Table tennis always seems like one of those sports the average out-of-shape guy could play. Until you watch them play. They may not be triathletes, but you’ll see more fat baseball players than fat table tennis Olympians.
For tennis, we’ll once again rely a good bit on Wimbledon results. Basically, we’re not betting against Serena right now, and neither should you.
Away we go …
The ITF has kindly put together a list of qualified players — except in mixed doubles, where they’re going to sort it all out on the spot. That’ll complicate things. And they’re not doing the draw until July 26, with seeds based on the ATP and WTA rankings of July 23. (Rankings mentioned below are as of July 21.)
Men’s singles: Rafael Nadal (Spain) has withdrawn, which is a real shame. That reduces the Big Four — Nadal, Switzerland’s Roger Federer, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, Britain’s Andy Murray) to a Big Three. Djokovic hasn’t quite been dominant this year. Neither has Federer, though he was superb in winning Wimbledon. Then there’s Murray, who gave the host country such a thrill in reaching the final against Federer. Will he come up with something special at home? Yes. Will any of the Americans — No. 11 John Isner, No. 27 Andy Roddick, No. 43 Ryan Harrison and No. 58 Donald Young — contend for a medal? Quarterfinals, sure, and maybe semifinals, but we’re sticking with the Big Three. Projection was ESP-GBR-SRB; now Britian, Switzerland, Serbia
Women’s singles: Just throw out the rankings when Serena Williams is involved. She’s back in form and won Wimbledon with relative ease, though the dropped a set to second-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) in the final. Serena also beat top-ranked Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) in the semis and No. 6 Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) in the quarters. The shocker at Wimbledon was No. 3 Maria Sharapova (Russia), who had just won the French Open for the first time in her career but lost to No. 17 Sabine Lisicki (Germany) in the fourth round. Sharapova won here over Serena in 2004 and was in the 2011 final. The only active Wimbledon champs in the draw: Serena, Sharapova, Venus Williams and Kvitova. Venus is here, too, along with Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko. The Caroline Wozniacki era, though, is over — at least for now. We’re going to guess Sharapova’s loss was a fluke. Serena’s win wasn’t. Was DEN-CZE-BLR; now USA, Russia, Czech Republic
Men’s doubles: The USA’s Bryan brothers lost in the Wimbledon semis to Britain’s Jonathan Marray and Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen, who went on to win. But the Bryans were the only same-country pair to reach the semis, and neither Marray nor Nielsen will be in London with a new partner. Romania’s Horia Tecau, who reached the Wimbledon final with Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt, will be here with Adrian Unger. Lindstedt will be here with Johan Brunstrom. The top-ranked doubles team, just ahead of the Bryan brothers, also will be here with different partners — Belarus’ Max Mirnyi with Alexander Bury, Canada’s Daniel Nestor with Vasek Pospisil. The second U.S. pair, Isner and Roddick, could be interesting. India, with fifth-ranked doubles specialist Leander Paes, has been squabbling over teams but has three ranked in the top 15. British hopefuls Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins went out in the first round of Wimbledon, but the home country also has Andy Murray with his brother, Jamie. So after all that, we’ll stick with USA, India, Britain
Women’s doubles: Could easily have an all-USA final here. The top-ranked team is all-American Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber. They lost in the Wimbledon semis to another pair with some familiarity with each other — Olympic champions Serena and Venus Williams. The Williams sisters then beat the Czech Republic’s Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the final. The other semifinalists were also a same-country pair — Italy’s Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone. Was CZE-USA-RUS; now USA, USA, Czech Republic
Mixed doubles: Can we do projections when we’re not really sure who’s going to play with whom? Well, we know Raymond and Mike Bryan won Wimbledon, and Huber was in the semis with Bob Bryan. But all the men want to play with Serena. No matter which permutations we see, the USA will be fine. We also have a couple of bloggers (Tennis Space and Shrewd Tennis) who have dissected the possible pairings. We’d be more impressed with India’s Sania Mirza and Leander Paes if the pairing didn’t seem held together by force. We’re quite impressed with Belarus, which should have doubles great Mirnyi and singles great Azarenka. Was USA-ISR-IND; now USA, Belarus, USA
Seedings, qualified players and blinking icons. Don’t ever change, ITTF site.
Men’s singles: The seeds are China’s Zhang Jike, China’s Wang Hao, Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Germany’s Timo Boll. Everyone except Zhang figured prominently in our last picks. The USA’s Timothy Wang is seeded 66th. To settle our pick for bronze, we’ll use the handy ITTF head-to-head guide, which should make every sports federation call them up to license that technology. So let’s see — Boll 8, Mizutani 1. That settles it. Picks unchanged: China, China, Germany
Women’s singles: Guess which country has the first two seeds? China’s Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia are 1-2. Then it’s South Korea’s Kyungah Kim, Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and Japan’s Ai Fukuhara. We’ll check the head-to-head guide to see if Kim should be picked for bronze ahead of the two Japanese players — she’s 9-1 vs. Fukuhara and 2-0 vs. Ishikawa. Good enough. The USA has two entries — Ariel Hsing is 46th, Lily Zhang 49th. Was CHN-CHN-SIN; now China, China, South Korea
Men’s team: Seeds are China, South Korea, Japan, Germany. On the singles list, Germans are 4 and 8, South Koreans are 6 and 7. Japan is 3 and 12. China and Germany keep going 1-2 in world championships. We’ll make one change. Was CHN-GER-JPN; now China, Germany, South Korea
Women’s team: China, then … 2012 world runner-up Singapore? Second-seeded Japan? World semifinalists South Korea and Hong Kong? The U.S. team (Hsing, Zhang and Erica Wu) is seeded 12th. We’ll stick with China, Singapore, Japan