Wimbledon host Sue Barker looks ahead to a great summer of tennis at Wimbledon and the Olympics…
Is it easy to pick a Wimbledon men’s singles winner this time?
“I may as well get a pin and randomly pick one of the top four – Nadal, Federer, Djokovich and Murray. We’re absolutely spoilt for talent with those four! They’re so close. Last year’s champion Djokovich is quite simply awesome, and every time I think Federer might be starting to fade he comes back to win another tournament. Nadal’s had injury problems, just like Murray, but if he hits form he’s ever so difficult to beat.”
Could this finally be Andy Murray’s year?
“Unfortunately for Andy, he’s never beaten the other four in a grand slam final, and in all likelihood he’ll come up against one of them in the semis, so he really has to play better then ever before. I do have a strange feeling, and I don’t know why, that it’s going to be Andy’s year, as long as his back problems don’t hinder him.”
The women’s singles is very open too – how do you see that going?
“If Serena Williams is fit, strong, confident and in form, she really can’t be beaten. It’s just a matter of getting all those right. Belarus player Victoria Azarenka is the world’s No 1, so she’ll definitely be strong, while Maria Sharapova must get rid of the kinks in her serve to be up there with the best.”
How do you think the 2012 Olympic tennis will compare – as it’s also played at Wimbledon?
“At this Olympics, tennis is being taken much more seriously. I know some players want the gold medal almost more than a grand slam. Even Federer has said Olympic gold is his priority this year. The Olympics will have a different atmosphere, with an entirely different crowd who are madly patriotic – many won’t have seen live tennis before. Centre Court will look very different, with advertising hoardings and things like that, and players won’t necessarily be dressed in white.”
Is it odd to look back at clips of yourself playing?
“My era of tennis was very different to now, but I think the 1970s, with the likes of Chrissie Evert, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Virginia Wade, was the greatest ever time for the women’s game. When I look back at our old matches, though, I’m shocked. I really thought we were much faster and hit the ball harder! But you see us playing with these wooden racquets and in bad outfits and it all looks so slow and soft compared to today! When I’m at Wimbledon, it’s always great to catch up with all my former opponents and reminisce about when we used to play. The friendships are so lovely.”