For the last few days, Andy Roddick has been re-acquainting himself with all things British. Greasy grass courts at the Queen’s Club in London followed by wind, rain and intermittent sunshine on the south coast at Eastbourne.
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So maybe it is appropriate that the three-time Wimbledon finalist will find himself playing a Brit, Jamie Baker, in the first round at The Championships next week. Baker has had an injury- and illness-plagued career but has been showing reasonable form of late – nothing, however, that should worry Roddick. In the second round, the former No. 1 will face either the German veteran Bjorn Phau or Wayne Odesnik, the South African-born American who is still viewed with distaste by some in the locker room as a result of his attempt to take drugs into Australia for which he served a reduced suspension of seven months. Odesnik gets into the draw as a Lucky Loser because of the withdrawal of Frenchman Gail Monfils. There are those who feel he deserves no luck.
Mardy Fish could use some luck, though. As the No. 10 seed, Fish goes into Wimbledon as the top-ranked American with no match practice behind him. Fish last played in Miami in March. Since then he has been trying to take care of his health after suffering heart palpitations, but has been practicing normally here and seems fine. Fish has been handed a piece of good fortune in that he opens against 34-year-old Spaniard Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, who is ranked 80, and should then play either the Englishman James Ward or another Spaniard, Pablo Adujar.
John Isner probably has a better chance of causing a real upset than any other American and his draw is interesting to say the least. Providing he overcomes Colombian Alejandro Falla in the first round, he could find himself facing Nicolas Mahut in the second if the Frenchman takes care of Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi. Isner and Mahut, of course, broke all records for longevity out on Court 18 when their match lasted three days in 2010 but, should they meet again — as they did in 2011 — the pair (who have since become good friends after their names were entwined in the history books) would surely find themselves on Centre Court.
Isner’s draw does not get any easier after that as he is in Roger Federer’s quarter. Federer is John McEnroe’s pick for the title and the Swiss has certainly been playing well enough over the past eight months to justify such optimism, despite losing to Tommy Haas in the final of Halle last Sunday.
Federer’s own draw pits him against Novak Djokovic, the defending champion in one potential semifinal while Rafael Nadal, last year’s losing finalist, is seeded to face Andy Murray in the other. Murray, whose last six Grand Slams have seen him reach one final, four semifinals and one quarterfinal, finds himself placed in a forest of very tall trees. It is possible that once the Scot gets past diminutive Russian Nikolay Davydenko – no easy task – in round one, he could have to deal with the massive serves of Ivo Karlovic, Marin Cilic (last week’s winner at Queen’s) Milos Raonic and Juan Martin del Potro. The height of that quartet ranges from 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-10. Murray will have to be returning well to survive.
Amongst the other Americans, Sam Querrey meets young Canadian Vasek Pospisil, providing he has recovered from the stiff neck which forced him to default against Roddick at Eastbourne. James Blake takes on German Benjamin Becker (best remembered for sending Andre Agassi into retirement at the US Open) while Brian Baker, the 28-year-old from Nashville, Tenn. who caused such a surprise by reaching the final in Nice last month, will play Portugal’s Rui Machado. Should Baker win, Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez, a fine grass-court player who is seeded 14th, will probably be waiting for him in round two.