This week’s submission deadline is Monday, June 23, 7am (EST) in the U.S./1pm (CET) in Europe.
Yes it’s time for Wimbledon, the second grand slam event in the fantasy tennis season. We need eight players for our fantasy team so we need two players from each quarter – the quarterfinalists. Spend a lot of time picking your team because each slam pays more than twice as much as any other event on the schedule.
Wimbledon draw (grass, first prize: $1,462,500)
At a quick glance my job looks pretty easy today. All I have to do is pick Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Roddick then find four other players to round out my team. Let’s see if that’s true.
In the top half of Federer’s quarter, Lleyton Hewitt has lost his last 11 matches to Federer, Fernando Gonzalez is 1-11 against Federer lifetime, and Robin Soderling and Gael Monfils have never gone past the 3rd round here. Federer looks safe to get to the quarterfinals.
In the bottom half of Federer’s quarter, there are three players who have a good chance to get to the quarterfinals: Philipp Kohlschreiber, Mario Ancic, and David Ferrer. Tomas Berdych reached the quarterfinals last year but he hasn’t played well since coming back from injury. This is a tough choice. Ancic has reached the quarterfinals and semifinals here. Ferrer has never gone past the fourth round but he beat Ancic this week in s’Hertogenbosch and he’s 2-0 over Ancic. Kohlschreiber reached the final at Halle and has an excellent record on grass but he’s never gone past the third round here and he lost in the first round last year.
I’m going with Ferrer though I’m a bit nervous about it because that means that I’ll probably be picking five of the top eight seeds to reach the quarterfinals. There is a precedent: last year there were five top eight seeds in the quarterfinals; in fact, all of the quarterfinalists last year were seeded.
Djokovic looks safe in the top half of his quarter. Juan Martin Del Potro reached the semifinals at s’Hertogenbosch this week but he’s no match for Djokovic.
In the bottom half of Djokovic’s quarter there is one good possibility and a few questions. Marcos Baghdatis has reached the quarterfinals and the semifinals in the past two years and he got to the quarterfinals at Halle last week before losing to Federer. Ivo Karlovic and David Nalbandian are the questions. Karlovic won the Nottingham event this week, reached the quarterfinals before losing to Nadal at Queen’s last week, and regularly tears up the field at pre-Wimbledon events. And yet, the last time he went past the first round here was 2004. As for Nalbandian, these days you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. He reached the semifinals at Queen’s and beat Richard Gasquet along the way, but he just doesn’t look like he’s in shape.
I’m nervous about Baghdatis because his results are not good this year and he dropped out of the Surbiton grass challenger with an ankle injury. But he did well at Halle and he may have dropped out of Surbiton because he didn’t like the prospect of the playing the second round on indoor hard court where it was switched due to rain. I’m going with Baghdatis.
Will Roddick be the fourth semifinalist along with Federer, Djokovic and Nadal? Maybe not but he should get to the quarterfinals. Except for a third round loss to Andy Murray two years ago, he’s reached the quarterfinals or better the past five years. James Blake is in Roddick’s section and he beat him on grass two years ago but that was back when Roddick was struggling mightily. Dmitry Tursunov is a good grass court player but he’s never beaten Roddick on a fast court. Roddick has beaten Nicolas Mahut both times they’ve met and Mahut is having a terrible year on grass. Roddick it is.
The bottom half of Roddick’s quarter is a jumble. Paul-Henri Mathieu beat Maric Cilic – his possible second round opponent – in the first round at Queen’s last week. Then Cilic turned around and beat him in the first round at Nottingham this week. Jonas Bjorkman and Nikolay Davydenko are also in this section. Bjorkman reached the semifinals here last year but he’s not playing well this year and Davydenko is unreliable on grass.
I’m going to pick between Mathieu and Cilic. Mathieu beat Radek Stepanek, David Ferrer, and Ivan Ljubicic before losing to Roddick here last year but he’s 1-2 on grass this year. He also beat Cilic in Munich and Miami this year but all four of their matches have gone three sets. I’m going out on a limb and picking Cilic because Mathieu has a lifetime losing record on grass and I think Cilic is better on this surface. Cilic is also 2-0 over Davydenko and reached the semifinals at Nottingham.
Nadal is one obvious choice in his quarter. There isn’t anyone in his section who can threaten him.
In the other half of Nadal’s quarter, Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray look the strongest. Gasquet is recovering slowly from his recent malaise. He did reach the quarterfinals at Queen’s but only the second round at s’Hertogenbosch. Those are similar to his results last year and he followed that up with a semifinals here but I think he’s still in recovery so I don’t expect him to do as well this year. Murray has had his usual assortment of injuries recently – he fell on his thumb and withdrew after reaching the quarterfinals at Queen’s, but he beat Roddick here last year in the fourth round and I think he’s ready to move on to the quarterfinals so I’m picking him.
Federer, Ferrer, Djokovic, Baghdatis, Roddick, Cilic, Murray, Nadal.