Breaking down the U.S. hopefuls for London Olympic tennis
With Rafael Nadal among the missing and Novak Djokovic still in search of that 2011-style aura, there's a reasonable chance Roddick could make some noise on the courts of Wimbledon, where he has always played well. I'd say at least three obstacles must be addressed.
One, Roddick has been far too inconsistent at this stage of his career to expect a sudden run of long-term glory. Two, you wonder if he made a smart decision to play the hardcourts of Atlanta with such a quick turnaround heading back to London. And finally, Roddick felt a dull pain in his right shoulder during his victory over Gilles Muller in the Atlanta final, saying it "just went a little dead for whatever reason."
Wild guess: He's been serving like a madman for years, non-stop, getting more out of that shoulder than any big-serving player has a right to expect. But if he brings his A-1 game, and the type of team spirit that has always served him so well in Davis Cup, he could get that medal.
Isner seems to struggle under the weight of big-stage expectations, hardly an indictment he'd like to see on his resume. He also has a knack for bouncing back, and after winning the Newport tournament, he had a decent run in Atlanta before losing a tight match to Roddick. I'd imagine the Olympic setting will energize Isner. He's a first-rate team guy, dating back to his four-year success story at the University of Georgia.
Still, the strength of the Olympic field goes well beyond the Djokovic-Roger Federer-Andy Murray elite. David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are on hand, among many others. Give Isner a longshot's chance at best.
With any luck, we'll see more evidence behind Chris Evert's claim that McHale is "the most complete player" of the up-and-coming American women. And let's hope NBC took the time to profile McHale. Her mother is Cuban, her father is Irish-American, and the family spent five years in Hong Kong (ages 3-8 for Christina). She's a bit shy in public, but her story is well worth telling.
Lepchenko made her mark on the blue clay of Madrid, rising to No. 59 in the world with three wins, including one over Francesca Schiavone, before losing to Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals (she is now ranked 41st). As a powerful, 5-foot-11 lefty, she could pull an upset or two in London, but "just happy to be there" fits her mood perfectly.
For me, the bottom line for Venus' Olympic representation is
Serena and Venus Williams: Count on the sisters bringing home their third gold medal together (they won in 2000 and '08) and, ideally, focusing on that.
The mixed doubles teams aren't officially announced until all players are on the grounds. But all indications are that the teams will be Mike Bryan-Lisa Raymond (the Wimbledon champions) and Bob Bryan-Liezel Huber. That takes care of the fairness issue, while also giving the U.S. its best chance to win.