June 19, 2014 by Parveer Mann
For those who have any attachment to the Iberian Peninsula, this World Cup has been an utter disaster. However, many of those fans can still recall the summer of 2010 when within a few weeks Spain witnessed Rafael Nadal capture his second Wimbledon title and the men’s football team win their first World Cup in South Africa. I know in tennis circles that winning the Channel Slam is still the gold standard (French and Wimbledon in one year) but once every four years, sports worlds collide and we have the opportunity to witness something rarer, the Wimbledon/World Cup double.
Since the Open era began in 1968, Wimbledon and the World Cup have coincided 11 times and 2010 was the first time that one country celebrated both accomplishments: either a men’s or women’s singles title and the World Cup. The other close calls were West Germany in 1990 (Won World Cup; Boris Becker lost in Wimbledon finals) and France in 2006 (Amelie Mauresmo won Wimbledon singles; France lost in World Cup finals).
Let’s take a look at the main contenders who can possibly duplicate Spain’s rare feat in this blog’s version of a mini Wimbledon and World Cup look ahead (and no Andy Murray is not English!)
Obviously, the “Mannschaft” is one of the clear favourites to win the World Cup but nothing is certain for a squad that hasn’t won a major title in 18 years. However, the main reason I’ve put Germany’s chances at a ‘double’ higher than other powers is the depth of women’s tennis players who can challenge for the Wimbledon crown. Led by last year’s finalist, Sabine Lisicki will attempt to overcome a poor 2014 on the one surface where she plays like a Top-10 talent. She probably should have won last year if she was able to keep her nerves and if healthy this year, she should at minimum be a super spoiler.
Plus, Angelique Kerber (2012 Wimbledon Semifinalist), Andrea Petkovic (coming off a French Open semi), and veteran Philipp Kohlschrieber all have the potential to make deep runs.
With two Top 5 seeds and 18 Grand Slams among them, Switzerland should play a significant factor in deciding who wins this year’s men’s title. After winning his seventh Halle title last week, Roger Federer once again proved that he may be the last player of this generation to know how to quickly translate his game from clay to grass. The most important part for Federer will be to survive the first week and the early inconsistency that has affected him these past few slams. After that, you’d have to say he at least has the proper tactics and game plan to beat the likes of Murray and Djokovic on this surface.
As for the football team, they were lucky to beat Ecuador in extra time and now seem to be in a good position to advance to the knockout stage. Once there, they will potentially meet Argentina in the Round of 16 and the chances are slim that they advance any further.
I believe France is the ultimate wild card in these mini rankings. Both the tennis and football cohorts have tons of talent but little to show for it. Without defending champion Marion Bartoli, France’s best hopes at Wimbledon will once again come down to the Big Four (Gasquet, Tsonga, Simon and Monfils) and we know that you can’t trust that lot in a big tournament. Meanwhile, the loss of Franck Ribery will hurt the French but an easy draw could see them making the last eight.
The US belong this high on the list solely because Serena Williams is a significant threat every time she steps on the court. After suffering an early loss in Paris, you have the feeling that Williams will be extra motivated to play her best and continue her chase of the Grand Slam record. Conversely, the USMNT still face a difficult task to even get out of their group but with Portugal hurting, it seems more plausible. They’ll still need a marked improvement from the midfield led by Michael Bradley to avoid losing the time of possession and tempo of the game.
The Azzure always seem to rebound after a bad World Cup like the one they had in 2010. It also helps that Italy will crossover with the weaker Group C in the Round of 16 so they should be assured of a quarterfinal spot. On the tennis side, Flavia Pennetta, the Indian Wells champion is probably the nation’s best hope but the Italians are deep enough that they could possibly have another surprise contender during the fortnight.
T6. Argentina and Brazil
These South American powers have done nothing to dissuade us from believing that they won’t be raising the World Cup this year but it is hard to find a contender on the tennis side. The loss of Juan Martin del Potro to injury leaves Argentina without their only contender and unless you cheer for men’s doubles, Brazil won’t sniff the Wimbledon title.