Mornin'. Just a few housekeeping notes before we go on to the business at hand on the day Wimbledon made its draw (and don't you love this photo of The Mighty Fed?). First, I'm pleased to say that one of our oldest hands at TennisWorld, Rosangel Valenti, will be probably be back in action next week, providing us with Crisis Center posts from her home near London. That way, our European friends can get a jump on posting comments when play begins, very early for us here in New York.
Let me also assure those of you who read yesterday's excerpt from Hardcourt Confidential, Patrick McEnroe's new book, that Pat is no "Rafa hater." You'll find if you read the book that quite the opposite is the case. Think I'll give you a taste of that tomorrow. And also keep in mind that Pat recruited Jose Higueras (who not only worked with Roger Federer, but has always been close in an under-the-radar way with Uncle Toni Nadal) to head up the USTA development program. If you can't put two-and-two together on that one, I give up.
Actually, Anna Wintour got on Patrick's case, back when he was taking over the USTA job, when she spotted Pat huddling with Jose at the U.S. Open a few years back. "What are you trying to do," Wintour asked, "don't you dare steal Roger's coach!"
For those of you who don't know, Wintour is a FORF (Friend of Roger Forever; I'm sure some of you would also describe yourselves the same way) and my seven-year old son's favorite movie star (for her role in that terrific kid's movie, The Incredibles).
Fast forward (or rewind) to last December. Patrick was getting on a plane in London, manuscript of Hardcourt Confidential in hand, pages falling out and fluttering into the aisle as he tried to proof-read the material. He looked up. There was Wintour, smiling at him. She asked, "Did you write a book?"
He confirmed that he had, and she asked him to send her a galley, which he ultimately did. She said maybe she'd mention it in her magazine, Vogue. So if any of you are subscribers, keep your eyes peeled and let me know.
As for Roger - well, I just filed a new post for ESPN remarking on the fact that, by my count (which is usually wrong, but not by too much) fully forty of the 64 opening round men's matches at Wimbledon will pair players who have never met before. I consider that an important if vaguely oxymoronic H2H statistic, because I've always remembered Pete Sampras's claim that playing a guy for the first time was always the toughest; no matter what you knew about him, you'd never felt what kind of ball he hit, how he moved, all of that. To some degree, every match in which there is no previous record is a potential powderkeg, ready to blow up in the face of the favorite. And when you have 40 of them in a draw, that's a fair number of explosions.
Federer, in this case, is gloriously exempt from the nerve-wracking mission of staring across the net at a new face when he begins his title defense against Alejandro Falla. If anything, he'd be entitled to exclaim: What, you again?
The two men have met four times, and Federer has won every match. Falla has gotten one set off Federer on grass, but that's only if you add up all the games he's won (6) in their two matches on turf, a three-setter at Wimbledon and a two-set match at Halle a few days ago. I'll bet Roger is wishing that the Queen of England, due to visit Wimbledon this year, would come on Monday. . . Hail, even Gavin Rossdale might think of something better to do - pay the bills? Play on-one poker? - for this one.
My main in impressions of the men's singles draw is that, if you're looking for the sensational first-round upset, the two guys most likely to suffer it are no. 3 seed Novak Djokovic and no. 4 seed Andy Murray. Djokovic does have a solid history with his first-round opponent, Olivier Rochus. Unfortunately, it isn't a very encouraging one. Djokovic has won but once in four matches. He did post that lone win in their only meeting on grass, at Halle in 2008, but it was no cakewalk (7-6, 6-4). You can be Djokovic has plenty to feel concerned about, given the way he's been more or less treading water lately.
Murray has no record against his first opponent, world no. 80 Jan Hajek. And while Hajek has turned in his best results on clay, he's 26 and at the peak of his game, physically. Murray has been a patchy performer this year, and his good run at Wimbledon last year probably ratcheted up the British public's expectations. He's apt to have a few anxious moments as he tries to figure out Hajek's game in the early going, and if Hajek can capitalize on them, Murray will need steady nerves and something he doesn't always bring to the match, stores of patience.
Rafael Nadal has an extremely tough quarter; in fact, I don't think you could have come up with a more potentially hazardous quarter. His potential rivals include James Blake, John Isner, Ernests Gulbis, Mikhail Youzhny, and Robin Soderling - all guy who have shown they can sow seeds of doubt in Nadal's mind. Rest assured that Rafa is chanting the mantra, One day at a time. . . and hoping, if not counting on, getting a little help from others to step up and knock out a few of those fellas.