As anyone who follows tennis closely knows, The Championships, Wimbledon got started this morning (or rather it was yesterday morning local time) and some of the big names have already been in action. These names include Maria Sharapova, the number one ranked female player in the world who just recently completed the career Grand Slam when she won the French Open earlier this month. Also in action was five-time champion Venus Williams, who it appeared might still be feeling the effects of an autoimmune disease with which she was recently diagnosed as she went down somewhat meekly in straight sets. And on the men's side, defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic advanced in straight sets, while six-time champion Roger Federer likewise advanced in straight sets.
But prior to the matches starting up, I went over to ESPN.com's tennis page because before each of the major tournaments, the ESPN tennis experts will give their predictions about what will happen in the tournament. So I found the predictions here, and stunned does not begin to describe my reaction to the lunacy of the picks in one of the categories. I am of course speaking of the Men's Winner category. If you take the tally of the eleven experts, you will see that two of them picked Djokovic, four picked Federer, and five picked world number two and two-time champion Rafael Nadal. In theory this would not appear to be such a big deal since Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer are ranked first, second, and third in the world, respectively, and have combined to win the last nine Wimbledon titles. But in having a breakdown in picks of Djokovic-Nadal-Federer of 2-5-4, these experts have demonstrated that they have abandoned rationality in making these picks.
Before going any further, I will say that these three players are indeed the only three that anyone should even consider picking to win this tournament. The three have, after all, won twenty-eight of the last twenty-nine major titles, with the only one not to go to these three being the 2009 US Open title that went to Juan Martin del Potro. (By the way, the breakdown over the last twenty-nine completed majors is Federer-12, Nadal-11, Djokovic-5, and del Potro-1.) However, it is an absolutely absurd that only two people selected Djokovic to win, and even more absurd that more people picked Federer to win than Djokovic. In the interest of full disclosure, of the three players, Nadal is my favorite and Djokovic is second. I respect the way that both of them are playing right now and I would not be upset if either one won the tournament. If you are asking me to make a pick, though, I pick Djokovic. Despite the fact that Nadal has defeated Djokovic in their last three clay court encounters, I think that Djokovic has demonstrated over the last seventeen or eighteen months that he is still the best player in the world. But I would say that Nadal has showed that he is a close number two. These two players have met for the last four major championships, something that has never previously been done in men's tennis (as far as I know). There is absolutely no rational explanation for this many people selecting Federer to win.
It's possible that a number of the experts considered that Federer has won Wimbledon more times than he has any of the other majors and I believe that he has stated that it is favorite tournament as reasoning for selecting him. But these are absolutely shoddy substitutes for doing true analysis. If you go to Federer's Wikipedia page, you can see a compilation of his performances at the major tournaments. Since the start of 2010, Wimbledon is the only one of the major tournaments in which Federer has failed to advance past the quarterfinals (admittedly it is a small sample size, but during the last two times Federer has played Wimbledon he has not demonstrated that he is this king of grass-court tennis that he once was). By going out in the quarterfinals of the last two Wimbledons, he did not even get a chance to face Djokovic or Nadal. Since the start of 2010, Federer is 5-7 against Djokovic and 3-5 against Nadal. But in major tournaments, he is 1-4 against Djokovic and 0-2 against Nadal. Considering that Federer is seeded number three, and Djokovic and Nadal have each reached the final of the last four majors, odds are that Federer would have to beat both of them to win the championship. And in the last two and half years, he has fared poorly against both in majors. Yet, four out of eleven of these experts somehow think that despite what has occurred in recent match play, Federer will get the job done. Again, it is entirely possible for Federer to win this tournament, but by whatever analysis this many experts came to the conclusion that Federer would win should be heavily scrutinized. Methinks they are suffering from a bout of nostalgia, or wishful thinking.