I still haven't gotten the clay out of my knickers and yet, like a ninja sneak-attack, Wimbledon is upon us. And not just any Wimbledon. This year the All England Club has taken on near-epic proportions with the amount of high drama that'll be played out on the grass. But who's going to be crying tears of joy and who's going to be drowning in their own misery? Well, it depends on the answers to the following questions (Kleenex ready!):
How Deep a Hole is Roger Federer in?
Even the most ardent Fed fan has to admit, there are chinks in the armor. Why others would point them out with wild glee is somewhat beyond me considering, whether temporary or permanent, it was bound to happen sooner or later. But what better way to smack down the haters than to see the Swiss Mister hoist his record-tying 7th Wimby trophy? The good news is, grass has always been Rog's house. The bad news is, it was broken into by Lleyton Hewitt last week in Halle. Still, Wimby likes his chances, painting a #1 (seed) on him today. A win here: 5 Kleenexes. A loss: a whole box.
Will Justine Henin Finally Get Her Dish?
Justine famously retired at the top, then returned because she saw Roger Federer win his elusive French (or whatever Kim Clijsters chooses to believe). Inspired, she wants The One That Got Away. And, shockingly, she brazenly announced it to the world before taking a single step back on court. Way to set yourself up for…success? She lost in two Wimby finals, first to Venus Williams in '01 and then to Amelie Mauresmo in '06. And let's not talk about her last appearance here where she suffered the shock upset of the year at the hands of Pierce Brosnan. A win here would certainly be a 6-Kleenex affair. A loss might involve a long walk off a short London Bridge.
Welcome Back Rafa?
When players are too injured to contest a major, I feel bad for them. When it's Wimbledon, I feel really bad. When they're the defending champion I want to riot in their name. When said final was the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played, I want to sit quietly in a corner and ask the heavens why? No doubt Rafael Nadal felt that and more having missed the entire '09 grass court season thanks to a bum knee and his parents' divorce. A Rafa denied, 4 Kleenexes. A Rafa rethroned, a dish rag.
Weight of the World
Will Maria Sharapova Ever Be Maria Sharapova Again?
Maria's always been a warrior on the court, and her fight to come back from a career-threatening shoulder injury has proven she's a warrior off the court as well. Still, her time away hurt. As she told the UK's Guardian this week, "It got to the point where I would look at books and pictures of some great moments I had on court just to remember what it felt like." How amazing would it be if she felt it again on the very turf that birthed her back in 2004? A loss, 3 Kleenexes. A win, a beach towel.
Will God or Andy Murray Save The Queen?
Nevermind that Murray would love to win a Grand Slam, any Grand Slam. THIS IS FOR ENGLAND! Or Scotland, or whatever. And hey, who is that in the Royal Box? Oh look, it’s the lady whose face is on everyone's cash. No pressure! Whether he wins or he loses, you won't need Kleenex, you can use all the newspaper it'll generate. And that's a lot.
How Much Abuse Can Melanie Oudin Take?
This is really a warm-up for the US Open, where I assume Mel will be doused with pig's blood Carrie-style, but it all started here with her Round of 16 run on the grass. If she's able to make another deep run, no doubt both she, her fans and the American media will need fistfuls of Kleenex to sop their tear-soaked faces. Should she not make a serious dent here (and current form would imply she won't), she better strap on those Believe sneakers and pump those crazy legs because there are going to be a lot of killjoys chasing her with buckets of tar and feathers. And Lord only knows how much Kleenex it would take to wipe that off.
How Much Abuse Can We Take?
Forget the fact that Andy Roddick has been a bridesmaid at Wimbledon 3 times, all at the hands of mean old Roger. It was last year's loss that had everyone feeling Andy's pain, thanks to a combination of his missing a volley that would've set him up with a two set lead and his dutifully holding serve after serve throughout the entire match and an epic 30-game fifth set, only to lose it all on the first break. Broken he was, shaken, pale. Emotionally and physically fried. Roger turned around his gutting loss from the year before. Can Andy do the same? If so, 40 boxes of Kleenex or one of A-Rod's industrial-strength sweat-wicking shirts. If not, flee the stadium or drown.
One thing's for sure, I'll be here every day for all the action, so check back starting Monday for snark, a sexually-confused tennis ball and a couple of very special guests. And bring your hankies.
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa