Saturday was a very interesting day at Wimbledon. Venus Williams beat her sister, won her fifth Wimbledon title and second straight, and proved conclusively that she is without a doubt the best female grass player in the world despite her frustrating inconsistency. The sisters put their competitive differences aside a couple of hours later to cruise to an incredibly easy win in the doubles final. Finally, Canadian Daniel Nestor and new partner Nenad Zimonjic made their second straight grand slam final, but performed better this time around by winning in four sets.
That’s all fine, but the main event that we have been waiting for takes place tomorrow.The final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was as close to inevitable as anything can be in sports. They are so clearly the best players in the world that it is laughable, and they have played in the last two Wimbledon finals and the last three at the French. Neither has been particularly challenged so far in the tournament. The fact that we all knew that this showdown was coming makes it no less interesting or exciting.
Despite the fact that Nadal has been crowned as the new king of tennis by much of the press, and Federer is getting the least respect that it is possible for a five time defending champion to get, Federer is still the favorite in this match, albeit by a smaller than normal margin. Pinnacle has Federer at -135, leaving Nadal at +125. As I said at the start of the tournament, I am enthusiastically on the side of Federer. Here, in brief, are five reasons:
1. Federer has 40 straight wins at Wimbledon. He is virtually unbeatable on grass. Nadal can’t say the same.
2. Federer has 10 career titles on grass, including five at Wimbledon. Nadal has one.
3. Despite opinions to the otherwise, Federer is in very good form. In his last three tournaments he reached the final at the French on a surface that isn’t a strength, won a grass tournament, the Gerry Weber, and has cruised to a final here. Granted, Nadal is one step better – he won the French and his grass prep. It’s a big mistake, though, to assume that Federer is in trouble. Neither Novak Djokovic nor Bjorn Borg knows what they are talking about on that front.
4. Federer is older, wiser and, despite his plethora of wins, I have the feeling that he is hungrier here. He is on top of the tennis world, but he is being threatened. He’s too much of a champion to take that challenge lying down. Further, he has the clear memory of the embarrassment he suffered in the French on his mind, and he won’t like that.
5. Federer is back to being healthy. Poor health accounted for much of his downswing, so the return to health can’t be underestimated.