2017 U.S. Open Preview: Quarter #2

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Seeds
Roger Federer (3)
Dominic Thiem (6)
Roberto Bautista Agut (11)
Nick Kyrgios (14)
Juan Martin Del Potro (24)
Adrian Mannarino (30)
Feliciano Lopez (31)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (33)

Federer’s Challenge Both Physical and On-Court

Federer returns to New York after missing the Open in 2016. He has not won the title here since 2008, but has won the title five times. In his last trip in 2016, Fed made the final, but was a four set loser to Novak Djokovic. Most expected the Swiss to be considered the front runner based on his extraordinary play this season and he’s definitely still one of the top choices to take home the title. However, a problematic back that flared up again at the Rogers Cup has added a question mark ahead of the Swiss’ arrival on court. Fed was smart to skip Cincinnati to rest up and the hope will be that the back is not an issue over the next two weeks. With the best of five format, it will be important for Federer to take care of business swiftly in the early rounds.

On top of the physical concerns, the draw in his quarter has some players capable of stunning Federer with power and precision. Kyrgios and Del Potro loom as the largest threats to do that, but also have their own fitness concerns in these elongated matches. Thiem is someone who won’t be shy facing Federer with two wins against the Swiss in three tries. Thiem’s baseline game is something that could rattle Federer if it’s working, but expect the Swiss to try and continue his quick and aggressive tactics as much as possible. The players who would seem to trouble him most would be someone like Kyrgios who can put a lot of pressure on the Fed serve to match his own massive serve.

Top Half Could See Good Start for Federer, Trouble Later

Federer gets young American Frances Tiafoe to being the tournament. You’ll hear a lot of chatther from the talking heads that will puff up Tiafoe’s resume since he beat Alexander Zverev in Cincinnati. While you give Tiafoe credit for securing his first top ten win, clearly, Zverev was out of gas after two long weeks prior to that tournament. Against Federer, Tiafoe will need to start fast and serve extremely well. I can Tiafoe taking a set early as Federer tries to work his way into a rhythm, but over five sets, I think Federer gets the job done. The second round should get easier with either Blaz Kavcic or Mikhail Youzhny. Youzhny has always been a comfortable match-up for Federer to the tune of 16-0 for the Swiss.

The third round is seeded for Federer to see Feliciano Lopez, but that looks doubtful. Lopez has a tough opener against Andrey Kuznetsova and then would faec either Fernando Verdasco or Vasek Pospisil. The Verdasco-Pospisil first rounder could be very good albeit with two players far from playing their best right now. I think the winner there might have a leg up to get to round three. So long as the back isn’t an issue. the match-ups for Federer are favorable at least through to the fourth round. That is where the intrigue lies opposite of Federer in this half with Kyrgios and Kohlschreiber as the seeds.

Kyrgios showed once again in Cincinnati how dangerous he can be when he’s rocking and rolling with that serve. His fitness is always a concern and the shoulder and hip problems that plagued him during different points this season are seemingly always on his mind. You like his first two rounds with the opener against John Millman and then either Malek Jaziri or Thiago Monteiro. You also know they can be scary against a player who openly admits that it’s hard to get up for non-marquee matches. I do still think he gets to round three if his body holds up. That would match his best result here and perhaps get him past a mental block before a potential Federer showdown the next round.

Kohlschreiber is a veteran who is usually solid from the baseline, which is good at this tournament. The German has lost in round one twice since 2011, last year due to injury. That broke a string of third round or better results from 2012-2015. He opens with qualifier Tim Smyczek and the winner gets either Vincent Millot or Santiago Giraldo. Kohlshchreiber has been a first round casualty at the last two Slams, but should have a chance to win a few here and set up a clash with Kyrgios in round three.

Bottom Half Could Upen Up With Upsets

The bottom half of this quarter features Thiem and Bautista Agut as the lead seeds. Also sprinkle in Del Potro and Mannarino as seeds with some interesting floaters like Ivo Karlovic, Taylor Fritz, Andreas Seppi and Thomaz Bellucci even as guys to watch out for in this part of the draw. Thiem takes on young Aussie Alex de Minaur and he seems too short on experience to trouble Thiem, but the Austrian needs to show better consistency early. A win would get Thiem a date with the survivor of Marcos Baghdatis vs Taylor Fritz. That should be an interesting first round match. Fritz found some needed wins this summer both at the Challenger level and on the ATP level with quarterfinal runs in Los Cabos and Winston-Salem. Now the question os whether or not he can do it on the big stage. The 19-year-old is 0-6 in Slams. Baghdatis also found a few wins in the summer swing, going 4-3 overall. It’s a winnable match for Fritz, but can he do this in a best of five setting finally?

Thiem has never seen Baghdatis or Fritz, so there will some nervy moments perhaps early on in the second round. Baghdatis might be more of a contender against him with his baseline play I think a bit better than Fritz, but Fritz also has more power that could trouble Thiem. The survivor heads to round three where Mannarino is seeded to be there. It could be well be Ivo Karlovic though who got some needed confidence with a few wins in Cincinnati. He also broke through finally last year in New York with his best finish, making the fourth round. If Thiem falters, I think this part of the quarter opens up for one of those unseeeded players like Karlovic or Baghdatis to surprise.

The other part of his half offers plenty of intrigue with Bautista Agut and Del Potro. RBA has the form after taking home the crown in Winston-Salem. He faces Seppi to start and that won’t be easy. If he can survive the opening round, he would face Thomaz Bellucci or Dustin Brown in round two. Bellucci has a couple of wins over RBA, although they have not met since 2015. Brown is 0-2 against him, but extended the 11th seed to three sets in both meetings. It wouldn’t be totally surprising to see Bautista Agut lose early, but he will have some rest before playing his opener. If he carries over his form, he is a threat to be in position for a quarterfinal berth.

DelPo’s main concern likely is himself. His consistency is up and down from match to match with the wrist still seemingly an issue from time to time. If he gets past Ryan Harrison to start, it should be easier in round two against either Adrian Menendez-Macerias or Patrick Kypson. This part of the bracket looks to simplistic for the RBA-DelPo round three showdown, so I expected one of them might get taken out early. If it comes down to RBA and Thiem, the Spaniard owns a 3-0 edge, but all their matches came in 2015.

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

Federer is talking all rainbows and lollipops of course ahead of the Open about his health. He says he’s felt good in practice, but the real test obviously is getting in real matches in real conditions. The concern for Federer has to be Kyrgios in a big match setting – that to me is the speed bump, but I mean it could never come to fruition because of Kyrgios’ own body and lackadaisical mindset. My feeling is it comes down to a seed in this bracket from Federer, Kyrgios, RBA and Thiem getting out to the semifinals. Bautista Agut would likely need help with Federer losing, but he has great consistency overall that can see him through against the rest of the field in this quarter. If Kyrgios is on a roll heading into a Federer showdown, I would love the upset potential there.

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2017 U.S. Open Seed Report

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I’ve already laid out the wasteland that is the seeded field and the possible contenders this year with so many absentees. In case you’ve been under a rock, last year’s champion Stan Wawrinka is joined by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori as top ten players who will not be present at this year’s U.S. Open. That leaves a lot of wiggle room among the seeded field to jockey for position at the business end of the tournament. The top seed is Rafael Nadal with Roger Federer now a de-factor #2 in the same half of the draw after Murray’s late withdrawal announcement. Marin Cilic will slot into Murray’s spot in the draw and is labelled as the fifth seed. Alexander Zverev has his highest seeding at a Slam as the #4 and the sheik pick to the click if you’re straying from the Nadal-Federer narrative at Grand Slams in 2017.

Being a seed at a Slam is always tricky business and as we like to do before each Slam, let’s take a look at how the seeds have fared over the last six years:

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There wasn’t much straying from the pattern with the four semifinalists coming from the top ten seeds. Only with Marin Cilic’s shock win as the #14 seed in 2014 have we seen a seed outside the top ten involved in the semis. That could definitely change with the turnover at the top this year. Juan Martin Del Potro did make sure that an unseeded player made the quarterfinal field in 2016 for the first time since 2008 when Mardy Fish and Gilles Muller both made it without a number next to their names.

Our other area of pique interest are the first round upsets of seeds and last year saw five, up from just three in 2015. David Goffin (12) was the highest seed to fall in round one a year ago, continuing a trend of top 12 seeds losing in five of the last six years as you look over that chart. With that in mind, we must check out the seeds and the players who could be most prone to being sent home in round one.

Early Bird Specials

8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga went 0-2 in the hard court swing this summer and he has not found much momentum from the French Open through the present time. He is just 3-5 in that stretch. Tsonga has turned up well at the U.S. Open with two straight quarterfinal appearances, but this version of Tsonga doesn’t look to be at that level. His first round foe is Marius Copil who has a big serve and big forehand. If Tsonga is flat, Copil is capable of contending in this match and pushing the Frenchman to turn up his best tennis in months. This again is a lower tier upset alert, but still one that given Tsonga’s play recently …. could happen.

10. John Isner
Isner faces off against Pierre Hugues-Herbert in round one. Isner beat him in their only career meeting at Roland Garros 7-6, 7-6, 7-5. Isner did not look good in Winston-Salem last week, either struggling with low energy or lack of motiviation. That makes it a litte bit dangerous for him, although I would expect him to amp it back up for the Open. Isner hasn’t fallen in round one at this tournament since 2008, but with the way his matches play out, it’s always a possibility to be close and tense. PHH doesn’t figure to be able to contend serve for serve with Isner over the course of five sets, but if he serves well enough – there is always a chance that the sets come down to a key point or two. Keep the upset alarm ready, although probably not as likely as others.

11. Roberto Bautista Agut
RBA is on fire after winning the Winston-Salem Open, but that also brings with it the potential for fatigue. Couple that with a veteran opponent in Andreas Seppi and you see why he’s on this list. RBA has been a pretty consistent performer the last three years at the U.S. Open with no worse than a third round finish. He also did come in last year off losing the Winston-Salem final, but he did have a tough time putting away Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round in four sets that included two tiebreaks. Seppi played his first matches since Wimbledon at Winston-Salem and was strong in making the third round with a 2-1 record. The Italian is only 9-13 in New York, but he also hasn’t lost in round one since 2012 and owns the lone win head-to-head against RBA in Miami way back in 2012. Monitor this one as it could be a lengthy battle with some upset potential.

13. Jack Sock
Sock’s summer was mediocre to poor if you throw out his semifinal showing at the Citi Open. Outside of that result, Sock went 2-3 with disheartening losses to Kyle Edmund, David Ferrer and Yuichi Sugita. Sock did make the fourth round for the first time last year at the U.S. Open, but arrives with out much to show since March. He opens against Jordan Thompson who can be dangerous on this surface. The Aussie made two Challenger finals on hard courts this summer and took Sascha Zverev to a third set tiebreak in D.C. before losing in round two. Thompson is only 2-9 at Slams, but with Sock’s recent run of mediocrity, this could be a tough first one test for the American.

17. Sam Querrey
Querrey draws Gilles Simon to start with the Frenchman having beaten him four out of the six times that they have met. That is the bad news. The good news is that Simon is in the midst of a putrid year with a 12-18 overall record. Querrey had a good summer, winning the Los Cabos title and going 3-2 between Montreal and Cincinnati. Simon has lost his opening match in six of his last eight tournaments, so that should be a boost to Querrey’s confidence. The American somewhat surprisingly has never done much at the U.S. Open and will head to this year’s version looking to end a two year streak of losing in the opening round. Despite Simon’s struggles that makes this a mental spot for Querrey and that could be a hazardous situation if Simon is getting enough balls back in play.

18. Gael Monfils
La Monf is in that prototypical boom or bust spot he always seems to be in at Grand Slams. He pulled out of Cincinnati with an illness, but physically we believe that he isn’t carrying an injury into New York. Still, he draws Jeremy Chardy in round one and his fellow Frenchman beat him the last time they played at Wimbledon in 2016. Chardy won an up and down five setter in that one. The plus for Monfils is that Chardy hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon this season. Still, being a veteran player who is going up against a familiar foe makes this a potentially tricky match between the two. Keep Monfils on upset alert as he’ll need to get going early to avoid being sent packing.

25. Karen Khachanov
This is new territory for the 21-year-old from Russia. Khachanov is seeded at a Slam for the first time and will have some slight expectation on him. He faces a veteran in Yen-Hsun Lu who got hot on the Challenger circuit in the last month and will provide a stern test in round one. Khachanov is making just his second appearance at the U.S. Open with a 1-1 career mark. He was 2-2 in hard court tuneups with losses to Sugita and Carreno Busta. Lu hasn’t done much in main draws this year and is only 2-10 in New York. Still, being a veteran against an inexperienced youngster – there is a slight chance or a struggle here for the Russian.

27. Pablo Cuevas
Cuevas is just 4-8 all-time as the U.S. Open, but has avoided the first round upset bug the last two years. He goes up against a form player in round one through in Damir Dzumhur. Dzumhur made an unexpected trip to the Winston-Salem Open final, where he lost 6-4, 6-4 to Bautista Agut. He also made the semis in Los Cabos earlier in the summer, so his hard court prowess is showing. Going up against someone like Cuevas who isn’t a world beater on hard courts makes this a popular upset selection – but Dzumhur will have to overcome a long week in Winston-Salem and a quick turnaround. That gives Cuevas a shot.

29. Diego Schwartzman
It’s an all-Argentine first rounder with Schwartzman taking on Carlos Berlocq. Schwartzman is 1-3 all-time at the Open with Berlocq just 2-7. Berlocq has lost his opener three of the last four times he’s been to New York, but this match feels like it will be competitive. Neither is generally at home on hard courts, so that makes this feel like a 50-50 call.

30. Adrian Mannarino
The Frenchman is in a tight spot in his opener against Ricardas Berankis. Berankis has never lived up to the hype that followed him earlier in his career after he won the juniors title at the U.S. Open a decade ago. He has however played Mannarino well with two wins in three career matches. That included a three set win last year indoors in St.Petersburg. Mannarino has a couple of third round finishes in his career here, but lost his opener last year to Ryan Harrison. He did play well on the summer swing, making the quarters in Los Cabos and Montreal, but this match-up smells a bit dangerous for him.

31. Feliciano Lopez
It’s been a very blase for the Spaniard who is 21-18 on the season. Lopez is just 2-3 in the hard court swing this summer and he has lost his opener in nine tournaments this season, including three of his last five. The lefty has also dropped his opener in two of the three Grand Slams this year. He has a tough match-up to start against Andrey Kuznetsov. Lopez does own two wins in two tries against the Russian, but it has been nearly two years since they last met. Kuznetsov isn’t in great form, but he’s competent on these courts with two consecutive third round appearances. Those both happened to include wins over lefties from Spain in Fernando Verdasco in 2014 and Albert Ramos-Vinolas last year.

32. Robin Haase
Haase had one stellar tournament this summer with a surprise run to the Rogers Cup semifinals. He lost his only other match on hard courts in Cincinnati to Mannarino. He will face off against Kyle Edmund to start and that is a tough one, potentially one of the most competitive first round matches this year at the Open. Edmund book-ended his summer with semifinal showings in Atlanta and Winston-Salem. In between, he lost first-up matches in Montreal and Cincinnati. Haase is 2-7 at the Open for his career, while Edmund put forth his best Slam result of his young career here last year by making round four. This has definite upset potential for Edmund.

Keep following @tennispig for a ton of U.S. Open preview material as well as live tweets during the Open + match previews as the tournament advances.

2017 Wimbledon Draw Preview

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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

WIMBLEDONSEEDS17

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

CILICFLO17

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