Photo: Paul ZimmerVictoria Azarenka (BLR)
With just 100 days to go until the start of London 2012 we look at who is in form ahead of the Olympic Tennis Event at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon.
The Swiss superstar might have turned 30 last year but he has shown no signs of slowing up in 2012. The former world No. 1 has made no secret of the fact that he desperately wants a singles gold medal to go along with his 16 Grand Slam titles and doubles gold from Beijing 2008 and he looks to be in ominously good form. With three titles to his name so far this year, Federer looks to be turning back the clock. A good run on clay and he will be in fine fettle for his favourite surface at his beloved Wimbledon.
After having one of the best starts to any tennis season in living memory in 2011, Djokovic was always going to be hard pressed to live up to expectation in 2012. The world No. 1 from Serbia might not have proven to be the unstoppable force that he was 12 months ago, but he still reigned supreme in Melbourne, showing some breathtaking feats of endurance to overcome Andy Murray in nearly five hours in the semifinals before taking down Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam final in history. Djokovic has been extremely selective in the events he has played this year – after winning the Australian Open he fell to Murray in Dubai and slipped up against John Isner in the semifinals at Indian Wells. But the natural order was soon restored with a routine victory over Murray to win his second title of the season at Miami.
The big-serving American is most famous for playing that match against Nicolas Mahut on Court 18 at Wimbledon in 2010, however it is in 2012 that he seems to be realising the potential that has led the likes of John McEnroe to tip him as a dark horse for Grand Slam glory. Isner’s two most notable victories this year have come against the two players mentioned above. He defeated Federer in a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round singles rubber in Fribourg and stunned Djokovic in the semifinals at Indian Wells – the first victories against Top 3 opponents of his career. Isner has yet to win a title this year but he has reached two finals and proven unstoppable in Davis Cup. With his huge serve he will prove a match for anyone on the grass of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
The Argentine stands in the shadow of another player from his home town of Tandil – one Juan Martin del Potro – but he is in the form of his life right now. “Pico”, as he is known on the tour, reached the semifinals at Indian Wells after knocking out Gael Monfils, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish and then picked up his second title of the year at Houston, defeating Isner in the final. He might be more at home on clay but playing on a career-high singles ranking of No. 14 at the time of writing, the affable Argentine is one to watch.
If 2011 was all about Novak Djokovic’s fantastic start to the season then 2012 has been the year that Azarenka, or “Vika” as she is known, has taken a giant leap to become the best female tennis player in the world. The Belarussian won the first 23 matches of the year, taking in titles at Sydney, the Australian Open, Doha and Indian Wells. Her only blip on an otherwise perfect year has been a quarterfinal loss in Miami to Marion Bartoli.
The charismatic Pole has also had a fantastic year and it’s only because of a certain Belarussian that she hasn’t had the perfect start to 2012. All four of Radwanska’s losses have come against Azarenka, but she has still picked up two titles – at Dubai and Miami – en route to reaching a career-high ranking of No. 4. The 23-year-old from Krakow has made two quarterfinal appearances at Wimbledon in the past but in her current form if she can avoid Azarenka who is to say she couldn’t add Olympic gold to her trophy cabinet?
The Italian, who is more famous for being on the winning Fed Cup by BNP Paribas team than lifting any solo silverware, has enjoyed a stunning start to 2012 and is slowly but surely working her way up the rankings. She has twice picked up singles and doubles titles at the same event this year – at Acapulco and Barcelona – and has added a further doubles title alongside regular partner and countrywoman, Roberta Vinci, at Monterrey. She might only have an outside chance of winning the singles, but the Italian doubles duo could be difficult to beat this year.
At the beginning of this year there were three German women in or around the Top 20 of the WTA singles rankings – Andrea Petkovic, Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges. However, only one German woman has won multiple singles titles and that’s Kerber. The 24-year-old from Bremen has reached a career-high ranking and goes into the clay court season full of optimism having ended former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki’s winning run at Copenhagen last week. She also won a title at Paris in February, where she defeated another home favourite, Bartoli, in the final.