikolay Davydenko (29, 5-10, Ssk 6.84) was magnificent at the end of 2009, losing in split sets to Djokovic in round-robin play and then defeating Nadal, Federer, Soderling, and del Potro in winning the World Tour Finals in London (Masters Cup). He later lost to Federer in four sets at Australian Open and then suffered a broken wrist at Indian Wells. He returned last week at Halle, where he lost his second match. Odds 50-1.
 
Youthful Ernests Gulbis (21, 6-3, Ssk 4.33) stirred fresh notice from his three wins and split-set loss to Federer on clay at Madrid last month. His physical attributes and tennis aptitudes have been understood for several years, but his successes have lagged. Odds 70-1.
 
The career of Austrian Jurgen Melzer (29, 6-0, Ssk 5.55) lifted nicely in recent weeks, when he reached the semis at Garros, defeating Djokovic in five sets. Last year at Wimbledon, he won two matches before losing to Roddick in four close sets. His is a firm server and stroker, capable of different styles. He has favorable seed just inside the second eight. Odds 100-1.
 
THE PREDICTIONS
 
Our Calculation 1 rests on Ssk, where each player's score shows recent results, weighted according to how well various predictor events correlated with results at Wimbledon over the last nine years. Calculation 2 uses recent head-to-head results weighted for sets won and lost, recency, and commonality of playing surface. Where the two Calculations disagree in picking the winner of a match-up, they are integrated using a pre-determined calibration.
 
TOP QUARTER
 
As defending champion, Federer is officially seeded at #1, though he is second to Nadal in the rolling-12-month rankings usually applied in Slam seeding. A potential fourth-round meeting with Jurgen Melzer seems the only early problem for Roger, followed by an extremely dangerous date with the winner of Berdych and Davydenko.
 
--Melzer over Robredo. Jurgen's win over Tommy head-to-head at Dubai 10 lifts him narrowly ahead in our Calculation 2, reinforcing his Ssk jump from successes in the last few months.
 
. --Federer over Melzer. Roger leads strongly in Calculation 1, and there have been no head-to-head meetings.
 
--Berdych over Wawrinka. Berdych leads by moderate margin in Calculation 1, and there have been no head-to-head meetings.
 
--Berdych over Davydenko. Nikolay's recent inactivity contributes in Tomas's clear edge in Ssk. In head-to-head play, Nikolay is well ahead lifetime, but the weight of Tomas's straight-set win over the Russian star at Wimbledon 09 overrules for our Calculation 2.
 
Federer over Berdych. Roger won their eight meetings preceding Tomas's victory at Miami 10, including at Australia 09 and Olympics 08. Although meetings prior to two years ago are not weighted in our scheme, the last-mentioned two are enough to swing Calculation 2 to Roger, in agreement with Calculation 1.
 
SECOND QUARTER
 
As they unfold here the match-ups favor Djokovic, reinforcing his edge in Ssk over all other members of the quarter.
 
Monfils over Hewitt. Calculations 1 and 2 differ in their verdicts, though the margins are close in both cases. Gael's win over Lleyton at Shanghai 09 slightly outweighs Lleyton's edge in Ssk.
 
Djokovic over Monfils. Novak leads in both calculations.
 
Cilic over Ljubicic. Our two calculations disagree. Ljubicic won their only meeting, at Indian Wells 08, but Cilic's Ssk margin overrules by the narrowest overall margin seen in this exercise.
 
Roddick over Kohlschreiber. In another split verdict, Andy's strong Ssk lead overrules Philllippe's head-to-head win in Australia 08. Andy won their two earlier meetings, which have no weight here because of age.
 
Cilic over Roddick. In yet another split, Marin prevails here because of his wins over Andy at Australia 10 in five sets and at Canada 08, also in split sets.
 
Djokovic over Cilic. Novak leads comfortably in both calculations.
 
THIRD QUARTER
 
This seems an excellent draw for Murray, whose margin over all prospective opponents seems strong.
 
--Tsonga over Almagro. The calculations verify Jo-Wilfried's generally perceived superiority here.
 
--Verdasco over Tsonga. Fernando won their only meeting, at Australia 08, vindicating his slight edge in Ssk.
 
--Ferrero over Querrey. Our Calculation 1 likes Querrey, but two head-to-head wins by Ferrero in 2008 including Wimbledon slightly outweigh that verdict.
 
--Murray over Ferrero. Andy is well ahead in both calculations, including three head-to-head wins in 2009.
 
--Murray over Verdasco. The margin is slightly closer, but the picture is similar to that of Murray over Ferrero.
 
BOTTOM QUARTER
 
Rafael Nadal has some serious headaches ahead in possible meetings with Gulbis and Soderling. The journey will not be easy.
 
--Soderling over Ferrer. The heavier game of the Swedish star brings Robin the lead in both calculations.
 
Youzhny over Isner. The two are almost equal in Calculation 1, Youzhny leading, and the Russian's head-to-head win at Canada 09 gives him Calculation 2 as well.
 
Nadal over Gulbis. The calculations clearly favor Rafa, perhaps underweighting the apparent recent improvement in the younger player's strengths.
 
Nadal over Youzhny. Both calculations agree. Isner would probably have been more dangerous on grass for Rafa.
 
Nadal over Soderling. Nadal's Ssk is considerably the stronger. In Calculation 2, Rafa's win over Robin at Garros 10 more than balances the historic win by Robin one year before. Also, Soderling won at Masters Cup 09, Rafa at Italy 09. Both calculations favor Rafa.
 
FINAL FOUR
 
Federer over Djokovic. The two stand at 3-3 in head-to-head play of the last two years. Roger's wins, including in their two meetings at best-of five sets (U.S. Open 08 and 09) are the heavier weighted in our Calculation 2, reinforcing his higher Ssk in Calculation 1.
 
Nadal over Murray. Of their seven head-to-head meetings of the last two years, Rafa has won four, though Andy's win at Australia 10 is heaviest weighted here primarily because of recency. (The next-heaviest-weighted is Rafa's win at Wimbledon 08 because of commonality of event and surface.) The head-to-head edge in Calculation 2 is thus Rafa's, narrowly. Rafa also leads in Calculation 1.
 
Nadal over Federer. Three players in the field outscored Nadal in head-to-head results of our Calculation 2 -- Djokovic, Cilic, and Davydenko. The unfolding of our script in accord with the tournament draw did not require Rafa to face any of the three. In the four Federer-Nadal meetings during the two-year period considered in our Calculation 2, Nadal won three, carrying total weight well above Roger's single win, at Madrid 09. Inasmuch as Rafa outscored Roger in Ssk, as noted at the outset, Nadal emerges as our clear selection to win Wimbledon 10.
 
We are privileged to witness another chapter in what may be tennis's greatest rivalry ever.
 
DOUBLES AND THE NATIONS
 
For the last five years, the Russian women led the female contingents from all other nations in capturing the most matches at Wimbledon. The U.S. women were second in all five years. Last year the Russians led by 39.0 to 32.0, where the American sisters Williams were the singles finalists and also won the women's doubles. For 2010, Russian strength and depth in the early rounds has not diminished, as several fresh stars are emerging. Thus although the sisters are this year seeded tops in both singles and doubles, mark down another triumph for the Russkayas.
 
The men's outcome has been more variable. The U.S. males won in 2009, Spain in 2008, France the year before that. Leading the Americans last year were Roddick (reached finals in singles), the Bryans (finalists in doubles), and Parrott (the male member of the winning mixed-doubles pair). Blake also scored well in singles and doubles. If the drop-off from this group is limited, and if the big servers (Querrey, Isner, Fish) contribute moderately in singles and doubles, another American triumph seems assured. Spain was runner-up last year, led by Nadal, and should again score well in the early rounds. France finished second to Spain at the recent Garros, also showing excellent early-round depth, but will need strong leadership in scoring from Tsonga and more.
 
There has been the makings of another dual monarchy, in men's doubles. Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic came together as a partnership in 2008. Since then, they and the American pair the Bryan brothers have alternated in first and second places in the rankings. Currently the leading pair in the 2010 year-to-date race is Nestor-Zimonjic.
 
There have been 13 Slam, Masters Cup, and Olympics doubles events played since the start of 2008. Here is the tally in the winning of these crowns during the period:
 
Nestor-Zimonjic, 4
Bryans, 4
Dlouhy-Paes, 2
 
The Canadian-Serbian pair are talented, quick, aggressive, and powerful. Both partners are potent in both serving and serve-returning -- i.e., they are well-balanced, at highest level in all respects. The same words also describe the Bryans, who are perhaps slightly less talented individually than their foremost rivals, but are devastating in their offensive and defensive teamwork. Both are lefty-righty pairs.
 
Wimbledon is assuredly the most prestigious of the men's doubles Slams -- the only one where the matches are best-of-five sets. Nestor-Zimonjic won Wimbledon 08 and 09. (The Bryans were second last year.) But if because of Wimbledon Nestor-Zimonjic have the narrow edge over the Americans since 2008, the Yanks clearly lead in career-long achievement given their years of dominance prior to 2008. But the choice in predicting the forthcoming Wimbledon winners must go to Nestor-Zimonjic.
 
--Ray Bowers
Arlington, Virginia
 
FOOTNOTE ON THE CALCULATIONS
 
Our Calculation 1 weights each player's results in recent predictor events. The weights are derived from data of the last nine years on how much better than randomly each predictor event predicted outcomes at subsequent Wimbledons. Here are the weights used here for predicting the men's singles at Wimbledon 2010:
 
grass-court events:
Queen's/Halle 08, 2.2%
Wimbledon 08, 6.4%
Queen's/Halle 09, 3.5%
Wimbledon 09, 10.1%
Queen's/Halle 10, 4.9%
total 27.1%
 
clay-court events: Garros 09, 1.3%
Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid 10, each 2.6%
Garros 10, 4.4%
total 16.2%
 
hard-court outdoor events:
U.S. Open 08, 4.4%
Australia Open 09, 2.8%
Indian Wells 09, 4.1%
Miami 09, 2.8%
Canada and Cincinnati 09, 2.7%
U.S. Open 09, 7.4%
Australian Open 10, 7.9%
Indian Wells 10, 7.7%
Miami 10, 7.7%
total 50.3%
 
hard-court indoor events:
Shanghai, Paris indoors 09, each 0.9%
Masters Cup 09, 2.0%
Rotterdam, Memphis, Dubai 10, each 0.9%
total 6.5%
 
(Not used here are the grass events at Eastbourne, 's-Hertogenbosch, and Newport, and also several 500-Series tournaments on non-grass surfaces, as over the years their success in predicting subsequent Wimbledons has been no better than random.)
 
Calculation 2 employs head-to-head results primarily of the last two years, where each meeting is weighted according to margin in sets, recency, and commonality of surface. For integrating the results of Calculations 1 and 2, a calibrating value is ascertained shortly before the main draw by testing a substantial population of possible match-ups, thereby identifying a value that should equalize the roles of the two Calculations.

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Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2014

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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

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