2017 Wimbledon Draw Preview

WIMBLEDONPREV17

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.

Predictions
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.

Predictions
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.

Predictions
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.

Predictions
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

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …

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

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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.

WIMBLEDON17seedreport

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.

2017 AEGON Championships Final Preview: Marin Cilic vs Feliciano Lopez

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The title at Queen’s Club comes down to fourth seed Marin Cilic and unseeded Feliciano Lopez. Cilic won the title in London back in 2012 and made the final the following year. Lopez is back in the AEGON Championships final for the first time since 2014. He’s seeking his first title of 2017, while Cilic is looking for number two.

(4) Marin Cilic vs Feliciano Lopez

If there was a top four seed that advanced to a final with less fanfare than Marin Cilic, let me know. The big serving Croat was kind of lost in the shuffle with Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic ahead of him. All Cilic has done this week is dominate on serve. His semifinal against Gilles Muller featured the first break chances against his serve all week. He dished out two and was able to save one in the 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win. The fourth seed was crushing it with his first serve taking 91 percent of the points as he racked up 20 aces. For the week, Cilic;s lowest win rate on first serve was 85 percent against Donald Young in the quarterfinals. Overall, he has won 121 of the 131 points played off his first serve. Those are truly amazing numbers and leaves little doubt as to how he’s worked his way into this final.

As for Lopez, he too went the distance in the semifinals. After a superb opening set, the Spaniard’s level dropped a bit as Dimitrov rallied back to even the match. The final set was all Lopez though as he broke Dimitrov twice late and forced ten break chances in the set. The lefty secured the win 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. Lopez again was mostly untouchable on serve, winning 87 percent of his first serves and 55 percent of his second serves. He did not however get as many freebies in this one with only four aces. The Spaniard was averaging just over 15 aces per match through the first three rounds.

Croatian Domination

This head-to-head series has been one-sided with Cilic winning the last four in a row and taking five of seven overall. The last meeting came at the French Open with Cilic cruising to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win. They’ve met twice on grass with both meetings coming at Queen’s Club. Last year, Cilic survived 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In 2013, the Croat also came out on top via a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 scoreline. Included in the four match win streak is a straight sets win for Cilic in Cincinnati in 2014.

The formula for his wins has been pretty simple. He’s served just a bit better than Lopez in the majority of the matches outside of the 2013 Queen’s Club performance. They were about dead even in that one with Lopez actually tallying two more points overall. The killer that day was double faults with the Spaniard committing seven. Despite the losses, Lopez should have some confidence as he has been able to find a way to break Cilic multiple times in most of those matches.

Strategy Session

Broken record time; this match for both will be serve centric. It’s grass and with guys who can wallop the ball like Cilic and Lopez, we know that serve is going to be an essential and large part of the winning formula. Cilic as laid out earlier has been almost untouchable with his first serve this week. It’s going to take something special from Lopez on return to be able to crack Cilic on Sunday. I think a key factor for the Spaniard is going to be patience on return. There are likely going to be plenty of times where he’s barely going to get the racquet on the ball or Cilic is going to easily ace him. He has to be mentally tough in knowing that he’s going to have to move onto the next point when that happens and wait for his opportunity.

With his own serve, Lopez is going to have to bring consistency from the first ball to the last. I think he’s done that for the most part this week, but there was a bit more of a noticeable dip against Dimitrov in the second set on Saturday. He can’t afford that against Cilic if Cilic is continuing to obliterate the ball on his first serve. If Lopez matches Cilic, then a big deciding factor in this match could be tiebreaks. Cilic has yet to play one this week and lost all three he played last week at the Ricoh Open. Lopez has played four tiebreaks this week, winning three of them. On grass this season, he is 4-4 in breakers. A bit surprisingly, these two have played just four tiebreaks out of the 19 sets they have played against each other. They split those 2-2.

When serves aren’t making ground rallies irrelevant, you’ll see Cilic employing a bit more aggressive approach at coming to the net. He’s made a point to do that a bit more on grass and it’s working so far. Lopez of course has long been able to do that as one of the better volleyers thanks to his experienced doubles play. That will make this match-up a bit different than last year’s when Cilic rarely came to net. Lopez’s reaction to those moments will be big in this one as he’ll have to be ready for something other than strict baseline tennis from the Croat.

Off the ground, there is no doubt the forehands from both players are at the top of their arsenals. Cilic has a big wind-up on his forehand, but it doesn’t deter him from success due to great timing off that wing. The wind-up of course only adds a ton of power to that shot. His backhand, although not talked about as much, is a solid shot. The two handed approach allows Cilic to again ramp up the power. Lopez brings much the same off the forehand side with a big whipping shot that packs a ton of power. Off the backhand side though, he often opts for using a one handed slice to change up court positioning. It’s an effective weapon when he hits it with accuracy.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Cilic has had Lopez’s number lately and has been superb this week in London. I think it will take something special from Lopez on serve and in return to score the upset. The Spaniard has the goods to take a set off of Cilic as he’s shown before, but I think the end result is another win for the Croat.

Prediction: Cilic wins in three sets

2017 AEGON Championships SF Preview: Grigor Dimitrov vs Feliciano Lopez

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Grigor Dimitrov bids for his first final in four months, while Feliciano Lopez can make it two straight weeks in finals with a win. The two hook up for the fourth time in their careers with a spot in the AEGON Championships final as the prize. This marks the third time they have met on grass at Queen’s Club.

(6) Grigor Dimitrov vs Feliciano Lopez

Dimitrov continued his run at Queen’s Club with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals. It was perhaps Dimitrov’s worst match of the week, lacking the bite on serve that he had produced the previous two rounds. He still slammed down nine aces, but his win rates of 70 percent on his first serve and 55 percent on his second serve were down sharply. He was broken three times on six break chances after being broken just once in the prior two matches. Perhaps Dimitrov was thrown off his game in warm-ups when Medvedev injured his shoulder and that got into this head. Either way, he’ll need to produce better against Lopez.

As for Lopez, he continued his grass assault with a second straight win in two weeks over Tomas Berdych. Lopez outlasted the Czech 7-6 (5), 6-7 (1), 7-5 to advance to a second straight semifinal on grass. The Spanish grass assassin was powerful again with his first serve, taking 91 percent of the points. He struggled slightly on his second serve, taking just 48 percent of the points after winning 69 percent through the first two rounds. The lefty walloped 18 aces and was broken just once one one break point. Lopez has not been broken in the previous two rounds.

The Greatest Show on Grass

These two are meeting for the fourth time overall and for the third time on grass. All three of those grass court meetings will have taken place at this tournament. In 2010, Lopez demolished Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4 with Dimitrov returning the favor in a barn burner in 2014. Dimitrov edged that contest 6-7 (8), 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6). Dimitrov would add a second win over Lopez last year in Cincinnati with another three set win in a tiebreak.

In the two Dimitrov wins, he’s done just enough on return to make a slight difference. There have been a ton of aces between the two in the last two meetings. Dimitrov has tallied 43 to 33 for Lopez. On grass, you can expect plenty of aces likely again on Saturday. Dimitrov has rolled up 30 this week. Lopez has 46 and is averaging 13 aces per match on grass this season. Both these guys have good grass court numbers with Lopez now 70-37 on grass, including 7-1 this year. Dimitrov is 31-20, but has seen some fantastic results on the green stuff. That includes his first career Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon in 2014 and the Queen’s Club title in 2014.

Stratego

There’s nothing new to report that on grass, serve is an even larger factor than usual. Both players have been mostly in rhythm this week on serve with Dimitrov producing a bit of an off-performance today. Lopez has been brilliant the last two weeks with his big lefty serve helping key him to easy points or aggressive starts to short rallies. Lopez and Dimitrov both have not shied away from playing baseline tennis on grass and that’s one thing that stuck out in watching some highlights from their encounter at Queen’s Club in 2014.

In that match, Dimitrov targeted Lopez’s backhand again and again with the Spaniard using his slice return over and over to try to get more looks off his forehand or to put Dimitrov in poor court positions. Dimitrov however was up to the task and came to the net at opportune times to shut down alleys for Lopez. His volleying in that match was superb. Lopez

From a pure shot for shot standpoint, Lopez’s forehand is fierce and perhaps the biggest difference maker off the ground. Dimitrov however can bring so many different looks off the backhand side to switch things up, from the one hander to a slice, and he hits it from all angles. His backhand wing was a massive factor in his two wins over Lopez. If he mixes and matches well again, he’ll be tough to beat. His forehand is steady, but not quite the laser shot that Lopez can produce.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

This is definitely tough to call. Lopez is in great form on grass the last two weeks with only a finals loss to Lucas Pouille last week in Stuttgart as a blemish on his record. Dimitrov has built on some good tennis early in this tournament, but needs to show more than he did against Medvedev. Dimitrov is just 1-2 against lefties this year, though they haven’t been a major bother in his career (34-19). The last lefty he saw was Guido Pella in Miami, so there is a chance he could take a set to grow into this match before getting completely settled into his game.

Lopez has racked up a lot of court time in the last two weeks, although he wasn’t taxed much this week until the Berdych match and he came through. I think these two could play ten matches on grass and probably split them evenly. They are that close in skill level and Lopez certainly has the edge in current confidence and form. I expect another competitive battle and this could go the distance again at Queen’s Club.

It took Pouille a really great effort to take down Lopez last week and I think Dimitrov has to put forward something similar to knock off the Spaniard. Not overly confident in picking a winner, but I’ll stick with the hot hand in Lopez.

Prediction: Lopez wins in three sets

2017 Mercedes Open Final Preview: Lucas Pouille vs Feliciano Lopez

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Lucas Pouille vies for his first grass court title, while Feliciano Lopez is hoping to bring home this third. They meet in the final of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.

(4) Lucas Pouille vs Feliciano Lopez

Pouille played perhaps his best match of the tournament in the quarterfinals. He edged Benoit Paire 7-6 (5), 7-5. Pouille was not broken on serve for the first time, allowing just two break points. He was crisp with his first serve, winning 86 percent of the points and also a rock solid 65 percent off his second. The fourth seed also crushed 13 aces. He came up big in the tiebreak and then converted his lone break chance of the match late in set two in order to set himself up with a chance to close the match on serve. Pouille did just that at-love to secure a spot in his third ATP final this season.

Lopez battled in similar fashion against Mischa Zverev. Despite not allowing a break chance against his serve, the Spaniard found himself down after dropping the opening set in a tiebreak. Lopez would edge the second set in a breaker and then find his lone break of Zverev’s serve in the third to complete a 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4), 7-5 win. Lopez slammed 15 aces in the match and won 78 percent of the points off his first serve and 76 percent off is second.

Third Chapter in Competitive Rivalry

This will be the third time that Pouille and Lopez have met since the start of last season. They split a pair of matches indoors last season. Lopez won the first in Vienna 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. Pouille returned the favor in Paris taking the Spaniard down 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-3. Pouille was dominant on serve, punishing Lopez with 21 aces. The Frenchman would win 89 percent of his first serve points in that Paris meeting. In Vienna, neither player was that sharp on serve. Lopez was forced to save six of eight break chances, while Pouille saved seven of nine. Pouille actually won more points that Lopez for the match (105-103). That shows just how close these two have played in their previous meetings.

This time on grass, you would expect that to slightly favor the more experienced Lopez. The Spaniard has won two previous titles, both in Eastbourne, on this surface and is now 67-36 on grass during his career. Pouille is contesting his first-ever final on grass with a 7-5 mark now on the green stuff. One advantage Pouille could have is that he’s already played in two finals this season, winning a title on clay in Budapest and losing indoors in Marseille. Lopez is making his first finals appearance in 2017 and first since winning a title in Gstaad on clay last season.

Match Tactics

Serve will of course be a big key on grass. Both men have been pounding the ball on serve this week with Lopez the more consistent of the two. The Spaniard has only been broken three times all tournament with two straight matches without being broken. Pouille was broken twice in each of his first two matches and allowed 18 break points in the first two rounds. Lopez has allowed just 17 through all four matches. Pouille will be hoping that his performance against Paire can carry over as he’ll need a sharp serve to contend with Lopez toe-for-toe on grass.

Pouille is still far more comfortable from the baseline, but he’s shown smart timing this week on when to come to net. Against Paire, there were a lot of baseline exchanges, but Pouille also did a superb job of coming to net when he put Paire off-balance with big serves or ground strokes. He did a nice job finishing those points at the net, but will need to be sharper against a great net player in Lopez.

The plus for Pouille if he watches the tape from the Lopez-Zverev semifinal is that Zverev’s consistent use of the serve and volley really put the pressure on Lopez to make great passing shots consistently. That’s not exactly Pouille’s wheelhouse to employ the serve and volley constantly like Mischa did, but it’s a smart tactic as Lopez knows fully. I think it may actually be more comfortable for Lopez against Pouille knowing that he’s not going to see the serve and volley almost every time like he did against Zverev.

Obviously, Lopez will challenge Pouille to come to the net and prove that he can make volleys over and over as that is a good, but not great part of Pouille’s game. I think the lefty will bank on Pouille not being able to repeat that feat with consistency. The Spaniard will look to exploit Pouille’s consistency there and of course look to use his powerful serve to push Pouile back on the court. When he does that, it’s Lopez’s time to come in and finish some quick 1-2 punches for short points.

When the two do go strictly baseline-to-baseline, Lopez will use his backhand slice to try to keep points going in order to run around to his forehand. Pouille is pretty adept off both wings with the forehand still being a better power shot consistently. His backhand shouldn’t be underestimated though with the two hander packing a nice wallop from the back of the court. Pouille can hit it down the line or cross court effectively. Lopez’s job will be to keep Pouille off balance by moving him and not letting Pouille set up to grip and rip those ground strokes.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

This is an intriguing final with Pouille searching for that first grass court title. This has already been a very good week for him and I think he is showing that Wimbledon was no fluke last year. Lopez, at age 35, never knows how many more shots he’ll get to win titles. He didn’t have a great grass season in 2016, so this is a good sign for him and he’s beaten some really good players in a variety of ways.

I think in a best of seven on this surface, you might see a seven match series. They’re both that good and that close to even in my mind. I like Lopez just slightly in this one. I just think he’s slightly more versatile and consistent on the surface and he’s found a way to win against tough players this week even when they’ve been just as good. Pouille won’t be a shock winner if he pulls this off. This looks like it could go the distance again between these two.

Prediction: Lopez wins in three sets