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Wildcards with a difference

ESPN staff
June 22, 2012
Goran Ivanisevic was the last wildcard to win Wimbledon © Getty Images
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Wimbledon kicks off on Monday, as players once again compete to be crowned the champion at the All England Club.

As always, the seeds will be the main focus of everyone's attention - will Novak Djokovic stun Rafael Nadal once again on grass; can Petra Kvitova repeat last year's breakout success? - but it isn't always guaranteed that a top seed will emerge triumphant.

Goran Ivanisevic won as a wildcard back in 2001, but that is unlikely to happen again. Wildcards are an important part of the SW19 experience, however (how else do we expect to get a few more Brits in the main draw every year?!) - so, to preview the forthcoming two weeks, we highlight ten people that should have received wildcards (but perhaps understandably didn't):

The David Nalbandian line judge
You're trying to tell us that a match between David Nalbandian and Andrew McDougall, the man the Argentine wounded during the final of Queen's, wouldn't be a real round one ratings winner? We're sorry, it can't be done.

The contest has all the ingredients of a classic (except, admittedly, McDougall doesn't look like much of a player) - after all there's bad blood between the pair, quite literally. It will be interesting to see also how the crowd would react to both men; Nalbandian clearly didn't indeed to actually intend to kick McDougall (rather the advertising hoardings around him), while the line judge made such a meal of the whole incident even Cristiano Ronaldo felt ashamed for him. A missed opportunity.

Goran Ivanisevic
Why not bring back the legend? An opening round draw against Novak Djokovic would be entertaining, if nothing else. We have little doubt the Croatian can still throw down a mean serve - he might not be able to beat the world No. 1, but he could no doubt entertain the crowd with a few flashes of that old genius.

Tim Henman (in a wig)
It's high time Britain had a genuine challenger in the women's draw at Wimbledon but, with all due respect to the emerging Laura Robson and Heather Watson, there doesn't appear to be any prospect of this year being the year. So why not resort to desperate measures? Tim Henman never achieved his aim of winning Wimbledon - so why not stick him in a wig, give him a wildcard into the women's draw, and see if we can all achieve our dreams?!

Rory McIlroy
These days the Northern Irishman spends more time watching his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, play tennis than he does, y'know, actually working on his golf game - so why not take that to its natural conclusion? Rors has already shown he has a decent forehand during an impromptu court appearance with Ms Wozniacki last year ... so why not see how he fares in competition with a moving ball?

Paul Bettany
The English actor was so damn convincing in the film 'Wimbledon' (which, for those fortunate enough not to have seen it, is basically a terrible rom-com that uses the eponymous championships as its backdrop), we might as well give him a chance to see what he can do in real life. Plus, the general tennis public deserve to see what the opposite of Richard Gasquet's aesthetically pleasing backhand actually looks like.

Greg Rusedski (in a wig)
Let's be honest, even against women it's impossible to be confident Henman won't collapse like, well, Tim Henman, once he reaches the semi-final, so we really need a bit of 'insurance'. Big-serving Rusedski would give us another option ... and also come with the added bonus of meaning we won't have to see his ridiculous grin in the TV studio at all hours.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: A [serve and] volley specialist? © Getty Images
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Sweden may be out of Euro 2012, but that just means Zlatan Ibrahimovic is available. And, with the sort of volleying technique he showed against France on Monday, you can't tell us he wouldn't thrive on the grass courts. Not that he'd be particularly interested in a wildcard, by the sounds of it.

"I don't give a s*** who wins it, I'm going on holiday," Ibrahimovic said, when asked for his thoughts on the Euros. "Hopefully in Sweden but if the weather's bad I've got an aeroplane."

If it's weather Ibrahimovic is after then I guess Wimbledon is a no-go, then.

Nathan Robertson
The former Olympic silver medallist won't be representing his country in his preferred sport, badminton, at the Olympics this summer - so how about an 11th hour change? It's not like there is a massive difference...

In all seriousness, though, with his bandana and long, flowing locks Robertson looks like a cross between Pat Rafter and Roger Federer. There is simply no way he isn't amazing at tennis. Give him a chance!

The Olsen twins
Somewhat surprisingly, three pairs of sisters are in the main draw for Wimbledon this year. The Williams sisters (Venus and Serena) have been mainstays of the draw in recent times, while the Radwanska pair (Agnieszka and Urszula) are quickly emerging as big names on the women's tour.

Czech twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova then both came through qualifying to make the main draw late this week - so why not go for a fourth? As they don't seem to be doing any acting any more (and have been overshadowed by their younger sibling, Elizabeth, anyway), how about handing wildcards to the Olsen twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley?

Even Kanye West thinks that would be the right thing to do - famously rapping on one of his songs, "Wimbledon ain't do it right, if you ask me - if I was them I'd invite Mary-Kate and Ashley."*

*We may have misheard that lyric slightly. The tune was called 'Ninjas on Centre Court', right?

Kirsten Dunst
Dunst played opposite Bettany in 'Wimbledon: The Movie', playing an American hotshot with a questionable attitude and overbearing father/coach (what a leap of imagination that character creation really was). If Bettany gets a pass into the real draw to test his mettle, why shouldn't Dunst? Have not all heard of gender equality?!

Of course, you could now accuse this list of running out of ideas and thus degenerating into repeating the same tired idea from a slightly different standpoint. In which case, you would be absolutely right.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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