He's only won two titles this year. He got waylaid in the French final. His chief rivals are playing better than ever. Despite all this, I'm still going with Roger Federer to pick up his sixth Wimbledon title in a row. (Vote here
if you agree or disagree.) But I don't like to just try and predict the winner: It's much more fun to take a closer look at the draw and write how I think it's going to go down, from the quarterfiinals on. So here we go:
Roger Federer (1) vs. Mario Ancic: It may be the natural assumption that Federer will automatically coast through to the quarters, but a look at his draw shows he could be made to possibly work a little. First off is Dominik Hrbaty, who's struggling but is up 2-0 in their head-to-heads. Then he'll probably play big-hitting Robin Soderling. Gael Monfils lurks as a possible third-round opponent, then Lleyton Hewitt (who I'm picking to knock out Fernando Gonzalez) and after all that, he still has to face Ancic, the last person to beat him here. I'm picking Ancic to come through the part of the draw where David Ferrer is the high seed. I'm still not convinced of Ferrer's grass-court ability, even if he ends up winning the Ordina Open this weekend.
Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Ivo Karlovic (18): Djoko's path to the quarters should be easy. I would say he should watch out for Marat Safin in the second round, but Safin hates grass, so it shouldn't be too tough. In the fourth round, Djokovic is seeded to meet Stanislas Wawrinka, but I'm not convinced about him at all. Look for Sam Querrey or even Juan Martin Del Potro to serve him off the court. As for Karlovic: Every year, he's considered a dangerous floater, but he never steps up in the majors and makes a big dent. This is where he sheds those past failures. David Nalbandian and Marcos Baghdatis are the high seeds in this section, but much like those two, if he shows up, he's hard to beat—especially with that serve of his. Karlovic has to come through at some point, right? Why not now?
Andy Roddick (6) vs. Jarkko Nieminen: It looks like A-Rod's the beneficiary of being in the section of the draw with Nikolay Davydenko, the four seed. As I've mentioned before, I really wasn't too big a fan of seeding old Nik that high; he could very easily go out to Benjamin Becker in the first round. His quarter is pretty much up for grabs, but I had to pick someone, so that's why I went with Nieminen. He'll have to watch it against Marin Cilic in the second round and Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth. Andy's section is pretty loaded with clay-courters. Janko Tipsarevic could be tricky in the second round, though; and Nicolas Mahut should give him a game in the third round, as well as Blake in the fourth. But I'm still going with A-Rod.
Andy Murray (12) vs. Rafael Nadal (2): A lot of people are ready to hand Nadal the title, but not me, not yet. There's some real tough guys in his quarter, Nicolas Kiefer and Radek Stepanek among them. If Stepanek were healthy going in, I'd say watch out, but since he's not Nadal should be more than OK. Winning Queens showed he can beat all types of players on grass. If Fabrice Santoro doesn't frustrate him to the brink of insanity in the first round, Murray could possibly coast in the next two matches until he faces Richard Gasquet in the fourth. That'll be a good win for Murray, but the run should end against Nadal.
For the semis:
Federer vs. Djokovic: This is where Federer makes Djokovic pay for every little word that has come out of his mouth over the past few months. R-Fed shows no mercy in this one.
Roddick vs. Nadal: This could be a great win for Roddick, but I don't think it's going to happen. A-Rod's one of the best grassers of his generation, but he doesn't have anything to throw off Nadal. I'm going with Rafael in four.
For the finals:
Federer vs. Nadal: After having done away with all the contenders and pretenders to the throne, these two will be having their annual "Breakfast at Wimbledon." And like the other years, too, it'll be R-Fed taking the title and, I would assume, putting rest to any doubts about his future.
(Photos: Getty Images)