Given the season we've had so far, the stage is set for another fascinating Wimbledon!
At the start of the year I expected Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal to dominate proceedings and the Swiss lived up to the billing by playing unbelievably well at the Australian Open. At times his tennis was almost as good as we've seen him play.
Since then, though, Federer has hit a bit of a downer and he's no longer the world's top-ranked player.
His French Open quarter-final against Robin Soderling made for compelling viewing and, although he lost, Federer is still my favourite to lift the 2010 men's title.
In terms of consistency over they year, though, Nadal has been by far and away the best player and he fully deserves his World No 1 billing.
It all whets the appetite for what should be another tantalising tournament, packed full of incident, issues and stories.
Throughout Wimbledon I'll be on hand to answer any questions you have so feel free to drop me an email. Click here to email your question
Thanks to all of you have already been in touch to help kick-off proceedings...
OUT OF THIS WORLD
Dear Barry, I'm a big tennis fan, but I can't help fearing that there will be no interest in Wimbledon this year because of all the interest in the World Cup. Television hours and newspaper coverage will be down. Do you think there is an argument for adjusting the date of Wimbledon in World Cup years so that it gets the attention/revenue etc that it deserves? Tommy
BARRY REPLIES: Wimbledon is such an established event, Tommy, that I don't think the World Cup will affect it much, especially as I'm sure that the All England Club will do everything in their power to arrange the schedule so that all the fans who want to follow England and Andy Murray are able to do so. That's just common sense because it will help maximise viewing figures. While I don't believe it is necessary to move the tournament dates, in an ideal work I would like the ATP Tour to re-examine the make-up of the men's schedule as a whole - but that's a debate for another day!
Alright Barry - As a US fan it was great to see us put one over you in the soccer Cup!!! What are the chances of us doing the same on Independence Day - Wimbledon finals day? Andy Roddick is in great form but both Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish are running hot too. How strong do you think our tennis is and will we see an American winner this year? Andy Tonbrun (London, via Connecticut!)
BARRY REPLIES: Hi Andy - the other Andy was playing really well up until the Miami Masters, which he won after reaching the final at Indian Wells, but since then it hasn't really happened for him due to injuries and he suffered a surprise loss to Dudi Sela at Queen's. That said he does have a good track record at Wimbledon and he couldn't have done more last year to win it. He gave everything in his power to win the final but in the end Federer was that little bit too good for him. Roddick goes into this year's tournament with a real shot, as do Querrey and John Isner; they are both difficult customers with first-rate serves who nobody is going to want to play. Sure, American tennis is not as strong as it was 15 years ago - they will struggle to reach the heights of that incredible era again when Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras led a great cast-list of players. But for a nation that everyone says is really struggling they are not doing too badly!
MURRAY NEEDS MOMENTUM
Barry. Looking forward to Wimbledon as ever. I expect you get this all the time (because it does come up every year) but how do you think Andy Murray is going to get on? And what of the other Brits? Can you see anyone making a storming run? Judith, Liverpool
BARRY REPLIES: I can't see Andy winning his first Grand Slam at this year's Wimbledon simply because he hasn't won enough matches so far this season and right now there are other players in better form than him who have won a Grand Slam before. That's not to say that Andy can't win but anyone who says before the tournament starts that he will is basing their verdict purely on what their heart tells them, not their head. Let's just see where we are, Judith, after the first week because things can change quickly in this game. Andy could play some really good tennis from the start of the week and build up some momentum. As things stand, the bookies have Andy down as third-favourite behind Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal with Robin Soderling fifth. I see it slightly differently; as things stand Andy is clearly behind the top two in the world but I wouldn't put him above Soderling or Andy Roddick either - although on current form I would put him ahead of Novak Djokovic. Andy must try to play the same level of tennis that he produced against Rafa at the Australian Open to have a chance; if he does then watch this space!
No English men have qualified but it will be intriguing to see how Laura Robson, Elena Baltacha and Heather Watson, who put in a terrific effort at Eastbourne, go in the women's competition. There's no reason why Baltacha can't make the fourth round this year if she's given a favourable draw and she can fully recover from the virus she picked up after winning in Nottingham.
FED UP WITH CRITICS
Let's get this clear, Baz. Roger Federer is one of the best, if not the best player ever so it really annoys me when people jump on his back following a rare defeat (I'm not accusing you by the way!). But others do and it really annoys me. It happened after he lost to Lleyton Hewitt in Halle but what everybody seems to forget is that this was only his second - yes SECOND - defeat on grass since 2003! That alone must make him clear favourite to win Wimbledon again this year! What do you think? Stu Robshaw, Brighton
BARRY REPLIES: I sometimes feel that Roger is a victim of his own success, Stu; he's set so many records in his career that it's inevitable some get broken along the way. Eventually, the first thing Federer will lose is the will to win and the desire to secure more titles. At present I feel that desire is as strong as ever. As you point out, his current form is anything but a catastrophe. He's been able to pick himself up after some disappointing moments in the last couple of years and his game on grass is still of such a high standard that he has to start this competition as favourite once again.
BOG BASIC APPROACH
Hi Barry, just been reading about Alex Bogdanovic on the website and can't believe the BRITISH no 2 has not been given a wildcard for this year's Wimbledon! Doesn't this sum up why tennis is a joke in this country? What message does it send out to younger players - surely it reflects badly on the LTA? Do you think it has anything to do with his decision not to play in the Davis Cup or is that misleading? 'A-rod' Rick
BARRY REPLIES: Alex should have received a Wimbledon wildcard in my view, Rick, because at the age of 26 he's entering his peak and it sends the right message to people coming up through the game. The British No 2 was well inside the qualifying criteria of the top 250 players in the world and it's certainly not his fault that we have only one player who is better than him. Moreover, Boggo has won plenty of Challengers and has consistently maintained his ranking. The counter-argument for not giving him a wildcard seems to be that he's had eight already. That is fair enough but you also have to acknowledge that he's lost to some exceptional players along the way - Nadal, Federer, Berdych and, in his first Wimbledon outing as a junior, Escude.
I feel that sometimes we are guilty of giving British players a wildcard too early when they are not ready. Boggo is paying for that now because when he could really do with one (he is capable of making the third round) he's been punished because he had one when he wasn't ready. He was given one in 2002 because we didn't have any other players; that's one of the reasons why we struggle as a nation to convert our very good juniors into senior players. Bogdanovic was also thrown into the Davis Cup against Australia when he wasn't ready and the same goes for Dan Evans in the same competition last year. That can have a damaging effect. Bogdanovic had some really bad, humiliating experiences when the whole spotlight was on him. He's now decided against playing Davis Cup because he wants to turn the mental momentum he has built up into a top 100 spot. I think people should respect that he's made that decision and is sticking with it rather than jeopardise his future by trying to forcing him to suit their wishes.
There is also the financial aspect to consider when it comes to Wimbledon wildcards. Some people argue that it's wrong Bogdanovic should effectively be handed a cheque for £12k but they don't take into consideration the amount of money players like him might have earned over the previous six months. Boggo, currently World No 161, has earned $30k so far this season to take his career earnings in eight-and-a-half years up to $619,000. By way of contrast Josh Teater, who is currently ranked 161 in golf, has earned $590,000 this year alone on the PGA Tour. The disparity is worth thinking about.
SOUTH POLES APART
Morning barry, I don't know if you can help me because sky sports doesn't seem to cover women's tennis but who do you reckon is in with a shot of winning the women's title this year? No-one expected Francesca Schiavone to win in Paris so what price another shock winner at Wimbledon? The way Ana Ivanovich is playing at the moment I'd be amazed if she did anything but I'd really love her to do well. I've also been following the progress of Melanie South and hope she starts turning nearly wins into victories. Helen, New Malden
BARRY REPLIES: Hi Helen. What happened in the French gives a clear indication of how difficult it is to pick a winner in the women's these days! The Williams sisters stand out again, as they have at the start of most of the Grand Slams that have been played in the last six years or so; if they are fit and playing their best tennis then either Serena or Venus will win it. It's all about who can step up from the next level and challenge them. Kim Clijsters, now 27, and Justine Henin, 28, do spring to mind and it would be a great story if either of those two did win, especially Justine. Given the way she plays - she is an attacking player who can volley - it's a surprise she hasn't won Wimbledon before. These days we are talking about players over 25 vying for the title, which is as clear a sign as any that there is an issue with burnout at a younger age. Ivanovic, now 22, is a classic case of that. She is an undoubted talent but a workmanlike player who, having reached the summit, has now fallen back into the chasing pack. If you allow your motivation to drop by just five percent you risk losing that edge which makes all the difference between winning titles and not.
Melanie, currently 234 in the world, is another hard-worker who has lost some of her edge and dropped down the rankings a little. If you allow that to affect your confidence it becomes even tougher to regain those lost places. There are tons of Mel South's around in both the men's and women's game in that regard. There aren't too many people who reach the top of the game and stay there - just ask Guillermo Coria, Gilles Simon or James Blake.
Barry - do you think the return of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters has anything to do with the increase in prize money on offer at Wimbledon this year? With £1m on offer to the winner I reckon I'd come out of retirement for that! Jim, Padstow
BARRY REPLIES: I've said consistently that I don't believe men and women should receive equal prize money. It's not about the length of matches for me it's about the quality of the game; the standard of play is higher in the men's, certainly in the first week of Wimbledon. The reason Henin and Clijsters have returned is not financial; they've seen a gap in the women's game that they feel offers them a great chance to win Grand Slams. Obviously, Clijsters' decision was vindicated last year when she won the US Open.
NO GROUNDS FOR CONCERN
Hi Barry, enjoy the column. I was really impressed with the changes they've made at Wimbledon when I went last year. If the new No 3 court is anything like the new No 2 one then it should be great! I've been lucky enough to see a few majors but Wimbledon is my favourite because there are such great viewing opportunities for fans (even if sometimes you there is a bit of a crush between the outer courts). What do you think of the grounds and is it still a special place for you despite the changes? Ian Munlow, Coventry
BARRY REPLIES: Wimbledon has changed for the better, Ian, over the last 20 years. The old No 1 Court had a very special atmosphere but it had to go if Wimbledon wanted to stay ahead of its rivals. Since then they've built some new facilities for the players and the media that are second to none and then, of course, came the much-heralded roof. They always make big decisions carefully at Wimbledon and that's clearly paid dividends. The grounds have been modernised but not at the expense of the atmosphere. The new Court 2 is a great arena and I've no doubt that the new Court 3, which is due for completion in 2011, will be the same. Each of the four Grand Slam venues want to be the best which can only be healthy because they've all raised their standards in different ways.
Do you have a Wimbledon question for Barry? Then click here to email your question or use the feedback form below...
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Harry Willetts says...
i watched rafael nadal first round match with nishikori of japan yesterday and was so impressed with is all round performance, murray will go far this year, but i think nadal is the one to beat.
Posted 18:34 23rd June 2010
Adam Whiteley says...
i agree with practically the rest of the world, wimbledon is the most prestigiouse event in tennis, the prize money, the ora, the facility developments that have gone on recently can only add to what is already the best tennis tournement of the year.
Posted 12:04 21st June 2010
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