The Wimbledon draws are out, and the science of bracketology is in full swing in cube farms, locker rooms, gin mills, and damp in-home basement offices across many a fair land.
Analyzing a draw takes deep knowledge, broad experience, an ability to look at all different scenarios, the utmost in prudence. . . man, what a bore. I say, Let it rip! Life just ain't worth living if you're not sure Radek Stepanek will upset Novak Djokovic in the third round because Stepanek's potential second-round opponent, yadda-yadda-yadda.
So without further ado, here are some fearless forecasts for the fortnight:
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in the men's final because they are, by a country mile, the two best grass-court players in the draw. Granted, the defending champion is world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and while he's also been to two semis and has never lost before the third round (whoops, there I go!), I don't think he's recaptured the form that made him nothing less than devastating in 2011.
By contrast, Nadal has been to five finals in a row (winning twice)-discounting the year he missed entirely (2009)-and Federer is a six-time champ, undoubtedly seeing red over having been bounced in the quarterfinals the past two years. Don't let that nice hair and elastic smile fool you. You want to get out of this guy's way.
Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will meet in the women's final because the tennis gods, having allowed Maria that win in Paris (completing her career Grand Slam), don't want this whole "I am a brand" thing to get out of hand. If there's any branding to be done, the cowgirl holding the runnin' iron will be Serena, whose job description all these years has included mercilessly punishing Sharapova at every opportunity for having snatched that Wimbledon title out of her hands those eight long years ago. You think Serena's forgotten that? She's won seven of the eight matches they've played since.
Li Na (the No. 11 seed) will lose to Ksenia Pervak in the first round and 4.6 million Chinese will un-follow her on Twitter.
David Nalbandian will be defaulted after he goes down two sets to one against Janko Tipsarevic and takes out his frustrations by tipping over the umpire's chair. A shaken Mohammed Lahyani will change jobs and become the Roland Gift impersonator in a Fine Young Cannibals tribute band.
Defending champion Petra Kvitova will lose in the second round to Varvara Lepchenko and hold a tearful press conference during which she admits that she felt a lot of pressure, and promises to go back and work harder than ever on her game.
The All England Club will issue a press release informing us that the tournament will be played on blue grass starting next year, to make Wimbledon different from all those green grass-court tournaments that precede it.
Grega Zemlja of Slovenia will defeat Great Britain's Josh Goodall in the first-round battle of wild cards, ensuring that no male British wild card will make it out of the first round. In fact, No. 485 Brit Oliver Golding will be turned away at gate 15 by security, despite protesting that he's met Andy Murray and having his player credential laced onto his raquet bag-just like all the direct-entry guys.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won't have four match points and still lose, as he did against Djokovic in the French Open. On the other hand, he's not coming back from two-sets-to-none against Federer like he did last year, either. That's partly because he's not in the Mighty Fed's half of the draw. Tsonga is projected to meet Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Caroline Wozniacki will lose in the third round to Svetlana Kuznetsova and promptly announce that she's fired her new coach, former Australian Open finalist Thomas Johansson. Wozniacki's only real coach, her father Piotr, will tell the press that they never wanted to hire "any of those guys" in the first place, and just did it placate the media pundits.
John Isner will buy Alejandro Falla dinner on Sunday night out of sheer gratitude for Falla becoming his first opponent at Wimbledon other than Nicolas Mahut.
Stepanek will shockingly beat Djokovic in the third round, in the most stunning upset of the tournament, because I had a dream last night in which a bunch of people in an English pub were doing a dance called "the worm," while Stepanek was dancing on a table and tearing off his shirt, beating his chest, and howling.
Marion Bartoli will emerge from her recent slump and knock off world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka if both of them make it to the quarterfinals. Given that Bartoli hasn't won two matches in a row since she reached the semis in Miami, chances are pretty good that all this is purely academic. But I'm thinking Bartoli's history at Wimbledon will tide her through.
Nicolas Mahut will throw himself off the Tower Bridge while Isner and Falla are having a pleasant dinner on Sunday night, because the prospect of facing Isner again, this time in the second round, will make Mahut lose interest in his match against Paolo Lorenzi and ask himself, "What's the point, anyway?"
Sara Errani and Coco Vandeweghe, an American qualifier, will receive the Karlovic-Rochus trophy in a special on-court presentation before they meet in the first round. Errani is 5-foot-4 to Vandeweghe's 6-foot-1.
Jelena Jankovic will have 11 match points but still manage to lose to former No. 1 and mutiple Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, who will then withdraw from Wimbledon and sit out with injury until the start of the Olympic Games.
Wild card Tommy Haas is going to put one heck of a scare into Rafael Nadal.
Venus Williams will upset Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 3) in the second round, after squeaking out a tough win over Elena Vesnina.
Virginie Razzano will visit the Wimbledon referee's office clutching her wild card and ask, "Are you sure you sent this to the right address?"
Ivan Dodig of Croatia will eke out an 11-9 in-the-fifth win over Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic in what is not just another east European rivalry, but a fierce battle to remain in the Top 100. Rosol is right on that number, while Dodig is No. 99. Technically speaking, it will be an upset, but we know better, don't we? Just think of it as a parallel universe version of Djokovic vs. Nadal.