Wimbledon 2012: Breaking down the draws

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WIMBLEDON, England -- The Wimbledon 2012 draws are out. Click here for men's and here for women's. While pondering if the rain will wreak havoc, here are some initial reactions off the Wimbledon draws.

Draw winners: Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova. Federer's biggest threats in his quarter are Janko Tipsarevic and John Isner, and that's assuming Isner can go deep enough to make their projected fourth round match. Sharapova's half is littered by slumpers (Sabine Lisicki, Vera Zvonareva, Jelena Jankovic) and unreliables on grass (Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Samantha Stosur). Her biggest threats are Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska, with the latter two clashing in the second round.

Andy Murray's long and winding road: So much for home court advantage -- Murray has been saddled with a tough and tricky road. His projected path to the final: Nikolay Davydenko (first round), Ivo Karlovic (second round), Kevin Anderson (third round), Milos Raonic or Marin Cilic (fourth round), Juan Martin del Potro or David Ferrer (quarterfinals), and Rafael Nadal (semifinals). Ouch, what did Andy ever do to you, Wimbledon?

No one wanted a trilogy: The good news is that John Isner and Nicolas Mahut won't face off in the first round of Wimbledon for the third year in a row. The bad news is that they could meet in the second. I'll be circulating a petition shortly requesting the tournament scrap the draw and start over whenever these two are drawn in the same quarter.

Men dominate the early rounds: The women's draw is fairly balanced -- or at least as balanced as it could be -- which means there are only a handful of early blockbuster matches. Kim Clijsters vs. Jelena Jankovic is prime for some drama, and Venus drawing Radwanska in the second round for the second straight Slam is just bad luck for both women. While the women's side will surely have upsets galore (because that's what the WTA does), the men's draw is where the early round excitement is at. Here are just a handful of first round matches that made my eyes bug out: David Nalbandian vs. Janko Tipsarevic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Murray vs. Nikolay Davydenko, Bernard Tomic vs. David Goffin and Kevin Anderson vs. Grigor Dimitrov. Time to make that run to Costco for some popcorn.

Mixed bag for the Americans: On the whole, the Draw Gods have shown favor for the American crew in London. Mardy Fish, who's finally recovered (hopefully) from his illness, returns to action and should be able to get a few matches under his belt before facing any stiff opposition. He's drawn Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo in the first round and will get the winner of Pablo Andujar/James Ward in the second before a possible showdown with Bernard Tomic. Brian Baker, Ryan Sweeting, Michael Russell and Jesse Levine, all of whom qualified, also have winnable first round matches. As for the women, you have to like Christina McHale's draw, where she has a great chance to make the third round and possibly pull off an upset over Kerber. On the flip side, Ryan Harrison could face Novak Djokovic in the second round; Isner opens up against Alejandro Falla, who almost upset Federer here two years ago and upset Fish in Melbourne; Sam Querrey could face Milos Raonic in the second round; and Andy Roddick is teed up to meet David Ferrer in the third round. As for the Williamses, it's not going to be easy. Between Venus having to get past Aga in the second round and Serena drawn into Kvitova's quarter and facing a number of quality grasscourters (Zheng Jie, Lucie Safarova), it's tough to slot them in late in the second week with any confidence.

For a more in depth look...


Novak Djokovic's half: For the 13th time in the last 15 Slams, Djokovic and Federer find themselves in the same half of the draw. That's a particularly perfect scenario for Federer, who could conceivably end Novak's reign at No. 1 himself. If he beats Djokovic in the semifinals and goes on to win the title, Federer would regain the No. 1 ranking for the first time in over two years. He's got the easiest path to the semifinals of any of the Top 4 and I don't see anyone beating him before then. As for Djokovic, he's in with a bevy of claycourters in his quarter, but the real opposition will come in the form of Tomas Berdych, as they could meet in the quarterfinals. If all goes to plan -- and they usually do when it comes to the ATP -- we should get another Djokovic/Federer semifinal, though this would be their first match contested on grass. If Federer goes all out assault during the fortnight, pushing his offensive weapons to the hilt, I think he snaps his three-match losing streak to the Serb.

Rafael Nadal's half: Murray's quarter is completely loaded with the likes of David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic, and Andy Roddick, and Nadal's section isn't exactly sunshine and daisies. He could have a tricky match against Ivan Dodig in the second round (the Croat beat him in Montreal last year) and Tommy Haas in the third round. If he can get past those two matches and become familiar with the courts, he'll have to get past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. The Frenchman has beaten Rafa on grass before (Queen's 2011) and we've all seen what he's capable of here at Wimbledon, when he upset Federer and made the semifinals last year.


Maria Sharapova's half: Sharapova couldn't have asked for a better draw as she tries to become the first woman since Serena in 2002 to win both the French Open and Wimbledon, thus completing the Channel Slam. Serena, Kvitova and Azarenka are all in the bottom half of the draw, and Sharapova's toughest test before the final will be Kerber. That's not a match-up to take lightly, as Kerber has shown this week in Eastbourne that her game does translate well to grass. While Venus and Clijsters are also floating in the top half, it's tough to believe their bodies will be able to withstand seven matches in two weeks, especially after seeing Clijsters withdraw from 's-Hertogenbosch with an abdominal injury today.

Victoria Azareka's half: Azarenka herself has a wide open path to the semifinals, especially after Marion Bartoli appeared to come up lame today in her three-set loss to Tamira Pazcek in Eastbourne. Bartoli was looking great all week and would have been the odds-on favorite to be Azarenka's speedbump if she were 100% healthy. But speaking of Tamira Pazcek, last year's quarterfinalist has found her groove on grass, and the unlucky woman to draw her in the first round is the slumping Caroline Wozniacki. Thanks to the draw, Wozniacki won't have any time to work her way into this tournament. She's going to have to hit the ground running and given her complete lack of confidence these days, it's hard to see her making any impact here.

With Serena ranked outside of the Top 4, the draw is always a game of Russian roulette to see which top player gets her in the quarterfinals. In Paris it was Maria, this time it's Petra. The defending champion should (I repeat should) get through to the quarters, where, if Serena can avoid the upset bug, we'll finally get the Petra-Serena match-up we've waited over a year for, and on grass to boot. That would be a match worth watching, but given both of their shocking inconsistency over the year, are we really going to get to see it?


Men: Federer def. Nadal

Women: Sharapova def. Kvitova

Early round matches to watch:

Men: Novak Djokovic vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero (first round), Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. Gilles Simon (first round), David Nalbandian vs. Janko Tipsarevic (first round), David Ferrer vs. Dustin Brown (first round), Kevin Anderson vs. Grigor Dimitrov (first round), Nikolay Davydenko vs. Andy Murray (first round), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Lleyton Hewitt (first round), Jurgen Melzer vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (first round), Bernard Tomic vs. David Goffin (first round), Phillip Kohlschreiber vs. Tommy Haas (first round), Brian Baker vs. Feliciano Lopez (second round), Milos Raonic vs. Sam Querrey (second round), Andy Roddick vs. Wayne Odesnik (second round), Ryan Harrison vs. Novak Djokovic (second round), Roger Federer vs. Michael Llodra (second round).