The 2012 Olympics: Hopes and Expectations
Why was 2012 guaranteed to be a great year for tennis fans? Because Wimbledon happens twice. Olympic tennis begins Saturday at the All England Club, with medal events in men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles. Here’s what I’m hoping for…and what I expect.
What I’d like to see: Andy Roddick wins the gold. Why? Because Roddick has been oh-so-close at Wimbledon so many times, and seems so far—despite his nice run in Atlanta this month—from winning a second Grand Slam title. But best of three sets on grass that ought to be greener, and slicker, by the end of this tournament? That’s entirely possible. For the man who would likely own three or four Wimbledon titles if not for Roger Federer, this is his best chance to win at the most prestigious venue in the sport.
What I expect to see: While Federer is a smart pick, I’ll go with Novak Djokovic. The former No. 1’s astounding 2011 season was sparked by his performance in the Davis Cup final. Playing for Serbia, and for gold, will have the same effect. Surprise gold candidate: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. A guy with that much firepower and touch in a best-of-three-sets grass court tournament is trouble.
What I’d like to see: Kim Clijsters wins the gold. OK, OK, I’m being sentimental. It’s the Olympics, so what better time for it? Like Roddick, Clijsters has never won at Wimbledon, though she has never gone past the semifinals and doesn’t have the best game for grass.
What I expect to see: Victoria Azarenka wins the gold. Azarenka played well at Wimbledon and should be positive about her game headed into this event. Serena Williams is the favorite, but I’m guessing she’s going to work as hard as possible to win the doubles title with her sister, and there’s always mixed doubles if she decides to enter.
What I’d like to see: This definitely won’t happen, because it would require Rafael Nadal to play, and perhaps an ITF/Olympic entry change, but…wouldn’t it have been great if Nadal had decided he wasn’t healthy enough to play singles, but felt fine to play doubles with Marc Lopez? Because of Nadal’s absence, Feliciano Lopez will play singles and Marc Lopez will compete in doubles. As a pair, though, Nadal and Marc Lopez might be the most fascinating, and entertaining, doubles team on Earth. I watched them up close at Indian Wells this year and it was astounding to see Lopez ducking and patrolling the net (the full length of it) while Nadal smashed forehands. No all-world competition is complete without that team. But I digress…
What I expect to see: In Beijing, two singles players won the doubles title. This time, a doubles team will take it. I’m picking Bob and Mike Bryan, who are due to break out of their mini slump and take home a well-deserved gold.
What I’d like to see: Another gold medal for Serena and Venus Williams, who isn’t close to her best these days and might never get close again.
What I expect to see: A rare instance in which I expect to see what I’d like to see. We’ll see…
A few months ago, I was convinced that whichever team included Serena Williams would win the gold, especially on grass with the best serve in the history of women’s tennis. I’m still convinced—except there’s a reasonable chance Williams won’t play a third event. If she does play, she should pick Bob Bryan as her partner, not Roddick (sorry, Andy). I watched Williams and Bryan lose in the first round of the French Open mixed doubles event to Gisela Dulko and Eduardo Schwank, who should contend for the gold in London. It was a tough loss for the Americans, but the way they lost made it clear what Williams needs in a doubles partner: Someone who is really good at doubles, not another singles player. Williams is such a rare player that she doesn’t need more power in a partner. She needs tactics and great hands at net. Bob Bryan would be the best choice. If they don’t play, watch out for Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan, who just won Wimbledon together.
Tom Perrotta is an editor-at-large for TENNIS. You can follow him on Twitter at @TomPerrotta.