2018 Brisbane International Preview


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Big Four Facing Uncertain Starts to 2018

The 2018 ATP World Tour begins with a stop in Brisbane, Australia ahead of three other tournaments kicking off on New Year’s Day in Sydney, Doha and Pune. The start of the season has already been marred by health questions surrounding both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Nadal announces his withdrawal from the Brisbane International, saying that he was still not fit to compete after ending last season prematurely due to a knee injury. Nadal is hopeful that he can continue to train and be ready for the Australian Open, but that is certainly a big question mark for the ATP’s top ranked player.

Djokovic reported feeling some pain in his surgically repaired right elbow this week, which caused him to skip the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. The Serb seems likely to miss the Qatar Open in Doha, which starts on Monday. Djokovic has not played since Wimbledon last year. He will be replaced in Abu Dhabi by Andy Murray, who is crafting his own return from a hip injury that ended his 2017 campaign early. As of now, Roger Federer looks to be the lone member of the “Big Four” who will enter the 2018 season healthy. Fed is starting his season at the Hopman Cup in Perth this weekend.

Opportunity Beckons for Next Generation & Twenty-Somethings

With the lingering questions about the health of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, it’s obvious that there is no better time than the present for other players to step into the spotlight and grab some glory. One of those twenty-somethings of whom something will be expected of this season is this week’s top seed, Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov capped off his 2017 by winning the Nitto ATP Finals. That pushed Dimitrov to a career-best 3rd in the rankings. He finished the season 49-19, but was not a factor in three of the four Grand Slams.

Dimitrov will need to strive for better consistency over the course of the season and not get into those stretches where he can’t win matches like he did in March & April. In that span, Dimitrov flopped in Indian Wells and Miami, losing his opener at the Miami Open. He followed that with successive first round losses in Marrakech and Monte Carlo. It’s been too familiar for Dimitrov who found the same thing with five straight first-up losses in May & June of 2016.

Brisbane will also feature one of the game’s most mercurial players in Nick Kyrgios. The Aussie is the third seed behind Dimitrov and Andy Murray. Kyrgios comes off another up and down season, finishing 2017 at 31-17 with no titles won. Health and effort were once again front row and center for Kyrgios last season with shoulder and hip ailments limiting him. NK was another young player who made no impression at Slams, losing in the first round at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and in the second round both at the Australian and French Opens.

2018 might signal a new version of Kyrgios. The 22-year-old has shown his philanthropic side since late last Fall when he announced the start of his own foundation to benefit underprivileged children. It has shown a side that the mainstream media has not focused on in the past and perhaps has given Kyrgios a bit more focus. Kyrgios said he heads into the new season healthier than last year and he’s been training with the Australian Davis Cup team in the past month. Could this be the year where things come together for the uber talented Aussie?


Spruced up for 2018, it’s a look at the seeds in the draw and those who might spring those upsets on the seeds – aka The Eliminati. Recently, Brisbane has been an anti-upset location for seeds with only six dropping their openers in the last four years. In 2015 and 2016, just one seed was taken down early. And since 2014, just one top four seed has been eliminated in their first match. Perhaps that could change in 2018 with some different names in the seeded field and a couple players – Murray and Raonic – coming on off lengthy layoffs.

Here is a look at who could play the part of the Eliminati in Brisbane in the early going.

John Millman
The home standing Aussie will take on a qualifier in round one with the prize being a date against top seed Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov is the defending champion of this event and has made the semifinals or finals in three of his five trips, but he’s got a big target on his back this time as the #3 player in the world. Millman has a history of being a tough out at this tournament, losing in three sets to Murray in 2012 and Federer in 2015 in his last two trips to Brisbane. Keep an eye on Millman if he passes his first round test.

Ryan Harrison/Leonardo Mayer
The winner of this first round match gets a shot at (2) Murray. The Scot has been rehabbing an injured hip since losing in five sets to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon last summer. He made his return to the court in exhibition play against Roberto Bautista Agut this week, losing 6-2 in Abu Dhabi. The 30-year old was a late sub for Novak Djokovic, so perhaps he was off the mark after not expecting to play. Still, he showed rust and both Harrison and Mayer have taken sets off of him in the past. Given his lack of competitive match play, this would be an opportune time for one of these two to jump on the second seed and get a win.

Steve Johnson
The American could cause a shock if he gets to round two, where he would face fourth seed Milos Raonic. Raonic ended his 2017 campaign early in Tokyo due to a calf injury. It was the last in a string of injuries that derailed the Canadian last season with wrist and leg injuries leading Raonic to a 29-12 mark with no titles won. Raonic’s last title came at this tournament in 2016, so he will be hoping that a return to this tournament will jump start his season. Johnson could be dangerous in this spot, if he gets past talented Aussie Alex de Minaur in round one. The American will have to overcome a poor history at this event to do so (1-3) though.

Mischa Zverev was one of the surprises of the early going in 2017 with his shocking defeat of Murray at last year’s Australian Open that pushed him into the first Slam quarter of his career. That looks like more of an anomaly for the German vet who often struggles on outdoor hard courts. This will be his third main draw in Brisbane with just a 1-2 record previously. Given that he’ll go against someone with play in match conditions, he could be ripe for an upset if the qualifier can handle his serve and volley tactics.

Alexandr Dolgopolov
The Dog heads into another season with the same M.O. that has followed him during his career; a player who can beat almost anyone when he gets on a roll, but a player who can lose to anyone, any week. Dolgopolov takes on sixth seed Diego Schwartzman in round one. Schwartzman won their lone meeting back in 2016 in three sets on clay in Buenos Aires. Schwartzman comes off his most successful ATP season, where he made his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal at the U.S. Open. This is his second straight trip to Brisbane. Last year, he went 1-1 in beating Querrey and losing to Raonic. Dolgopolov has some modest success in Brisbane at 8-6 for his career.

Draw Preview

*Career record at Brisbane in (parenthesis)*

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Grigor Dimitrov: 14-4 (2017-W)
(5) Gilles Muller: 1-2

Dimitrov has shown a great affinity for Brisbane in his career with two finals appearances and quarterfinal or better finishes in four of five trips to this tournament. There are plenty of pitfalls in this quarter however that could preclude Dimitrov from getting that sort of result again. Fifth seed Gilles Muller owns three wins in his last four meetings with Dimitrov, including two wins last season. Muller will need to be careful in round one against Hyeon Chung, but could be a serious contender to the crown if he gets rolling.

The floaters here worth watching will meet in round one with Denis Shapovalov going head-to-head against Kyle Edmund. These two met three times, all in 2017, with El Shapo taking two of three. Interestingly, two of the matches were settled via retirement. That includes their last at the U.S. Open, where Shapovalov won when Edmund retired down two sets to one and 0-1 in the fourth.

This figures to be an intriguing season for the 18-year-old Shapovalov who struggled outside of his two big finishes at the Rogers Cup (SF) and U.S. Open (R16). El Shapo went just 2-6 after his U.S. Open heroics. There will be some lofty expectations due to those marquee results, but perhaps they should be tempered some with this season being the Canadian’s first “full” season at this level. Still, the winner between Shapovalov and Edmund will be a tough out for Muller or Chung, which makes this quarter much more of a toss up than you might think.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Nick Kyrgios: 0-0
(6) Diego Schwartzman: 1-1

Kyrgios will make his Brisbane debut and should be expected to be on a show this week. The Aussie has a workable draw that should give him a shot at making the semifinals. He will either American Frances Tiafoe or Aussie Matthew Ebden in his opener. Both have talent and could pull off an upset, but I think Kyrgios’ serve is too electric for either player to keep up with.

Schwartzman’s side of the quarter could go any which way. The Argentine showed that he can win on this surface as he scored 22 of his career 35 wins on outdoor hard courts during his breakout campaign last year. That turned around an 8-16 mark prior to 2017. He faces the tricky game of Dolgopolov to open and then would get Horacio Zeballos or a qualifier. With what else inhabits this quarter, Kyrgios really should get through here as long as his serve is rolling to start the season.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) Milos Raonic: 9-3 (2016 – W)
(8) Mischa Zverev: 1-2

Raonic has played well down under in previous seasons and should be out to prove himself healthy to start the new year. The 27-year-old has been one of the more outspoked players this offseason when it comes to the ATP calendar. Raonic believes the season should end with the U.S. Open in order to give players proper rest and it’s not really that bad of an idea. In any case, Raonic’s serve and power should play well in this quarter – but he will be tested. Steve Johnson still looks like the biggest potential landmine for the fourth seed.

Zverev will try to keep his opponents off balance per usual with his serve and volley tactics. The 8th seed actually might have a better set up on his side of the quarter with a couple of qualifiers and Federico Delbonis in the mix. The qualifying field isn’t exceptionally strong with top seed Alexander Bublik already beaten by Aussie John Patrick Smith. I don’t generally trust the German outdoors, but he might be lined up to win a few in this quarter.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Andy Murray: 9-0 (2012, 2013 – W)
(7) Damir Dzumhur: 0-0

Murray will look to keep his perfect record intact in Brisbane as he looks to get some match play under his belt before Melborne. Murray looked sluggish in his debut in the Abu Dhabi exhibition, but said that was too be expected after the long layoff. The Scot is hopeful that his body will respond better this week in Brisbane, but sounds like he’s not necessarily expecting to make a deep run. I’m not going to be stunned if Murray loses his opener to Ryan Harrison or Leonardo Mayer.

Dzumhur debuts in Brisbane with his opener against Denis Istomin. Istomin is closing in on the one year mark since his stunning defeat of Novak Djokovic at last year’s Australian Open. Istomin returned to his normal inconsistency after Melbourne, going 17-18 with a title in Chengdu late in the season. Between the Aussie Open and Chengdu, Istomin tallied about half his wins for the season.

The 25-year-old Dzumhur scored his maiden ATP title in 2017 in St.Petersburg and followed it up with his second in Moscow. The Serb has shown good skill on hard courts, but has just two wins in January over the last three years. He’ll have to prove himself all over again to start the year off. Given Murray’s sketchy physical condition, Dzumhur could take advantage of this quarter and get through to the semifinals. He will have a tough time in round two against either Jared Donaldson or Jordan Thompson. The winner of that match has definite darkhorse possibilities.

The Pig-nosticator

Each tournament previewed, the Pig-nosticator will list out @tennispig‘s picks to sizzle and fizzle for the week. Don’t forget that if something you peruse through in the preview provides you with something helpful – a visit to the Tip Jar would be kindly appreciated.

Nick Kyrgios
Milos Raonic
Jared Donaldson

Andy Murray
Hyeon Chung


The top seed has been involved in the business end in Brisbane, but has won just once in the last four years (Federer – 2015). Among the top three seeds are three former champions at this stop on the tour in Dimitrov, Raonic and Murray. I’d erase Murray off the list of contenders until he can prove he’s fit enough to handle several matches in a row. Raonic is a shorter question mark and can blister opponents with his serve. The positives for Dimitrov are that he is 3-1 against Raonic if it came down to that for the title. The negative is that Dimitrov has a tougher route prior to that possibly showdown with Gilles Muller and Nick Kyrgios in his path to the final.

Dimitrov is 2-0 against Kyrgios, but 2-3 against Muller. A win this week would make him the first repeat champion since Murray did the trick in 2012 and 2013. Damir Dzumhur is the sleeper for me amongst the seeds. The #7 seed is in Murray’s quarter and could benefit from the Scot not being up to snuff yet, but there are dangerous floaters like Jared Donaldson, Jordan Thompson, Leonardo Mayer and Ryan Harrison who could spring some surprises as non-seeded players. Non-seeds haven’t done much the last few years at the Brisbane International though with Lleyton Hewitt as the last non-seed to make the final (2014) and Dimitrov as the last non-seed to win the title (2013).

Bottom line – Kyrgios is the gut pick with Dzumhur as the longer shot. Dimitrov may prove me wrong by rolling this week, but I just have a feeling that he’s going to get got before the final.


2017 U.S. Open: Contenders List


Unpredictable Tournament Could Be On Tap

The U.S. Open might well consider replacing its usual log with a huge question mark for 2017 as the year’s final Grand Slam has more questions than answers heading towards opening day. Three of last year’s four semifinalist will not even be participating in this year’s event due to injury. 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka had to shut down his season due to a knee injury that required surgery. Runner-up, Novak Djokovic, also cut his season short due to recurring elbow problems. 2016 Semifinalist Kei Nishikori is also on the shelf for the remainder of 2017 with a wrist problem. Another potential top ten seed in this year’s tournament dropped out within the past day with Milos Raonic withdrawing due to ongoing issues with his left wrist that also required surgery. Add to that the questionable status of both Andy Murray and Marin Cilic, and you’re missing a great deal of the players who normally are talked about as having a shot to be in the championship mix.

Where does that leave us? #Fedal of course. However, the resurgent Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer arrive with their own questions in New York. Nadal has retaken the overall #1 ranking for the first time in three years, but has looked mortal in the North American hard court swing this summer. Nadal went just 3-2 in Montreal and Cincinnati, beaten by Denis Shapovalov at the Rogers Cup and then totally overpowered by Nick Kyrgios 6-2, 7-5 at the Western & Southern Open. Certainly no one should rule Rafa out as he’s shown well in all three Grand Slams this season, but there are definitely some questions now that he will need to answer if he’s going to make a big run in New York.

And then there is Federer. The ageless Swiss Maestro who most had at the top of their list for potential winners at the U.S. Open will still be there, but now he arrives with an injury cloud of his own. After running roughshod over the field at Wimbledon, Federer took a break until the Rogers Cup. In his own words, Federer said that his body felt a bit more sore than usual, but that is wasn’t entirely unexpected when going from vacation mode back to work mode. Despite not playing nearly as crisply and dominantly as he did in London, Federer still weaved his way to the final in Montreal against Alexander Zverev. That is where trouble popped up however as Federer appeared to be suffering physically as the match wore on. We would find out afterwards that his problematic back was again to blame. As such, Fed and his team decided rest and rehab was best as he skipped Cincinnati.

Now, three weeks or so in the future, we’ll have to take a bit of a wait and see attitude with Federer. Yes, he will be ready to go in the opening round, but now you have to wonder just a bit how his body will hold up in the best of five conditions you’re subject to in Grand Slams. All of a sudden, one tweaked back has dangled that question mark over the head of the Swiss who has won two of the three Grand Slams played this season.

Previous Champions Arrive With Issues Too

With all of the previously mentioned players who are M.I.A. due to injury plus the questions about Nadal and Federer, this COULD be one of the more wide open Grand Slams on the men’s side in quite some time. Could being the operative word as we know the furious five – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka – will still have three members operating in New York. Despite the rhetoric, that group has won 48 of the last 50 Grand Slams on the ATP World Tour. The exceptions of course both coming at the U.S. Open courtesy of Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009 and Marin Cilic in 2014.

You COULD include Del Potro and Cilic on the list of contenders, but both carry their own baggage. DelPo has been unable to find a ton of consistency with his wrist seemingly an omnipresent thought for him in his matches. Some matches he flashes the big and dominant game that makes him dangerous, but too often, he’s struggled to serve with consistency and his ground game has gone flat. Cilic? He’s an obvious player to make some noise, except he’s been sidelined with an abductor injury this summer. We all remember Cilic’s tearful and painfully poor performance in the Wimbledon final against Federer. That was due in part to this injury, so it remains to be seen if he’s fit and if he can find some form on-the-fly in New York.

There’s also this Scottish fellow you may have heard of – Andy Murray? Murray has been M.I.A. since Wimbledon, desperately attempt to gain fitness after struggling for months with a hip injury. Murray wisely chose to skip the hard court build-up to the U.S. Open to prevent further damage, but is he anywhere close to being 100 percent now? We don’t know for sure, but it seems highly unlikely that the Scot would be 100 percent physically and MENTALLY fit for the U.S. Open.

It’s no secret that Murray wore himself out in both those categories last year to chase down the #1 ranking. He seemingly never recovered to start the season with his body failing him with elbow and hip problems along with bouts with the flu at different times. The 2012 U.S. Open champ is likely to take the court still, but will be woefully short on match play conditions and rhythm. For a player who relies a lot on his fitness and getting a rhythm from regular work on the court, this seems a poor set-up to him finding much success in New York.

The Name on Everyone’s List is Sascha

On a short and different list of contenders this year, Alexander Zverev is the name that has elevated to the top of the list. Sascha’s name is now on the top of every pundit’s tongue as the next “break-through” Grand Slam champion and rightfully so after a wonderful summer of results. Zverev won the Citi Open to kick off his hard court campaign and then secured his second Masters title of the year with the win over Federer at the Rogers Cup. Sascha did run out of gas in Cincinnati with first-up loss to Frances Tiafoe, but that was hardly surprising given his busy summer.

While the world’s 6th ranked player is now considered a contender, do look over the peripherals. He’s 6-5 against the top ten this year, but 0-2 against them in Grand Slams this year and he does not own a top ten win at a Slam. The good news? Three players ranked in the top ten won’t be playing this year – Wawrinka, Djokovic and Nishikori and two more – Murray and Cilic – are injury concerns. That still leaves Nadal, Federer, Thiem and Dimitrov to contend with in that realm however for a player who is still seeking his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

That’s right and it’s easy to forget that Zverev has not been past the fourth round at Slam. It’s also easy to forget that at 20 years of age, he could just be entering his reign of terror over the tour. Still, he’s never been past round two at the U.S. Open and his Slam resume this season reads disappointing five set losses to Nadal at the Australian and Raonic at Wimbledon, plus a thudding first round loss to Fernando Verdasco at the French Open. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that we were all a bit giddy about Sascha’s prospects of being a contender there after he won the title in Rome right before Roland Garros.

Still, Zverev looks more like a player maturing at this point, rather than a player who still questions whether he belongs. He belongs. He’s now firmly inside the top ten and looking like a possibility to finish the season as high as #4 if he continues along his current trajectory. I think for me, this tournament is all about Zverev’s mental preparation and how he handles the pressure of increased expectation. With all the missing players and his recent success on this surface, he’ll be expected to do much more than just making it to the fourth round. Barring a really poor draw, anything less than getting that first Slam quarterfinal under his belt in New York will be a failure.

Dimitrov: Uprising or Downsizing?

Another player who figures to hear his name bandied about as a possible party crasher late in New York is Grigor Dimitrov. Coming off his first Masters title in Cincinnati, that’s enough to pump up expectation for the Bulgarian. He’s also back into the top ten for the first time since the summer of 2014. Not coincidentally, that was during Dimitrov’s best Slam performances in a calendar year when he made the Australian Open quarterfinals and then the semifinals at Wimbledon. This year? He was red hot making the semifinals in Australia, but had fizzled out by March. He had mediocre showings at the French (third round loss) and Wimbledon (fourth round pummeling to Federer).

The beginning of the summer also didn’t bring much hype for Dimitrov with early exits to Daniil Medvedev at the Citi Open and Robin Haase at the Rogers Cup. That changed though with the result in Cincinnati last week. Dimitrov beat Felciano Lopez, Del Potro, Yuichi Sugita, John Isner and Nick Kyrgios en route to the title. You will notice there isn’t a top ten player in the bunch and only Isner was in the top 20, although Kyrgios is now there due to his Cincinnati result.

The big question for Dimitrov is if he can turn around his poor history at the U.S. Open. He is just 7-6 all-time in New York with the majority of those wins coming in 2014 and 2016 during runs to the fourth round. He has avoided first round exits that plagued him from 2011-2013, but he hasn’t really done much more than beat the beatable and lose to the toughest player he meets at the earliest stage in the tournament. This is a big proving ground for Dimitrov or disproving ground as the case might wind up. I’m not sold on the uprising quite yet, so I think he might need a favorable draw to make a real run at the business end of things.

The Best of the Rest is a Bit of a Mess

The highest seed that I didn’t include above is Dominic Thiem and I think it’s for good reason. Thiem has had a fairly poor summer for someone who should be doing more as a top ten player. Thiem is just 3-3 in D.C., Montreal and Cincinnati this summer. Poor losses to Diego Schwartzman to end his Rogers Cup run and David Ferrer to stop him in Cincy have me hesitant to think the Austrian is going to be a major factor at the U.S. Open. This is after all that time of the year where early overs cheduling seems to wear Thiem down the most.

Thiem is 8-3 in his young career in New York, but wear and tear have looked to be big factors in his losses the last few years. His debut in New York came in 2014 where he breezed into the fourth round before getting pounded 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 by Tomas Berdych. 2015 saw a tough loss to Kevin Anderson in the third round in straight sets. 2016 saw Thiem get back to the fourth round again, but retire mid-match against Del Potro with a knee injury. Thiem could still be a thought late in the tournament, but to me he needs some easy early round wins to avoid over taxing his body.

Someone who will need to abide by that same formula to have any outside shot to be in the mix late would be Nick Kyrgios. Listen, we’re still not sure from week to week what sort of shape Kyrgios’ body is in, but Cincy showed that he’s still a threat when he’s rocking in rhythm with his serve. That will be a massive key in New York as to what sort of chance he will have to make some late noise. The obvious worry though is how his body will hold up with shoulder and hip injuries derailing him at different times during the season. We saw that at Wimbledon, where he had to retire in round one. He completrly went away in a second round loss to Kevin Anderson at Roland Garros 7-5, 4-6, 1-6, 2-6 and his supposed strongest Slam in Melbourne ended with a 10-8 5th set upset to Andreas Seppi.

If we’re being honest, Kyrgios has been a big disappointment at Slams since making the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2014 and following that with a quarterfinal in Australia the following year. The U.S. Open has been a horror show for him with the hip doing him in last year in round three against Illya Marchenko. The year before he had the terrible draw with Andy Murray in round one and in 2013, he lost to Tommy Robredo in round three. That is the farthest he has been, but at 22m surely the Aussie has plenty of time to start righting that course. Fitness will be the biggie and as mentioned, easy and straight forward matches are needed early. Kyrgios hasn’t spent enough time building his endurance, so playing lengthy best of five matches will be a burden on his mind and body. That he has those past injuries to kind of fall back on as a bailing out point is what worries the most with his mind usually not in the mood to put up a fight if things go off point and he feels less than 100 percent.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t wrap this up with one of last year’s quarterfinalists who has somewhat predictably fallen off this season. A year ago at the end of the U.S. Open, Lucas Pouille was being talked about as a future stud. He had knocked off Rafael Nadal in a gritty five set match to get to his second straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, after first turning the trick at Wimbledon. In 2017, little has gone right for Pouille in the first three Slams. He was a first round exit to Alexander Bublik in Australia and then made a third round exit in Paris and a second round exit in London.

Sure, Pouille has a couple of titles under his belt this season too, but in the big tournaments he has rarely made a peep. His Masters record this season is 5-6 and his Slam record is 3-3. This summer he has no traction with losses in both his tuneup matches to Tommy Paul in DC and Jared Donaldson in Montreal. At the beginning of the season, you could have made a case that the Frenchman would be one to potentially watch in the second week of Slams. This year, wins have been tougher to come by in those big matches. It’s not to say that he can’t find that again at the U.S. Open, but it seems more wishful thinking right now than probability.


So there you have it. Did I miss someone you think has a chance to stun the world? Do Gael Monfils or Kevin Anderson inspire visions of grandeur? Is there a Gaston Gaudio in the crowd? An unseeded player who will truly shock the world like the Argentine did at the 2004 French Open. Never say never, but 48 of the last 50 Grand Slams have belonged to a group of five players. Their numbers have dwindled though due to injury and realistically you’d say Nadal and Federer are the only members of the furious five who you can see raising the trophy. Andy Murray’s body is an unknown, but from what we’ve seen this season, it would take a lot for Murray to find his way to the end.

I probably touched on the eventual winner this year in New York somewhere above. Perhaps Nadal. Perhaps Federer. Perhaps we get a first timer. I can’t recall the last Grand Slam that had this many question marks and missing players, and quite frankly that might be why this becomes one of the more memorable Slams. There are going to be some players who step up and step into the spotlight – that is the feeling here – they could be ones like Zverev or Thiem – that we’ve been waiting to break that glass ceiling of the furious five. The other feeling is whether they do it themselves or make someone rev up their game to beat them – that Nadal and Federer will still have a say in crowning the 2017 U.S. Open champion.

Keep following me @tennispig for full men’s draw previews of both singles and doubles.

2017 Wimbledon Quarterfinals Preview


It’s time to get down to the final four in the men’s draw as quarterfinal play is set for Wednesday at the All-England Club. Here is a look at all four of the day’s matches.

Andy Murray can make it eight out of the last nine years in the Wimbledon semifinals with a win over Sam Querrey on Wednesday. The last time that Murray missed out on the semifinals was when Grigor Dimitrov spanked him in straight sets in the 2014 quarterfinals.

(1) Andy Murray vs (24) Sam Querrey

It’s been a prototypical Andy Murray run so far at Wimbledon through four rounds. He’s been more grit than good on occasion, but fighting as hard as anyone to get the win. The fourth round against Benoit Paire exemplified this trait as Murray was broken twice in the opening set, but still found a way to wiggle through in a tiebreak to put his stamp on the match. From there, Murray gradually served a bit better and watched Paire implode with 44 unforced errors. The top seed was clean off the ground with just 25 winners compared to 50 for Paire, but just eight unforced errors. Murray would win 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4. The fourth round marked the third time in four matches that the Scot had ten UEs or less.

Querrey meanwhile was put to the test by big serving Kevin Anderson. Both players bombed 31 aces and didn’t allow for much off their serve. Querrey would win 83 percent of the points off his first serve and 59 percent off his second. Anderson won 85 percent and 50 percent. Querrey did make the most of the few opportunities to break Anderson, converted on two of three break chances. Anderson would fail to convert on six of seven against Querrey. The 24th seed was also more precise off the ground with just 18 unforced errors to 28 by Anderson. Querrey will take confidence into the semifinals after failing to convert on multiple match points in a fourth set tiebreak, he came back in the 5th and took it with an early break for the 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (11), 6-3 win.

Historically Speaking

Murray has beaten Querrey in seven of eight matches all-time. Querrey’s lone win was on hard courts in Los Angeles in 2010 in three sets. Twice on grass, Murray has handled Querrey in straight sets. The last grass meeting was at Wimbledon in 2010. Their last meeting overall was at this year’s Australian Open where Murray trounced Querrey 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Murray handled Querrey’s serve with ease, breaking him five times on eight chances. The American won just 55 percent of his service points overall. Murray was solid on serve, broken just one time on three chances. He would rack up 40 winners to Querrey’s 31 with Querrey having 27 unforced errors to Murray’s 22.

Grass would figure to aid Querrey’s serve a bit more over that last meeting in Melbourne. Despite the “slow” grass this year at the All-England Club, Querrey has still been dominating with his first serve winning 80 percent or more in all four matches. Certainly, that will be put to the test against an A+ returner in Murray. In their two previous grass court meetings, Murray melted the Querrey serve for nine breaks and was especially punishing on Querrey’s second serve. The American won just 21 of 65 second serve points in those meetings in Newport in 2006 and Wimbledon in 2010. The 53 percent win rate on second serve in Australia this year was by far Querrey’s best against Murray and he’ll need that to be even better in order to spring an upset.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

There’s not much surprise awaiting this match. Querrey wants to serve big and then use that to his advantage to move in when possible and finish points in a short and aggressive fashion. Murray’s goal is to get his return mojo working and trap Querrey into longer rallies where he can exploit his speed and agility advantages over the American. There is certainly enough power in Querrey’s serve and his forehand to compete against Murray. The question will be whether he can find enough consistent success with his serve to set up those quick points.

History says it will be difficult and Andy has a terrific track record against big servers. Looking at Murray’s results on grass from 2015-2016, he beat Gilles Muller, Kevin Anderson, Ivo Karlovic, Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic (2x), Nick Kyrgios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych. Only Tsonga won more than one set off of him. Murray may not be winning with the cleanest tennis around, but his will to fight and problem solve has been pretty good. Give Querrey a set here, but I think Murray moves on.

Prediction: Murray wins in four sets

Marin Cilic looks to break what has been a quarterfinal rut in his Grand Slam career when he takes on Gilles Muller. Cilic has made three straight Wimbledon quarterfinals prior to this year without advancing. He’s just 3-6 at this stage in Slams for his career.

(7) Marin Cilic vs (16) Gilles Muller

If there has been a top ten seed who has slipped under-the-radar more than Marin Cilic has the past week, I don’t know him. All the 7th seed done is win in straight sets all four rounds. He’s now 10-2 on grass this season. His fourth round win was easy as he obliterated Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Cilic took 37 of the 67 points played off RBA’s serve and was good enough with his own to be broken just once on six chances. Cilic tallied 39 winners and 19 unforced errors. He hasn’t been perfect this week despite the straight sets scoreline as he has been broken five times. The Croat has been hitting the ball big mostly, which has led to 192 winners and just 87 unforced errors.

What else can you say about Gilles Muller but wow. 2017 has been a career-year for the 33-year old who has won his first two ATP titles and now advanced to his second career Grand Slam quarterfinal. The 15-13 5th set win over Rafael Nadal in the fourth round was epic after the big lefty nearly let a two sets to love lead slip away entirely. He stood tall in the biggest moments though, saving 14 of 16 break chances. He converted on three of eight chances against Nadal. Muller also went “bonus” style against Lukas Rosol in round two when he came through 9-7 in the 5th and has shown such a cool and collected approach in each match to get over the finish line.

Historically Speaking

This is meeting number three between these two with Cilic having won the two previous matches. That included a three set win at Queen’s Club in June. The 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 Cilic victory saw 42 combined aces and three key breaks of serve. It was Cilic who was able to do a lot more against Muller’s serve as he crafted 13 break chances, but only cashed in twice. Muller won just 74 percent of the first serve points and 49 percent off his second. Cilic’s numbers showed him with win rates at 91 and 69 percent.

Their other meeting was indoors in Rotterdam in 2016 where Cilic won 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7). Cilic again saw more off the Muller serve, although he could not convert on any of his five break chances. Muller did not see a single break chance off of Cilic in that match. Cilic again was just slightly better with the serve numbers in that one, but they were much close than what their match showed in Queen’s Club.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Despite there being very few long rallies in the nearly five hour match between Muller and Nadal, you could clearly tell in Muller’s post match comments that fatigue could be a playing partner for him on Wednesday. While he may not encounter a ton of long rallies against Cilic either, if his legs are less than steady, his serve loses power and some of the great volleying we saw from him could be far less effective. Cilic has shown to be the better returner of these two and figures to have some chances off of Muller’s serve. He needs to convert those early and plant the seeds of doubt.

Cilic has shown a desire to come forward more on grass recently and I would expect he’ll look for the opportune times to do that again. If he’s serving big and getting Muller off balance on return, he can pounce and move forward to finish off easy points. I also won’t be surprised to see him work Muller into longer rallies to test Muller’s fitness. Cilci’s forehand and backhand are both legit weapons. Look for the Croat to make Muller run laterally in an effort to put more miles on those legs.

Muller can still contend in this match if his serve stays big and consistent early on. If it’s off due to some fatigue in those legs, this one might not provide a ton of entertainment.

Prediction: Cilic wins in straight sets

Roger Federer gets a shot at revenge when he battles Milos Raonic for a semifinal spot. Last year, it was Raonic who stunned Federer in five sets to make his first Grand Slam final here at Wimbledon. This is their first meeting since that match.

(3) Roger Federer vs (6) Milos Raonic

Little has gone wrong for Roger Federer so far this year at Wimbledon. The 35-year-old has yet to drop a set through four rounds. Since his shortened first round match with Alexandr Dolgopolov, Fed has won the last three rounds in straight sets. He has been broken once in each match, but overall has given out just nine break chances in those last three matches. Fed’s win rate on first serve is solid at just a hair under 80 percent and he’s winning an astounding 75 percent off his second serve. His ground game has been clean with 116 winners in the last three rounds and just 33 unforced errors. Even more chilling for Raonic is that just 18 of those UEs have come in the last two rounds. Federer’s 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Dimitrov was a clinic with the Swiss breezing through his service games more the most part and playing the quick and aggressive style that suits grass so well.

Raonic meanwhile has had to struggle to this point with his ground game in a constant state of flux. He started slowly against 10th seed Alexander Zverev in the fourth round, but was able to stabilize himself enough to pull out the 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win. In the early going, Raonic’s serve was out of sorts and he was spraying errors off both wings. He figured things out in rallies though by starting to use a bit more slice on his backhand that seemed to help him set up better against Zverev as the match wore on. The stats definitely showed the Raonic struggle. In the sets he lost, his winners to unforced errors ran 22:24. In the three sets that he won, Raonic’s ratio was 39:18. It is no surprise that his serve also showed much better when he was able to win sets with just seven break chances against is serve in the three sets won, while he had ten chances against his serve in the two sets he lost.

Historically Speaking

Federer leads Raonic 9-3 in their head-to-head, but it was the Canadian beating Roger last year both in Brisbane in January and then at Wimbledon. Federer had trouble getting breaks off Raonic with just two in the seven sets that they played in 2016. Raonic was able to break Federer five times. The Wimbledon meeting saw Raonic rally to secure his first Slam final via the 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win. Federer may still be lamenting the 12th game of the fourth set where it looked like the set was locked in on a tiebreak with Fed up 40-0 on serve. A pair of double faults in that game really set up Roger to fail. A double fault would also seal Federer’s fate in the fifth set with Raonic getting a break chance in the 4th game after the Swiss had the double fault.

There is a bit of an air of difference this year. For one, Federer is not dealing with any knee issues as he was when he fell and hurt himself in this exact match-up last year. His movement has been sharp. The second big difference is Raonic. He has struggled to find consistency off the ground for a good portion of this season and has not looked as comfortable on grass as he’s been in the past. Raonic said after the Zverev win that he still feels like shot-for-shot that he’s doing the right things, but he’s had trouble finding and maintaining a rhythm with his ground strokes. My opinion is that has carried over into some of his service games and made him less effective at times there too. That was fairly evident against Zverev who did a good job on return, especially in the first two or three sets.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

If Raonic can ever get locked in with his ground strokes, he can still be an absolute monster in this tournament. To his credit, he’s found a way to get to this stage without playing his best. That is a testament to his problem solving skills on the court. It will be interesting to see how Federer engage Raonic this year. Last year, Raonic was so comfortable on grass that he seemed to be gliding across the surface. This year? His movement has not looked as fluid at times and I think Federer will mix things up to test that movement. He doesn’t necessarily need to get Raonic into baseline rallies, but that is the area where Raonic is struggling the most off the ground. That plays a bit away from Federer’s desire to play short points and aggressively come to net.

Raonic needs to find his best serve in this spot to contend against Federer how has had his best serve for the majority of the tournament. Raonic’s serve really lacked something early against Zverev who was able to get to a lot of more balls than I was expecting. I think if Federer finds that same success then Raonic is really going to have a difficult time in this match. In last year’s match-up, when the Swiss got good swings on return, he was able to win a lot of those points by positioning himself well for the next shot. Raonic still fires ballistic missiles at opponents most of the time however, so Federer will have to make the most of what could be far less than the 17 opportunities that Zverev got in round four.

I’m sure he won’t admit it, but I think a win over Raonic would complete the cathartic cycle for Federer. I can’t say Raonic won’t win here because he is fully capable of it even with his ground strokes off. He can serve his way late into sets and then potentially steal the set with a moment or two of brilliance or a lull from Federer. That said, if Federer plays with the crispness he has shown on grass since the Tommy Haas loss, Raonic will have to play much better than we’ve seen from him to contend. Fed simply has been the more consistent player and as long as nerves don’t attack him, he should advance.

Prediction: Federer wins in five sets

Novak Djokovic will look to continue his roll on grass as he tangles with Tomas Berdych for a spot in the semifinals. Djokovic is 8-0 on grass this season and has yet to drop a set in London this year.

(2) Novak Djokovic vs (11) Tomas Berdych

The Serb’s delayed fourth round match went off without a hitch on Tuesday as the second seed dispatched Adrian Mannarino in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Djokovic was only broken one time on two chances, while he crafted ten break opportunities against the Frenchman. He would cash in on four of those with breaks of serve. Other than giving back an early break in set two, the Serb was in control. He broke early in each set to give himself an easier route to the quarterfinals. Djokovic won 71 percent off his first serve and 67 percent off his second. The first serve win rate was a little bit lower than most of his previous matches, but in line with what you’d expect. The Serb racked up 36 winners, but had his tournament high with 24 unforced errors.

Berdych received a much stiffer challenge from 8th seed Dominic Thiem. Berdych would outlast Thiem in five sets 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Overall, it was a clean match from Berdych with 41 winners and just 19 unforced errors. He would win 83 percent of the points on first serve and 50 percent on second serve. He saw far more opportunity against Thiem’s serve with 13 break chances than he dished out with just five break chances against his own serve. Berdych converted on three breaks, while Thiem could only muster one break of serve. Berdych has only been broken three times all tournament with minimal opportunities given out to his opponents.

Historically Speaking

The numbers look bad, real bad if you’re a Tomas Berdych fan. Djokovic is 25-2 against the Czech. They met three times in 2016 with Djokovic taking all three in straight sets. Berdych’s last win over Djokovic? It was on clay at the Rome Masters in 2013. Djokovic is 4-1 against Berdych all-time at Grand Slams, but it was at Wimbledon in 2010 that Berdych scored one of his two wins. Djokovic returned the favor by taking out Berdych at Wimbledon in 2013 in straight sets. Those are their only two meetings on grass. The major difference between the win and the loss was Berdych’s ability to serve well in the semifinal upset in 2010.

Overall, Djokovic seems to be able to get after Berdych’s serve with relative ease. He broke the Czech a dozen times in the seven sets they played last season. Berdych meanwhile did not have that same rate of success against the Djokovic serve. Berdych broke just four times. His second serve was the real trouble maker, winning under 40 percent in two of the three 2016 matches. Berdych’s serve has been pretty exceptional on grass this season, but this will be by far the best returner he has faced and obviously the biggest challenge.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Djokovic seems a bit testy following the non-rescheduling fiasco on Monday. He also voiced his concerns over the playing surface, citing a hole he discovered on Centre Court during a match. He definitely showed some continued frustration at points against Mannarino on Tuesday for not finishing him off earlier. That’s some of the Djokovic we’ve seen this year when he’s not been at his best. That “edge” can walk a fine line between helpful motivation and bad anger that can lead to poor problem solving on the court. Fortunately for Djokovic, he’s been able to solve Berdych almost every time they’ve played.

There is no way that isn’t playing on the mind of Berdych heading into this one. The positive of course is that he’ll have that “nothing to lose” mindset in this one, but that won’t do him any good if he doesn’t bring his A+ game on Wednesday. For Berdych, he absolutely must get his first serves in consistently and make them useful. If he can hit his spots, then at least he has the chance to move forward and try to finish points off more quickly at the net. If he’s not hitting his spots, then Djokovic will eat into his serve gradually and he will break him again and again.

There is still just enough from Djokovic to suggest that he could get frustrated more readily if his game isn’t on par. It’s been pretty solid through Eastbourne and four rounds in London. There’s enough that Berdych might be able to squeeze the Serb for a set, but overall, this looks too comfortable a match-up for Djokovic. Expect him to find a way to finish it off and head back to the semifinals.

Prediction: Djokovic wins in four sets

2017 Wimbledon Draw Preview


Will the old guard continue their dominance over Grand Slams yet again or is it time for a new name to make an impression by taking the trophy? We’ll find out over the next two weeks. History suggests that the title at the All-England Club will still likely come down to Andy Murray, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. After all, those three have won 13 of the last 14 men’s singles titles at Wimbledon.

There has at least been a few outsiders to that “big three” in the past few years that have been playing the final few days of Wimbledon with a chance to make history. Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych made the semifinals last year as seeds outside the top five. Raonic made his first Slam final here in 2016. In 2015, Richard Gasquet crashed the semifinals as the 21st seed along with the familiar names of Murray, Federer and Djokovic. In 2014, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic both made the semifinals as seeds outside the top five, #11 and #8 respectively. 2013 continued the trend with 8th seed Juan Martin Del Potro and 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz slipping into the semis along with Djokovic and Murray.

Relative “outsiders” aka those outside “The Big Four” can make inroads at Wimbledon and be in the mix at the business end of the tournament. Whether one of those can push into the final and actually upset the apple cart by taking the title has yet to be done since the era of Federer began at Wimbledon with the first of his nine titles in 2003. With all that to chew on, let’s break down the brackets and see who might sneak into the semifinals this year.

Quarter #1 Seeds
Andy Murray (1)
Stan Wawrinka (5)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12)
Lucas Pouille (14)
Nick Kyrgios (20)
Sam Querrey (24)
Fabio Fognini (28)
Fernando Verdasco (31)

Top Half Breakdown (Murray)
Murray will be a bit weary of a potential second round meeting with Dustin Brown. The Scot opens against lucky loser Alexander Bublik first and it is his first go around at Wimbledon. He did get his first Slam win at the Australian Open earlier this year against Pouille, so there’s definitely some talent there. Bublik will be an interesting test for Murray because the Russian-born 20-year-old loves to play trick shots. That might be good practice for a potential meeting with Brown in round two, who also has an unorthodox style on grass. Fognini is the seed opposite of Murray in this portion of the bracket in the battle for a third round spot. I fancy the winner of Jiri Vesely vs Illya Marchenko to have a good shot to beat the Italian. Fognini has only made it past round two twice at Wimbledon in eight trips.

In the bottom portion of this half, you’ve got two heavy hitters in Pouille and Kyrgios as the seeds. Pouille has the better match-up in the opening round against Malek Jaziri. The Frenchman will be hoping to match last year’s surprise quarterfinal run. He played well in the lead-up to Wimbledon, winning in Stuttgart before crashing out in Halle to Florian Mayer. Pouille’s second round match-up will be tough against either Denis Shapovalov or Jerzy Janowicz. Both have big games. Shapovalov might be more confident after a good showing at Queen’s Club where he beat Kyle Edmund and then lost a tight three setter to Berdych. Kyrgios has Pierre Hugues-Herbert to start and he’ll be tested if there are any lingering issues with his hip or shoulder. Round two could feature Kyrgios against Benoit Paire who opens against Rogerio Dutra Silva. Paire owns two wins over NK, including one at the 2014 Australian Open. If a seed makes it through to round four, you’d fancy it to be Pouille rather than Kyrgios.

Murray wouldn’t mind that one bit as he’s beaten Pouille four out of four times and all have been in straight sets. The big thing for the Scot will be fitness. He’s battled a hip issue in recent times, but claims to be feeling better. That will play out early I would think with the unorthodox guys he could face testing his movement with their odd-timed shots.

Bottom Half Breakdown (Wawrinka)
Wawrinka had turned the tide of his past Wimbledon failures with successive quarterfinal runs in 2014 and 2015. Last year however brought him back to the land of the early exit as he was taken down in round two by Del Potro. The Swiss again has a difficult draw with up and comer Daniil Medvedev to start. The Russian made three straight quarterfinals in the grass build-up tournaments, including the semifinals last week in Eastbourne. Two things Medvedev has yet to do however are winning a Grand Slam match and beating a top ten player. He’ll attempt both against Wawrinka who has lost in round one five times at Wimbledon.

Survival for Wawrinka in round one would see him meet Tommy Haas or Ruben Bemelmans and perhaps feel better about making a deeper run. Verdasco is seeded to be the third round opponent, but he’s got to get past Kevin Anderson in round one. If he does, you’d like Verdasco’s chances to beat Andreas Seppi or Nortbert Gombos in round two. If it comes down to Wawrinka and Verdasco for a spot in round four, they’re level at 3-3 lifetime and 1-1 on grass. The Swiss does hold the edge at 2-0 in Slams, including a 2015 meeting at Wimbledon.

The other part of this half sees Tsonga as the lead seed along with Querrey. Tsonga takes on Brit Cameron Norrie. Tsonga has a great track record at Wimbledon with a career mark of 28-9. He has had more off years however recently with a second round exit in 2013 and third round exit in 2015. Last year, he did make the quarterfinals. Norrie shouldn’t be much of a bother unless Tsonga is totally off his game and a second round match against Simone Bolelli or Yen-Hsun Lu also looks good for the 12th seed. That could leave him in round three to face Querrey. The American faces Thomas Fabbiano to start and then would see either Carlos Berlocq or Nikoloz Basilashvili.

In what looks to be a fairly weak part of the quarter, it would be a bit surprising not to see Tsonga vs Querrey for a spot in the fourth round.

In spite of the questions we have about Andy Murray heading into Wimbledon, this appears to be a good set-up for him similar to Roland Garros. There, he got off to a solid start and then grew into the tournament and found a rhythm. He will look for the same here and the match-ups should play for him to get to the quarters. It should come down to how healthy the hip is for the top seed. Opposite of him, I think there is room for an uprising. It might not necessarily be an unseeded player who takes the reigns and makes the quarters. Think Querrey or Verdasco, but don’t discount Anderson of Medvedev if they can get off to the shock start.

Projected Quarterfinalists: Murray, Querrey

Quarter #2 Seeds
Rafael Nadal (4)
Marin Cilic (7)
Kei Nishikori (9)
Gilles Muller (16)
Roberto Bautista Agut (18)
Ivo Karlovic (21)
Steve Johnson (25)
Karen Khachanov (30)

Top Half Breakdown (Nadal)
It’s an interesting half of this quarter with Nadal as the lead seed. He’s got big servers/hitters in Muller, Karlovic and Khachanov in this part of the draw. That isn’t great news for Rafa who has struggled against guys who can hit big and paint lines on this surface. Since back-to-back finals appearances in 2010 and 2011, Nadal is just 5-4 at Wimbledon without advancing past round four. He’s lost in the first or second round in three of his last four trips. Granted he is playing with great confidence, but grass is going to be a true test of how his overall game stands. He opens against John Millman who has been tough the last two years here. I don’t think Millman scores the upset, but if Rafa has trouble finding a rhythm on grass, the Aussie could certainly make him work hard.

Round two against either Denis Istomin or Donald Young could prove the tougher spot for Rafa. Neither owns a win against Nadal, but only Istomin has met him on grass and that went three at Queen’s Club back in Nadal’s hey-day when he won Wimbledon in 2010. Istomin’s big, flat ground strokes could prove to be a tough test if he’s up against Nadal. I think the Spaniard would prefer to see Young. Opposite of this spot, it’s Khachanov against Andrey Kuznetsov. That could be a thriller, but Khachanov has the better, bigger game suited to grass. A win would see him against qualifier Andrew Whittington or Thiago Monteiro. Khachanov really has no excuse not to get to round three. Even if Nadal is there, Khachanov could be the fly-in-the-ointment who takes out a top seed.

The other part of this half has Muller and Karlovic as the seeds. Both don’t have easy paths to winning a few matches. Karlovic opens against Aljaz Bedene who has beaten him before and is comfortable on grass. Muller starts with wild card Martin Fucsovics who won a grass court Challenger. If Karlovic survives round one, then he’s got a better second round match-up against either Renzo Olivo or Damir Dzumhur who probably won’t be able to handle his serve. Muller? He could see Lukas Rosol who battles Henri Laaksonen to start. I don’t fancy Muller to make it past round two and there’s a chance Fucsovics could stun him in round one, albeit he will need Muller to have an off day to help.

My surprise in this half of the quarter would be if it doesn’t get blown up with upsets. I feel that this one has the dangerous floaters and big serving/hitting double digit seeds like Karlovic and Khachanov who could make runs.

Bottom Half Breakdown (Cilic)
This part of the quarter also looks as if it could go upside down. Cilic has been in solid form on grass with a trip to the Queen’s Club final and a semifinal showing at the Ricoh Open. His draw is rough though with Philipp Kohlschreiber to start and then either Viktor Troicki or Florian Mayer if he makes it to round two. Kohlschreiber is skilled on grass and will contend if his serve holds up. Troicki owns two wins on grass against Cilic and Mayer’s funky game could give Cilic some problems if that is the match-up. Cilic is going to have to earn every set if he makes it past the first two rounds. Steve Johnson is the player seeded to be in the third round opposite of the Croat and his draw looks good. He starts with Nicolas Kicker and then would see either Facundo Bagnis or Radu Albot in round two. Johnson can’t ask for better match-ups in his favor on this surface. He might need an upset of Cilic to be done before round three to have a shot to advance farther. Cilic has made three straight quarterfinals at Wimbledon though and will still be very difficult to knock out.

In the other portion of this part of the quarter, it’s Nishikori and Bautista Agut as the seeds. Nishikori’s main issue could once again be his body. He bailed out of Halle due to a back issue, the third straight year that he’s done so. Both previous years, NIshikori’s body wound up failing him at Wimbledon – last year in round four and in 2015 in round two. Round one should be okay for the 9th seed against Marco Cecchinato who is more comfortable on clay. It’s round two that could undo Nishikori with either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Julien Benneteau waiting. Bautista Agut should advance out of round one against Adrian Haider-Maurer, but could find it more difficult in round two. He’ll see either Marius Copil or Peter Gojowyczk. Copil beat Gojo in a competitive French Open match in May. Copil is coping with a shoulder issue though that forced him to retire at the Nottingham Challenger in the semifinals. He is a big server and a legit threat on grass if his body holds up. He’d be the more difficult out for RBA.

Cilic has the tougher draw to make a deep run, but I think we all trust him more to do that than we trust Nishikori’s body to hold up. Let’s also remember that this has been Nishikori’s worst Slam with the fourth round as his best finish. If his body holds though, the match-ups get better at least until a potential showdown with Cilic.

If Nadal and Cilic both make it through to the quarterfinals, I will be stunned. I won’t be surprised if Cilic makes it four straight quarterfinals despite the difficult draw. He’s been serving at a high level on grass and has the power to KO even the toughest opponents in his way. I think the surprise comes in Nadal’s half of the quarter. Khachanov is the guy I think could surprise here and he’s seemingly been close to busting out, so perhaps this is his stage. If an unseeded player is going to make a move, it will likely be in Cilic’s half and at Cilic’s expense.

Projected Quarterfinalists: Khachanov, Cilic

Quarter #3 Seeds
Roger Federer (3)
Milos Raonic (6)
Alexander Zverev (10)
Jack Sock (17)
Grigor Dimitrov (13)
John Isner (23)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (25)
Mischa Zverev (27)

Top Half Breakdown (Raonic)
The 2016 finalist heads to Wimbledon without much grass court prep. Raonic lost his lone tune-up match to Kokkinakis at Queen’s Club, although he did little wrong outside of a few points in both tiebreaks. Raonic has found good success at Slams here at Wimbledon with a semifinal showing in 2014 and then last year’s final. He opens with big serving Jan-Lennard Struff. The German is going to make Raonic play well to win. Struff lost to Pouille twice on grass, but extended him to three sets both times in Stuttgart and Halle. Don’t be surprised if Struff extends Raonic to four or five sets. A win would get Raonic a shot against either Mikhail Youzhny or Nicolas Mahut. Mahut’s serve and volley would be the trickier of the two match-ups. Ramos-Vinolas is seeded to meet Raonic in round three, but I’m not counting on it. He meets Jordan Thompson in round one who just beat him on grass. Even if he survives, he could see young Russian Andrey Rublev in round two. Rublev has started to get positive results on grass this summer and he would be a tough out as well if he beats Stefano Travaglia in round one.

The other half of this part of the bracket has Zverev as the lead seed. Sock is also in this part of the draw and despite some very mediocre results in 2017, the American has a nifty draw that could see him get through to round three without a ton of trouble. He faces qualifier Christian Garin to open. Garin had never played on grass before making the main draw through qualifying, so his confidence will get a boost. Sock hasn’t played since a poor showing at the French Open, but he never plays in the pre-Wimbledon swing. Last year’s third round loss to Raonic was his best finish at the All-England Club. With Garin and then either Thomaz Bellucci or Sebastian Offner in round two, Sock should have a chance to match that result. Sascha Zverev opens against Evgeny Donskoy. Donskoy has big ground strokes, so if his serve holds up, he could push the 10th seed a bit. The survivor there gets either Robin Haase or Frances Tiafoe. Tiafoe still doesn’t own a main draw win on grass, while Haase has played reasonably well on grass lately. Remember Haase had a 2-1 lead on Zverev at the Australian Open before Sascha rallied to win in five. That would be an intriguing second rounder.

There are some early tests here for both Raonic and Zverev. I like Raonic’s path a bit better and Sascha still has to prove he can be a deep threat here to me. He made round three last year, losing to Berdych. I think he can equal or better that, but my brain is starting to stick a little bit on how tough Donskoy and Haase could potentially be for him.

Bottom Half Breakdown (Federer)
Federer heads to London with confidence after winning the Halle title. He had the hiccup against Tommy Haas in Stuttgart, but that appears to have been due to rust, so he’ll be expecting to be around at the tail end of the tournament again. He opens with Alexandr Dolgopolov. Dog is 0-3 against Fed and retired at the Ricoh Open. Expect Fed to move on and play either Stefan Tsitsipas or Dusan Lajovic which appears to be another comfortable match-up. Round three might be his first “test” with the survivor of the round one clash between Mischa Zverev and Bernard Tomic favored to be there. Fed just beat Zverev in straights in Halle, his fourth win over Mischa and he’s also 4-0 against Tomic. As long as Fed stays consistent, the fourth round looks like a fairly smooth path.

The other part of this half sees Dimitrov and Isner as the seeds. I’ve touched on Isner already and his struggles this year. He goes against Taylor Fritz in round one and could well be one and done. Whoever survives round one gets Dudi Sela or Marcel Granollers. The Isner-Fritz winner should be expecting to get to the third round. Dimitrov meanwhile opens against Diego Schwartzman, which should allow him for a winning start. The Bulgarian would then face Marcos Baghdatis or James Ward. Baghdatis sucumbed to the sweltering heat in Antalya last week in the semifinals. He also retired in Stuttgart, so his health is a real question. Ward has been derailed by injuries and has not won an ATP match since he made round three at Wimbledon in 2015. Maybe this is his time against a weakened opponent? Either way, Dimitrov might think abou a new line of work if he can’t get through these first two rounds.

Dimitrov has lost in the third round the last two years at Wimbledon since his semifinal rn back in 2014. I think you have to like his chances to get there and probably a step farther to round four where he could meet Federer.

If Raonic can get his serve humming early, I like him to get through a tougher part of this quarter. Federer has the road for success laid out in front of him, it’s up to him to execute his game plan consistently. So far in 2017, there’s been very few times when Fed has failed to do just that.

Projected Quartefinalists: Raonic, Federer

Quarter #4 Seeds
Novak Djokovic (2)
Dominic Thiem (8)
Tomas Berdych (11)
Gael Monfils (15)
Feliciano Lopez (19)
Richard Gasquet (22)
Juan Martin Del Potro (29)
Paolo Lorenzi (32)

Top Half Breakdown (Thiem)
Thiem is still a big question mark on grass for me. Yes, he won the Stuttgart title last season, but outside of that he’s just 7-10 on grass in other tournaments. At Wimbledon, he has yet to find his stride with two straight second round exits after a first round ouster in his 2014 debut. He draws Vasek Pospisil to open in what could be a trendy upset pick. Pop is far removed from the player who made the quarters here in 2015, but he’s got the serve and volley game to trouble Thiem who prefers to hug the baseline. Thiem’s build-up this year was less than stellar with a 1-2 mark and losses to Haase and Ramkumar Ramanathan. If he escapes round one, things could get better with Gilles Simon or Nicolas Jarry in round two. Simon would figure to be tougher, but Thiem is 5-2 against him and has beaten the Frenchman four straight times.

Lorenzi is seeded to be the third round foe in this part of the draw. The Italian is 0-6 at Wimbledon. He opens against Horacio Zeballos who is 0-4 here, so something will give. That should give the winner between Janko Tipsarevic and Jared Donaldson hope of making round three. Tipsarevic hasn’t scored but two wins on grass this year, but his three losses to Cilic, Troicki and Seppi look better than Donaldson’s career results on the greenery. The American has just two career wins on grass and makes his Wimbledon main draw debut. Tipsarevic surprisingly has a terrible record here despite possession a good power game. The Serb is 11-12, but has lost in round one in five of his last six trips.

Opposite of that part of the draw, things look more interesting with seeds Berdych and Gasquet. Berdych opens with a tough one against Jeremy Chardy who hasn’t found a win in four tries against the Czech, but played him close in this same round two years ago. If Berdych advances, he gets Borna Coric or Ryan Harrison. Neither has shown much on grass, but Coric did effort well here last year with two five set matches in two rounds. He beat Stakhovsky and loss to Seppi. Harrison hasn’t won here since 2012 and hasn’t won a main draw ATP match on grass since Eastbourne in 2013. I don’t think either is going to particular worry Berdych in round two. Gasquet has to get by David Ferrer in round one, but grass is a better surface for the Frenchman. A win sets him up against either Steve Darcis or Ricardas Berankis. Darcis has done virtually nothing on grass since his round one shocked over Nadal in 2013 at Wimbledon.

Gasquet-Berdych looks likely in round three. It would be meeting #17 that has gone lopsided in favor of Berdych recently with the Czech taking six of the last seven meetings. Surprisingly though, they have never met on grass. The winner of that potential match would be my favorite to get through to a quarterfinal.

Bottom Half Breakdown (Djokovic)
All hail the Eastbourne champion. The Serb definitely gained some confidence with his run to the title this past week and that should really serve him well. He didn’t beat a bunch of nothings either, so he should feel probably about as good about his game as can be expected. Andre Agassi is expected to be with him for the tournament (we think), so it will be interesting to see what, if any effect that has on Djokovic. As for his draw, he gets Martin Klizan first. That’s a comfortable match-up with Djokovic 3-0 against him and Klizan not much of a threat on grass. A win gets either Ernesto Escobedo or Adam Pavlasek. Escobedo is raw on this surface still, but Pavlasek barely plays on it. The American can win in this spot, but Djokovic should ease through to round three.

The intrigue lies opposite of this with Juan Martin Del Potro opening against Thanasi Kokkinakis. There is no telling if DelPo’s groin is 100 percent, but you’d hope the rest has helped him heal. If he’s fit, then he may simply need to find his rhythm to become an automatic threat in London. You know Djokovic saw his name in the draw and probably got a little uncomfortable. Kokkinakis has the big serve and game to contend with Del Potro, but has his own physical struggles that keep him from being consistent match-to-match. He could spring an upset like he did against Raonic, but fall apart immediately in round two. If DelPo is healthy, I think he’ll survive and then see either Ernests Gulbis or Victor Estrella Burgos. Gulbis hasn’t played on grass since losing in round one here last year to Jack Sock. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t see Djokovic-Del Potro in round three.

In the other part of this half, Monfils and Lopez are the lead seeds. Monfils looked fairly solid in Eastbourne in making the final. La Monf lost in the opening round last year and has never made it past round three at Wimbledon, so he looks challenged to get that done this year. He opens against a dangerous qualifier in Daniel Brands. The German veteran actually owns three wins against Monfils, but those came three or more years ago. Brands did make the fourth round in 2010 and he’s got a big serve. Monfils can’t afford to slack off. The winner gets Kyle Edmund or Alexander Ward. Edmund has lost five straight on grass and has been a disappointing first round exit each year since 2013 at Wimbledon. Ward is playing the main draw for just the second time. Edmund needs to step up and win in this spot, but his confidence may be lacking. The Monfils-Brands winner should be the one to watch into round three.

Lopez has been in marvelous form on grass this summer, a nice return to good things for the three-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist. He’s 9-1 on grass this year with the Queen’s Club title in tow. He draws Adrian Mannarino to start. The Frenchman made the Antalya final, so he’s got some grass game as well. Mannarino did make round four at the All-England Club in 2013, so he can contend against Lopez. The Spaniard has beaten him twice, but their Australian Open match in 2015 was close until Mannarino succumbed to heat exhaustion. The winner gets Antalya champ Yuichi Sugita or Brydan Klein. Sugita has looked much better on grass with the Antalya title and the Surbiton Challenger title on grass this summer. I would be concerned with too many matches on his legs though. He’s played 14 matches on grass with that last week in the heat in Turkey. Klein is 0-2 all-time at Wimbledon, but he’s played a lot on this surface and I would not be surprised if he pulled off the upset over a fatigued Sugita.

Lopez is the one to watch as he carries in some great form and is very comfortable on this surface. Even if he goes toe-to-toe with Monfils, I’d like the Spaniard’s chances of being in the fourth round.

If Del Potro’s groin wasn’t a concern coming in, I’d be more apt to say Djokovic might have more trouble early, but even a healthier DelPo could not beat Novak in three other meetings in 2017. I do like where the Serb is at coming to London though and as long as he doesn’t get off to a slow start and keeps his confidence up, he should be in the quarterfinal mix. A Djokovic-Lopez fourth round match could be much better than the 9-1 head-to-head in favor of the Serb suggests. The guy who could swoop in and take advantage of Djokovic’s tougher road is Berdych.

Projected Quarterfinalists: Berdych, Djokovic


Outside of Federer, the top players in this tournament still have key questions upon arrival. For Murray, it’s whether his hip is an issue and whether his game will be back in rhythm after the early exit at Queen’s Club. For Djokovic, it’s whether his title in Eastbourne signals that everything is moving back into a positive direction or if he’s still prone to getting the yips? And then Nadal obviously will simply have to prove that he can win on grass again.

It’s still very hard to see an outsider claiming the title at Wimbledon, but that seems to be our mantra going into every Grand Slam. I think the closest one could get to an outsider would be someone like Raonic or Cilic. Raonic is the one to keep an eye on for me again this year. He’s got that huge game that can trouble Federer, Djokovic and Murray. The Canadian especially will have a little swagger if he goes against Fed, having beaten the Swiss last year in the semis and in Brisbane earlier in 2016. I think Murray and Djokovic still hold the key edge over him due to their return games, but Fed is obviously not in that elite class of returning.

I think in order right now, I’d say Federer, Djokovic and then Murray as possible winners. Murray could elevate himself a notch if he proves the hip is a non-issue within the first two rounds. If Murray crashes early, Cilic is the guy who could step into the top half of the draw and take control as somewhat of a “surprise” guy. Down on the bottom, it’s harder to see Federer, Djokovic or Raonic not involved in the other spot in the final. I’ll go Andy-Novak with about two percent confidence!

2017 Wimbledon Preview: Historical Analysis of Seeds, Qualifiers & Wild Cards


Wimbledon 2017: Is the Narrative Any Different?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That seems to be the mantra when it comes to Grand Slams and Wimbledon has been no different. In spite of several high profile upsets in the past five years or so, the business end at the All-England Club still comes down to those familiar names: Federer. Murray. Djokovic. Just one time since 2003 has that not been the case and his name was Rafael Nadal in 2010. There will be plenty of talk again about the perceived vulnerability of both Djokovic and Murray, although Novak has done some good this week in Eastbourne to squash that with a run to the title.

There will be intrigue about Rafael Nadal in a season of resurgence for the Spaniard. One in which he is coming off his 10th French Open title and his record stands at a stout 43-6. One in which he has yet to play on grass and a career that has derailed at Wimbledon since his 2010 triumph and 2011 finals trip. In the past five years at the All-England Club, Rafa has lost in the first or second round in three of his four trips to London. And the the conversation will inevitably circle back around to the top dog, Roger Federer. He of the 18 career Grand Slam wins and the same man who turns 36 next month, yet arguably is playing the best tennis of his career in 2017.

That’s where the conversation starts. This preview starts focused more on the numbers, the seeds in particular. It gives insight into how top heavy Grand Slams usually are at the end of the day. The “outsiders” who crash the party at the end as unseeded players are few and far between. The seeds don’t all hold up of course and without much doubt even the top ten seeds will see an upset or two within the first few days. So let’s take a look at how the 32 seeds have done over the past five years at Wimbledon to give us some clues in our hunt for those upsets and the best bets to be around when the latest champion is crowned.

The Exodus Doesn’t Always Start Early

It has been three straight years at Wimbledon that a top ten seed has not lost in round one. After a run from 2010-2013 that saw six seeds in the top eleven lose in their openers, not a single seed within the top 16 seeds has been ousted in round one from 2014-2016. The highest seed to lose in round one a year ago was (17) Gael Monfils. In 2015, it was 19th seed Tommy Robredo who was the highest seed gone in round one and 2014’s earliest exit belonged to 18th seeded Fernando Verdasco.


In the last two years, only four seeds have been taken down in round one each year. In 2014 that number was six. The larger number of seeded upsets in round one was coming in the years between 2010-2013 when at least seven seeds went down in three of those four years. Twice, eight seeds were done in round one in that span. Interestingly, round two has been a bigger danger spot for top ten seeds in recent times. In three of the last four trips to the All-England Club, two top ten seeds have been dumped out in round two. The one year that missed that trend, 2014, three top 13 seeds lost in round two. So if you’re looking to hit big on an upset, round two is your better try.

Early Bird Specials

4. Rafael Nadal
Nadal simply has to be on this list because of his recent history at this event. Perhaps his rediscovered game in 2017 will be immune to a letdown here, but the surface still does not play to Rafa’s strengths. He opens with John Millman. The Aussie doesn’t seem to fit the heavy hitter who has taken Rafa down early at Wimbledon, but he’s played well here the last few years. In 2016, he made the third round and in 2015, he lost a tough five set match to Marcos Baghdatis in round two. If Nadal can’t find a rhythm in round one, Millman has the tools to push him.

Round two might be the bigger risk though with Donald Young or Denis Istomin waiting. Young hasn’t been great on grass, but he does have confidence after back-to-back quarterfinal runs at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne. Istomin’s big hitting, flat style looks to be the bigger threat, but he’s had trouble picking up wins really all year since his historic win over Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. That alone though will be red alert for Rafa. Nadal will like his 5-0 mark against Istomin, although their most competitive match came on grass at Queen’s Club in 2010 – the same year Rafa won Wimbledon.

5. Stan Wawrinka
A lot of attention will be paid to Wawrinka’s first round encounter with Daniil Medvedev and rightfully so. The Russian has been on a roll on grass this season with three straight quarterfinal or better finishes. Stan only played Queen’s Club and lost in his first match to Feliciano Lopez, but a lack of grass prep is not new for the Swiss. He rarely does well in the pre-Wimbledon buildup and grass is still his worst surface results-wise. To that point, he lost in round two at Wimbledon last year to Juan Martin Del Potro. That broke a string of two straight quarterfinal finishes which were preceeded by three first round losses in the previous four years. The “off” year was a second round exit.

Medvedev is likely to be a popular upset pick over Wawrinka by many and if his serve and shoulder hold up, it’s not unthinkable. If you’re going deeper and looking for that tricky round two that often is the bigger bite – it could be Tommy Haas or Ruben Bemelmans. Haas will be playing in his final Wimbledon and what better way to say goodbye then with a big scalp of one of the premier players in tour? Haas owns two wins over Wawrinka in two tries, but none have come since 2014.

We know Haas had the big upset of Federer in Stuttgart to start the grass court season this summer, but some of that has to be attributed to Roger’s lengthy downtime. Still, there will be confidence from that and he has not looked over matched in any of his grass court matches in the past few weeks. The Belgian qualifier Bemelmans also shouldn’t be glazed over. He is competent and experienced on this surface. Keep the Stanimal on upset alert for two rounds at least.

7. Marin Cilic
Cilic has been in good form on grass this summer with a 6-2 record, including a finals loss at Queen’s Club to Feliciano Lopez. The draw however puts Cilic on this list. The Croat has Philipp Kohlschreiber to open with in round one. Cilic is 6-3 against the German, but Kohlschreiber won their most recent meeting in 2016 indoors at Rotterdam. Kohlschreiber has been a threat on this surface, but mostly in the German-based tournaments. At Wimbledon, he hasn’t been past round two since a quarterfinal run in 2012.

So again, round two could be more dangerous with Viktor Troicki or Florian Mayer waiting. Cilic is 6-5 against Troicki, but the Serb has taken both grass court meetings (2015). Cilic and Mayer have split four career meetings. The lone grass court clash came at Wimbledon in round one in 2010 with Mayer winning in straight sets. Cilic will earn anything he gets in London.

8. Dominic Thiem
The Austrian belongs on this list because he’s still over scheduling and he’s still a questionable threat on grass. At Wimbledon, he’s yet to get beyond the second round. This year, he’s got a tough opener against Vasek Pospisil. The one-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist scored a few wins during the grass build-up tournaments and will be hoping that his confidence carries over. He should feel reasonably good, having beaten Thiem in their only career meeting. That came on clay in 2015 in Munich, a surface that suits Thiem much more so than Pospisil.

If Thiem survives round one, he could be in better shape to set a personal best at Wimbledon. His second round opponent would be either Nicolas Jarry or Gilles Simon. He’s 5-2 against Simon, having beaten the Frenchman four straight times. Jarry is in his first main draw at Wimbledon and still searching for his maiden Grand Slam win.

9. Kei Nishikori
Mr.Fragile heads into another Slam with injury questions after retiring in Halle with a back injury. It’s become customary for Kei as it was his third straight season bailing out of the Gerry Weber Open due to back issues. That’s been a bad sign for Nishikori who ultimately retired each of the past two years at Wimbledon. Last year he did manage to get to the fourth round, but 2014 saw him duck out in round two. It was a rib problem that got him in 2016 and a calf problem in 2015. Likely, both stemmed from the back issue that took him down in Halle before Wimbledon.

Round one may not be the issue for Nishikori either with Italian Marco Cecchinato up first. This will be Cecchinato’s first match on grass and doesn’t suit his game well. He’s better on clay and even hard courts where he can use his speed to defend. If Nishikori isn’t hurting still, I doubt round one is his exit point. Round two however will be a test. He’ll face either Julien Benneteau or Sergiy Stakhovsky. Stakhovky has beaten Nishikori twice, but both meetings were back in 2011. Nishikori took down Benneteau in four sets last year at Wimbledon and is 4-1 against him.I’d put Nishikori on the lighter side of the upset potential, but you have to monitor him due to the injury history.

Other Seeds On Upset Alert

20. Nick Kyrgios
Lingering hip and shoulder issues keep Kyrgios in the early upset watch in London. He did play at the Boodles exhibition after retiring at Queen’s Club against Donald Young with the hip as the problem. He beat Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-4 at Boodles, so perhaps he’s going to be fine. NK matches up against Pierre-Hugues Herbert in round one. PHH might be better known for his doubles play, but that is part of what makes him dangerous – his volleying skills. If Hugues-Herbert serves well to match Kyrgios, his serve and volley style can challenge Kyrgios to provide his best tennis to win.

21. Ivo Karlovic
Aljaz Bedene battles Karlovic in round one. The Brit has three wins over the #21 seed with two coming via retirement. Karlovic is a pretty good serve and volley guy on grass and he did make the Ricoh Open final this season. If Karlovic channels his form from earlier this summer on grass then he should be fine, but it’s been an inconsistent season. That means Bedene might have a shot.

23. John Isner
Taylor Fritz is the competition in round one. With Isner, you know anyone who can serve big is going to have a shot to keep the match close and perhaps steal some sets. Isner has not looked very strong this summer, so Fritz could get himself his maiden Grand Slam win if he can bring his serve consistently. It was popping in qualis, so the #NextGen (barf) could become the #NOWGen with a win over Isner.

25. Albert Ramos-Vinolas
The Spaniard made the third round at Wimbledon last year for the first time, but grass is still obviously not his best surface. Couple that with a tough opening match-up against Jordan Thompson and ARV could be sent packing early. Thompson scored his biggest career win in upsetting Andy Murray at Queen’s Club this year. He also made a Challenger final on grass, so he appears to be growing with his game on grass. That means he is dangerous and will arrive confident

27. Mischa Zverev
A repeat of this past week’s match in Eastbourne where Tomic easily worked past Zverev 6-3, 6-3. A lot of people still back Zverev as a game changer on this surface because of his serve and volley tactics, but he has really struggled to win on grass in non-German tournaments. This is his first trip back to the main draw at Wimbledon since 2011. Tomic hasn’t lost in the opening round here since 2012. It may be tough to beat the same player two weeks in a row, but it’s also a big confidence builder to have easily beaten that same player. Keep an eye on this one.

29. Juan Martin Del Potro
No grass prep for Del Potro due to a nagging groin injury which is a little bit troublesome. He starts with Thanasi Kokkinakis which might be a good thing. Even though Kokkinakis scored an impressive upset of Raonic at Queen’s Club, his consistency still isn’t quite there due to some nagging soreness from shoulder issues. In a best of three, the Aussie might have a chance to stick it to DelPo with his serve. In a best of five, I think it’s going to be difficult as long as Del Potro is fit. Now if DelPo isn’t 100 percent fit either, then this is a war of attrition that could go the distance and go to either guy.

31. Fernando Verdasco
This is mostly match-up based with Kevin Anderson as his first round foe. Anderson hasn’t done much to inspire confidence in 2017, but his big serving style can do damage on grass. Verdasco leads to head-to-head 3-2, but it was Anderson winning against him on grass last year. The Spaniard has not been able to escape the opening round two of the last three years and will be pressed to play consistently to win this year.

Outsider’s Edge

Our seed history chart shows that there have been a few outsiders crashing the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in recent history. Last year was the first time since 2012 that seeds comprised all eight quarterfinal slots. In five of the last seven years, at least one unseeded player has made it to the quarterfinals. That has been the stopping point however with no unseeded players advancing farther since 2008 when both Marat Safin and Rainier Schuettler did the trick.

It’s difficult to pluck an unseeded player out of the draw who might make noise simply because of the large field and multiple scenarios that usually have to happen in order for the unseeded player to move on. Still, we can identify the spots in the draw that MIGHT present chances to some. Here’s a look at each quarter and potential scenarios to see non-seeds advance deep through the tournament.

Quarter #1
Stan Wawrinka’s half of the quarter offers some opportunity for the unseeded players. It starts with Wawrinka’s opener against Daniil Medvedev. A second round opponent would be Tommy Haas or Ruben Bemelmans. Haas is playing in his final Wimbledon and he’s been competitive on grass this season, including the famous win over Federer in Stuttgart. The other seeds here also don’t arrive with a ton of confidence.

(12) Tsonga went 1-1 at Queen’s Club and lost in round one at the French Open, his first Grand Slam R1 exit since 2007. (24) Querrey stunned by making his first Slam quarterfinal here last year, including the shock win over Djokovic. This year, he went 2-2 in the grass build-up. That’s not a negative as he didn’t do a ton right before Wimbledon last year either. (31) Verdasco draws a tough assignment with Kevin Anderson in round one as I talked about above. Anderson won their only grass court match last year in Nottingham.

Wawrinka and Verdasco’s portion of this quarter could open up with an early upset and that looks the likeliest route for an unseeded player to make a run.

Quarter #2
Nadal’s quarter for me is the one that looks more likely to open up. The top seeds all have questions from Nadal’s recent struggles at Wimbledon to Nishikori’s health to Cilic’s match-ups. It might not necessarily be a non-seed who surprises here as one of the lower seeds, #30 Karen Khachanov, could be one to watch. The Russian is still green on the green, making his Wimbledon main draw debut this year. Still, he showed his strength in Halle with a semifinal run and could be a threat regardless of whether Nadal is able to find success or not.

The bottom half of the corner with Nishikori and Cilic looks like it’s one early upset from opening up for the right taker. The Viktor Troicki-Florian Mayer winner could be a non-seed to contend with, but also pay attention to a lower seed like (25) Steve Johnson. He’d probably need Cilic to lose early to have a realistic shot at making a deep run.

Quarter #3
This is the one where most won’t see a non-seed making the quarterfinals with Federer and Raonic as the lead seeds. Toss in that the unseeded players who might offer the most trouble like Bernard Tomic or Robin Haase are stuck with very difficult routes to success. They’d likely need multiple upsets and in this quarter, that’s a longer shot than others.

Quarter #4
The top half of this quarter with 8th seeded Dominic Thiem looks like the speed bump spot. Thiem opens with Vasek Pospisil who presents a challenge right away. If Thiem survives though, he faces easier matches after that. The bottom half has a strong seeded field led by Djokovic, Gael Monfils, Feliciano Lopez and Juan Martin Del Potro. It seems unlikely this part of the draw produces an unseeded quarterfinalist.

Deep Impact: Qualifiers & Wild Cards

Qualifiers and wild cards have a good recent history at Wimbledon of finding the middle rounds of the tournament. Every year since 2011, at least one qualifier has managed to get to round three. That has been the cutoff point for qualifiers. The last two years, qualifiers have gone just 6-10 in round one matches. Those numbers were on the winning side of the ledger in 2012 (10-6) and 2013 (9-7), but have seen qualifiers with a losing round one record in three straight seasons.

Wild cards have traditionally done more damage than qualifiers. They have made some big runs with two of those coming in the past three years. In 2015, American wild card Denis Kudla surprised by getting to the fourth round and the year before, it was Aussie Nick Kyrgios who claimed a quarterfinal slot as a wild card. Overall, wild card entries have seen at least one spot in the round of 32 in three of the past five years. Last year was a low for wild cards with just a 1-5 mark in round one. They had been 8-8 in the previous two years in 2014 and 2015.

So, let’s hunt down this year’s candidates to do a little damage from the quali field as well as the wild card entries. Wild cards look a bit harder to see making noise this year, but I spy at least one who you can root for to put a scare into some higher ranked players.

(WC) Tommy Haas
That is the 39-year-old German, who is giving it one last go at the All-England Club, where he has only played once since 2014. The German made one big run at Wimbledon with a semifinal finish in 2009, but otherwise has been a bit mediocre here mostly. Still, he’s in the part of the draw where he could benefit from an upset of Stan Wawrinka in round one by Daniil Medvedev. Even if Wawrinka doesn’t lose, Haas could still like his chances of getting to round three against the Swiss who has lost in round one or two in five of the last seven years here. He has to beat Bemelmans first though and the Belgian is no slouch on this surface.

(Q) Lukas Rosol
The Czech is a long time removed from his 15 minutes when he beat Rafael Nadal in round two back in 2012. Still, he’s been a tough out at Wimbledon for years and may finally have some confidence coming into the week after running through qualis. He has a winnable opener against Henri Laaksonen who has never won a main draw grass match at this level. A win for Rosol and he’d see either 16th seed Gilles Muller or wild card Martin Fucsovics. Don’t assume it will be Muller who has lost in round one at Wimbledon four times in nine trips. Even if it is, Muller has only made the third round twice at this tournament and Rosol’s game matches his fairly well.

*Keep an eye on (WC) Martin Fucsovics. I’m not as enamored with his ability to spring a round one upset against Muller, but he won a grass Challenger and will bring some confidence to that match-up.

(Q) Sergiy Stakhovsky
It seems like we’re revisiting all the “biggest upsets of the decade at Wimbledon” here doesn’t it? Stakhovsky has never been able to follow up his colossal upset of Roger Federer in 2013, but like Rosol, he’s typically been a difficult out. He opens against fellow-qualifier Juliean Benneteau who he is 3-1 against. A win would get Stak a look at 9th seed Kei Nishikori who he is 2-0 against, albeit both wins came years ago and don’t have much bearing now. Still, Nishikori is a health question again and Stakhovsky can hit big and still knows how to serve and volley on this surface. He’ll be a threat if he makes it to round two to get a round deeper or more with Bautista Agut as the other seed in the area.

*Don’t discount Benneteau if he wins. His numbers aren’t great against Nishikori, but he’s been pretty good on grass this summer.

(Q) Andrey Rublev
The 19-year-old Russian picked a good time to get on a roll on grass. The Russian scored his first main draw wins on the surface in Halle beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Mikhail Youzhny, before falling to Khachanov in three. He was solid in qualis and goes against qualifier Stefano Travaglia who is also making his main draw debut at Wimbledon. A win could get Rublev another match against Ramos-Vinolas with a reasonable shot to get to round three.

(Q) Taylor Fritz
The American has a first round “showdown” with 23rd seed John Isner and it’s easy to see that one could come down to a few key points in tiebreaks if Fritz matches Isner’s serve. He may not even have to be perfect with Isner looking less than solid in his losses to Cilic and Gasquet on grass this summer. Isner barely got past Dusan Lajovic in three sets at Eastbourne to get his lone grass court win this year. An upset by Fritz and he’s set up well for a legit shot at round three with either Dudi Sela or Marcel Granollers waiting in round two.

Is that enough information? For today, yes. Don’t fret though as I’ll be breaking down the entire men’s draw quarter-by-quarter as well with my whimsical predictions. So be sure to keep following @tennispig or subscribe to the blog, so you don’t miss a word on Wimbledon.