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The Outsiders

June 21, 2010

When discussing the winner of any Slam two names crop up time and time again: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. When analysing the draw it is hard to envision anything but a Federer/Nadal final, however, it doesn’t happen as much as many may suppose. Wimbledon certainly suits both players’ games and therefore increases the chances of what is often called a ‘dream’ final but there are plenty of players hopeful to put an end to Federer/Nadal grass-court dominance. Here’s a look at five of the men outside the top five most likely to cause havoc this fortnight.

Lleyton Hewitt is always claiming he has what it takes to win another Slam and this time around we might actually believe him. The former Wimbledon champion sent shock waves through fans at Halle where he played almost flawless tennis to upset Federer in the final. It won’t be easy for Hewitt to keep that kind of form coming over five sets for the next two weeks, especially with both Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic in his quarter. Of course, nobody will dare tell him that. What Hewitt lacks in power and shot-making he will attempt to make up for with determination, confidence, and the knowledge of how to win on the big stage.

Robin Soderling is hardly a rank outsider and has made his mark at Roland Garros the past two years. Soderling has never done anything special at Wimbledon, a fourth round loss to Federer in 2009 his best result so far, but there is no reason why grass wouldn’t suit his flat strokes and big serve. He may be fairly one-dimensional, but he makes up for this with the confidence to go for his shots and the belief that he can beat anyone. He is due to face Nadal in the quarters, and whilst this is a massive challenge, his chances of the upset are higher than they would be if they met in the final. If there is anything Soderling is good at, it’s taking his chances.

Tomas Berdych has been consistently good this year, something the hard-hitting Czech hasn’t exactly been known for. After an excellent hard-court season, Berdych found his way to the semi-finals of Roland Garros, taking out Andy Murray along the way. Berdych has a favourable draw until the semi-finals, where he would be expected to meet Federer. Federer may be the most feared player at Wimbledon, but Berdych has already beaten him once this year and will be keen to stir up any whispers of a potential upset.

Marin Cilic has been steadily working his way up the rankings his whole career. Not one for a del-Potro like outburst, the 11th seed has been steady and consistent with a couple outstanding results. Cilic seems to know how to peak for Slams and grass should suit his aggressive game. Cilic is in a tough quarter but will be happy to fly under the radar until the time comes.

Feliciano Lopez is the definition of a dark horse. He has always possessed a stunning single-handed backhand and all-court game but has never quite strung it together. Lopez pulled a stunning upset over Nadal at Queens but couldn’t capitalise on the momentum, falling to Mardy Fish. The following week he retired whilst facing two match points at Eastbourne with a shoulder complaint. Lopez may not be a finals contender this fortnight, but he could benefit from a soft quarter and isn’t a player any seed will take lightly.

Not that the seeds should be taking anyone lightly. The competiton this fortnight is bound to be fierce. Federer may be the six-time defending champion and Nadal may have been the only one to break his stranglehold on Wimbledon, but nothing is set in stone. Wimbledon is bound to be as dramatic and glorious as ever.

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