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Wimbledon Day One: Pick 'em

by Courtney Nguyen
Monday 25 June 2012

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP): The last time we saw Novak Djokovic on Centre Court he was eating it. Literally. After winning his maiden Wimbledon title, Djokovic made sure to drop a few blades of grass into his mouth to savour the moment. "I felt like an animal," the champ said then. "I wanted to see how it tastes. It tastes good." As he did last year, the Serb has opted not to play any tour-level grass lead-up tournaments, so this first round match against the former Spanish No.1 will be his first competitive start on turf. Ferrero, ever a crowd favorite with his classic game and dashing good looks, is no slouch on grass, having made the quarter-finals here twice. But it would take a monumental effort and some good luck to topple the world No.1. Who, knows, if Nole successfully defends his title this year I fear for anything marginally edible lying around the court. Might I suggest a net-post as toothpick?

Pick: Djokovic in three sets.

Did you know... It's been five years since anyone has successfully defended their Wimbledon title. I'm not jinxing, I'm just saying.

David Nalbandian (ARG) vs. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) [8]: This is well and truly the match of the day for the men and it's all Nalbandian's fault. Anyone who's watched the sport over the last 10 years knows, his talent far outshines his ranking, as evidenced by his run to the final at the AEGON Championships just a week ago. At his best he's a world-beater, capable of pulling off upsets that don't actually feel like upsets. At his worst...well...let's just hope he left his football boots at Queen's Club. This is a tough first round draw for Tipsarevic, who has done well to back up his breakthrough season in 2011 with a solid 2012. The two have split their two meetings this year, with Nalbandian winning in Indian Wells and Tipsarevic getting revenge just a week later in Miami. This will be a scorcher, but based on his recent grass form, I'm tipping Nalbandian.

Pick: Nalbandian in four sets.

Kim Clijsters (BEL) vs. Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [18]: Have you no mercy, draw gods? Blockbuster first round matches are always exciting and don't get me wrong, I will be sitting courtside for this one with a bowl of strawberries and cream in one hand and a bucket of popcorn in the other (or not, as invariably I will find a way to trip, fall, and spill on the way to my seat). But as this is Clijsters' last Wimbledon - she will retire after this year - it's just bad luck that she'll have to face Jankovic, a former No.1, who has actually found herelf in relatively good form on grass. Jankovic reached the final of the AEGON Classic two weeks ago, while Clijsters withdrew from the semi-finals of the UNICEF Open with an abdominal injury. Has Jelena rekindled her spark? Is Kimmy healthy? Can I keep formulating questions? We'll see.

Pick: Clijsters in three sets.

Did you know... Kim has a tattoo of her daughter Jada's name on the inside of her wrist, and a tattoo of her husband Brian's name around her left ring finger. She got the latter because she can't wear her wedding ring while she plays.

John Isner (USA) [11] vs. Alejandro Falla (COL): Please deliver the following memorandum to Mr. Isner: contrary to what you might believe, John, you do not get paid by the hour. The Marathon Man who is most famous for his 11 hour serve-fest against Nicolas Mahut has now formed a habit of hogging the stage, going 10-8 in the fifth set against David Nalbandian at the Australian Open earlier this year, and 18-16 in the fifth set against Paul-Henri Mathieu just last month in Paris. You would think the American's big serve and forehand would be suited for grass but he's never made it past the second round at the Championships. As for Falla, who can forget being on the edge of their seat as he served for the match against Roger Federer two years ago here at Wimbledon? He showed earlier this year that he's still good for an upset, knocking out Mardy Fish in the first round of the Australian Open in January.

Pick: Isner in four sets.

Did you know... Isner and Nicolas Mahut could meet each other in the second round. This would be their third straight meeting at Wimbledon. I know they're good friends, but that's a bit much.

Venus Williams (USA) vs. Elena Vesnina (RUS): When Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome just before the U.S. Open, nobody knew if whether we'd see her again on a tennis court, let alone on her beloved lawn at Wimbledon. But she's battled her way back and her resiliency has been one of the stories of the year. She's returned to tennis with a renewed sense of perspective and joy, enjoying each day that she's able to compete and play, and it shines through in the disarmingly broad smile she can't seem to contain when she steps on the court these days. Come for the tennis, stay for the smile.

Pick: Venus in two sets.

Did you know... Venus is one of only two active players to have played in 50 or more Grand Slam main draws. The resiliency of a champion.

Five more to watch (because you can never have too much tennis)

Petra Martic (CRO) v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [15]: Last year's Wimbledon semi-finalist has been mired in a slump since Australia. Can Lisicki finally turn it around?

Iveta Benesova (CZE) v Heather Watson (GBR): Young Heather's Wimbledon main draw debut ended in tears last year when an elbow injury derailed her chance of winning her first main draw match at her home Slam. She's in good form, though, and could pull off an upset over the flat-hitting Czech.

Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) v Gilles Simon (FRA) [13]: Mathieu was one of the feel-good stories at Roland Garros, coming back from major knee surgery that sidelined him for a year to upset Isner in the second round. Things can get complicated when two Frenchmen meet.

Melanie Oudin (USA) v Timea Babos (HUN): Oudin won her first WTA title two weeks ago at the AEGON Classic and looks to be on the up and up.

Marcel Granollers (ESP) [24] v Viktor Troicki (SRB): If you like your tennis contested by two evenly-matched and talented journeymen, this is your match.

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