| 'Roddick has the pedigree to be included among the favourites but we are still waiting for him to show it when it really matters'
Having successfully predicted the winner of the French Op-en, I can confidently forecast that Wimbledon will be won by... You cannot be serio-us. You didn't really think I would know who would win this Wimbledon, did you, not the way the courts play there these da-ys'Any tournament which can throw up a finalist like David Nalbandian, as Wimbledon did last year, defies normal tennis logic. All I can say is thank goodness, we still have Tim Henman around to provide us with a reassuring sense of continuity. Henman for the semi-finals yet again is still a better bet than most. The draw has been kind to the British No. 1 and provided his shoulder holds up, as it should with a day's rest between matches, I can see him reaching his fifth semi-final in six years, which may or may not be a comfort to him.But there are one or two potential pitfalls along the way which he will need to watch out for. In the case of the defending champion and No. 1 seed Lleyton Hewitt, the road to the final is strewn with nasty-looking traps. He must have breathed a sigh of relief when his potential second-round opponent, Richard Krajicek, withdrew through injury, subsequently announcing his retirement. The big-serving former Wimbledon champion was typical of the kind of threat with which Hewitt may have to deal if he is just to make it to the later stages of this tournament.Big hitters like Ivan Ljubicic, Taylor Dent, Max Mirnyi, Fernando Gonzalez are all beatable by Hewitt but not if he is at odds with his game and there is more than a suggestion that that might be the case with the young Australian. There seem to be too many things going on around the champion at the moment, what with the split from his coach Jason Stoltenberg, his lawsuit against the Association of Tennis Professionals and his premature defeat at the French Open. Furthermore, by all accounts, he did not look like the Hewitt of old at Queen's and losing to someone such as Sebastien Grosjean probably said more about Hewitt's state of mind at the moment than it did about the Frenchman's Wimbledon chances, as tricky as he may be.To be fair, losing to the same player didn't say a whole lot about Henman's hopes for the next fortnight, either. I never felt Stoltenberg's relationship with Hewitt was likely to be long-term; it was one that came together quickly in the aftermath of the falling-out between the Hewitt family and his previous coach, Darren Cahill. It shouldn't prove too much of a problem because Hewitt certainly knows how to win Wimbledon and he still has enough people around him for support. But there is a feeling that he has lost a mentaledge. Losing from 3-0 up in the final set against Tommy Robredo in the French Op--en was not like Hew-itt; competitive intensity is usually his strong suit.Since winning Wimbledon
last year he has fallen short in each of the Slams and he has not won a great deal elsewhere. He seems to have gone from being 'over-tennised' to 'under-ten
nised'. I am not sure wh-at's wrong with him. Perhaps he's in love.Some people seemed surprised at Henman's No. 10 seeding, given that his entry ranking is
only 29, but his form on grass more than justifies it. In fact, you could argue that he should be seeded higher than someone like the seventh seed, the Roland Garros semi-finallist Guillermo Coria, because he has next to no form on grass. Talking of which, the French Open sensation, Martin Verkerk, may be lying in wait for Henman in the third round. He may have almost no experience on grass but the big Dutchman is the kind of player who can give even the best problems if he is serving as powerfully as he was at Roland Garros.It is players like Verkerk who make Wimbledon such a wonderfully unpredictable tournament. In the early rounds players like him can cause even the most experienced grasscourt players problems. Andy Roddick's poten
tial re-match with Greg Rusedski in the second round is another case in point. Rusedski may not be match-tough yet after all his injury problems and he may have just lost to Roddick at Queen's, but, with a serve like his, he can give the favourites sleepless nights. Having said that, knowing how highly Rusedski thinks of himself, he
will probably end up putting pressure on himself.If Roddick, who is scheduled to meet Hewitt in the quarters, is to be considered as a genuine contender for Slams now is the
time to show it. It is all very well winning quality tournaments like Queen's, he now has to take his game to that next level. The sport needs young people like Roddick and Roger Federer to take that final step forward. I am tempted to go for either to win this Wimbledon. Federer is the lightest dark horse you will ever see. He has the pedigree to be included among the favourites but we are still waiting for him to show it when it really matters.Roddick's decision to hitch up with Brad Gilbert as his coach could produce
instant results in a field as open as this one. I never thought Gilbert's association with Andre Agassi would last as long as it did but it proved highly beneficial to both. Gilbert has been waiting 18 months to work with someone with Grand Slam potential like Roddick. Gilbert as a player made the most of his ability and if he can bring out the best in the Nebraskan it could turn out to be an inspired partnership. Whether Roddick
can deal with a chatterbox like Gilbert is, of course, another matter.It was encouraging to hear the new French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero say that he is not interested in winning only at Roland Garros. Last year we had someone win Wimbledon from the baseline, and other players whom you wouldn't have expected to do well on grass - like Nalbandian and Xavier Malisse - excel. So it's not beyond the realm of possibility that
Ferrero could do something now if the courts again prove to be slow and the balls heavy. The Spaniard may even end up justifying his third seeding.Agassi would seem to have a clear run through to the semis at least. Someone, though, will test the new world No. 1 along the way, be it Mark Philippoussis or possibly Younes El Aynaoui. The Mo
roccan has been struggling with his game of late, but this is just the sort of tournament where he tends to rise to the occasion, as he did memorably at the Australian Open in January in beating Hewitt and then playing that epic final set against Roddick. I look forward to a possible match-up like that one, just as I do the first-round meeting
between those two precocious youngsters Mario Ancic, of Croatia, and Rafael Nadal, of Spain. If anyone wants a glimpse of the future they should take themselves off to wherever those two are playing. It won't be on Centre or No. 1 court, but it is a feature match as far as I am concerned.The women's game may be more open than it was a month ago but it looks a whole lot easier to pick the winner here than in the men's. I fully expect the No. 1, Serena Williams, to bounce back after her disappointment at Roland Garros, but it would also be an opportune moment for her sister, Venus, to remind herself that this is her kind of surface, too. After all, she has won here twice before.
While it may not be obvious on this occasion that the gap between the Williams and the rest has closed, I expect Justine Henin-Hardenne, who I regard as the most fun person to watch on either the men's or the women's Tour, to give another good account of herself. Losing in Paris the way Serena did to Henin before a hostile crowd was a bitter pill to swallow, but it's the price you have to pay sometimes when you're the best. She should take it as a compliment. It may be a case of the usual suspects dominating the final stages, but I can foresee one or two players, such as the American Chanda Rubin
and perhaps one or two of those hungry Russians, such as Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova, making the favourites fight all the way.Although this is not Kim Clijsters' surface, it could work to her advantage. I felt the Belgian thought too much about her game in the final at Roland Garros and, as a result, made some bad decisions. She will have less time to think on grass and by reacting quicker and just letting it all happen, she could now redeem herself. Serena, though, with her movement and her serve, as ever, stands
in the way of all of them - providing us with a further small dose of normality.