2017 Wimbledon Final Preview: Roger Federer vs Marin Cilic

WIMBLEDON17FINAL

Roger Federer and Marin Cilic vie for the 2017 Wimbledon men’s singles title. Federer goes for an unprecedented 8th title at the All-England club, while Cilic is hoping to win his first. Federer has won six of their previous seven meetings.

(3) Roger Federer vs (7) Marin Cilic

On a day when Federer might not have been as crisp as he’s been for most other days this tournament, he was still too good for 11th seed Tomas Berdych in the semifinals. Federer edged the Czech 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4. Fed still had a pretty elite serve showing as he won 84 percent of his first serve points and 60 percent off his second serve. He was broken just once on six chances. Berdych could not match him with a slightly off first serve that won just 68 percent of the points. The Swiss was able to craft nine break chances against Berdych, but only converted two times. Credit for that should go to Berdych who came up with some huge serves to fight off break points. The difference for most in the semifinal was seeing more unforced errors from Federer who had 20 to go with 53 winners. Federer only had 20 unforced errors in his previous two matches combined.

Cilic was put to the test against 25th seed Sam Querrey. After the American edged the opener in a tiebreak, Cilic rallied to finish him off 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5. Cilic pounded 25 aces and won 88 percent off his first serve. He was broken two times however on five chances. His ground game was killer with 70 winners and just 21 unforced errors. The Croat continued to be aggressive off the ground against Querrey, part of the newer tactics he has employed on grass this season. For the tournament, he now has 130 aces and 336 winners. Fed has 233 winners which compares well considering he has played five fewer sets at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon Sequel

This marks the second straight year that these two will be meeting at Wimbledon. Last year in the quarterfinals, Federer rallied from down two sets to take Cilic out in five; 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3. It was their first meeting since the shock win for Cilic at the 2014 U.S. Open where he took out Federer in the semifinals 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Federer saw more break opportunities against Cilic last year (9) by far than he did at the U.S. Open (2). The Swiss still only broke Cilic twice after breaking him just once in New York. One of the big differences was more freebies for Federer last year in London with 27 aces. He only had 12 in their U.S. Open clash. Cilic also threw in seven double faults last year. He had just one in New York.

At last year’s meeting, Federer came up huge by staving off three match points and then gradually finding more success against the Cilic serve after finding little joy in the first two sets. That seemed to be one of the big keys or Federer in that match-up, his will power. He came up time and time again on the key points when he had to have it. That seemed to frustrate Cilic a little bit as the match wore on late. Still, Cilic had every chance to beat Federer and will take some confidence into their final meeting this year due to that. Cilic has said he feels like he learned some things about himself in that loss and hopes he uses that to his advantage this year.

Match Tactics

There are no secrets to where this starts for both players, serve. If you hearken back to the U.S. Open semifinal encounter in 2014, Cilic got into a tremendous rhythm on serve and Federer struggled to match him. He’s going to find times like that again certainly on Sunday where Cilic is simply going to blow through with easy holds. That is where the match against Berdych might work to his advantage. Berdych may not have had the easy holds that Cilic will get, but he frustrated Federer with his ability to fight off break points and also to get some easier service games in his pocket. After not facing much like that during his first five matches, the semifinal match I think will have given Federer a good mindset for facing Cilic’s powerful serve.

Cilic will face a similar obstacle in the Federer serve that may not always wow with power, but almost always packs precision that makes him difficult to return. Cilic’s length will help some in that aspect and the Croat is an underrated returner. Fed will need to be precise with his location on serve in order to set up those easy points at the net. It’s been his bread and butter on grass and will go a long way in helping or hindering him in pursuit of the title. Cilic as mentioned earlier is also employing a bit more of this style on his serve by moving forward when he gets his opponent into bad court positions. If he’s hitting his serve with power and precision, he’ll be coming in to finish off those aggressive points as well.

One of the things Berdych may have surprised with in the semis against Federer was with the power of his forehand and his ability to hit it from different angles consistently. Cilic has more power off the ground than Berdych and also brings a better ability to hit shots on the run. Federer would do well to test Cilic’s willingness to keep coming to net and his ability to keep making volleys consistently, rather than engaging in too many baseline to baseline ball bashing sessions.

When the baseline battles do get going, Cilic will try his best one would think to target the Federer backhand. It’s been getting better and better in recent rounds, but obviously is still the wing you want to target. Then, you just hope the Swiss has a few more errors coming off that side. Federer would do well to keep Cilic on the move for his part and not give the Croat time to set up shop and blast his forehand or double handed backhand from a stationary position. When Cilic can do that, he’s going to put Federer into some trouble if he’s hitting with accuracy.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

There’s a long line of people ready for the coronation of Roger Federer for the 8th time at Wimbledon and 19th time at Grand Slams overall. Slow your roll. Cilic is a tricky match-up for Federer and unlike Berdych, he’s got the confidence in having beaten Federer on the biggest of stages and also having him on the ropes here last year. I do think Cilic will need Federer’s help to pull off the upset and Federer has not shown us prolonged periods of poor play for most of the season. What the 7th seed can do is get off to a good start by taking a set early and putting that match pressure on the Swiss. It seemed to frustrate Federer some that Berdych was sticking with him as long as he did on the semifinals, so Cilic can give himself more belief by having that early success.

I don’t know that Cilic can do enough right and Federer enough wrong right now, but I do think Federer is finally going to lose a set. Cilic winning this one would probably be a much larger shock than the U.S. Open win nearly three years ago, which says volumes about what the soon-to-be 36-year-old Federer is doing to the rest of the ATP World Tour this year. Expect this one to be his toughest test yet, but expect Federer to find a way to win those big points again and stake claim to that unprecedented 8th Wimbledon title.

Prediction: Federer wins in four sets

2017 Wimbledon Semifinals Preview

WIMB17SFS

Wimbledon took an unexpected plot twist in the quarterfinals with top seed Andy Murray falling to Sam Querrey in five sets. Querrey is into his first Grand Slam semifinal, while Marin Cilic is contesting his third career Slam semifinal. The winner will advance to their first-ever final at the All-England Club

(7) Marin Cilic vs (24) Sam Querrey

Cilic was made to work against 16th seed Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. Just two days after his legendary 15-13 win over Rafael Nadal in the 5th set of their fourth round match, the big lefty would push Cilic to five sets as well. This time however, he ran out of gas as Cilic won going away in the final set for the 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 win. Cilic didn’t do a whole lot wrong in he match, smashing 33 aces and controlling a lot with his first serve. The Croat won 84 percent of the points off his first serve, but struggled a bit at just a 49 percent win rate off his second. He would be broken three times on seven chances. Cilic has been broken just eight times in five rounds. The 7th seed racked up 74 total winners to 34 unforced errors.

Querrey cemented his name in American tennis lore as he wore down a fading Andy Murray 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1. The top seeded Scot was certainly struggling with a hop issue as the last two sets wore on, but credit Querrey who was playing perfect to his game plan of quick and aggressive points. Querrey crushed 27 aces in the match and won a solid 84 percent off his first serve and 55 percent off his second serve. Murray did break him three times, but on just seven chances with few of those coming late. The American has only been broken ten times all tournament. Querrey tallied 70 winners to 30 unforced errors.

Credit or Discredit Querrey

Plenty of people are going to write off Sam Querrey’s win as a product of Andy Murray’s hobbled physical condition by match’s end. You’d be an idiot not to say that Murray’s condition effected him greatly in the final two sets. Andy said he struggled badly on serve the final two sets with the hip obviously causing some pain that sapped his serve of its power. In turn, Murray needed to do something against Querrey’s powerful serve. He said that got tougher and tougher as he needed to move more to play defense and his body just would not allow for what was necessary.

For me, I think you take Querrey’s win with a grain of salt as you did last year with his won over a less-than-100 percent Novak Djokovic. Yes, Querrey did play some impressive and aggressive tennis, but clearly in both cases he was battling a wounded opponent. Last year, it was Djokovic with his balky shoulder and elbow and this year, Murray with the hip. None of that matters now though because Sam Querrey is still standing as a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist. What we will find out in this round is just how much he has left in the tank. Let’s not forget that Querrey has now played three straight five set matches. The plus for Sam is that his style of play and the way those matches played out were not exactly the most taxing five set matches you’ll see. In particular with the way the end of the Murray match played out, they finished five sets in under three hours which would normally be unheard of for a match involving Murray.

Third All-Time Meeting at Wimbledon

This is going to be the fifth career match between Cilic and Querrey with three of the previous four taking place on grass. Two of them have come at Wimbledon. All four have gone to Cilic, but not without a dogfight each time. The last meeting was in 2015 on hard courts in Washington, D.C. where Cilic edged Querrey in a pair of tiebreaks. Prior to that, 2012 was the last time that they locked horns. That year, they played on grass twice with one at Queen’s Club and the other at Wimbledon. Cilic won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at Queen’s Club and then survived an extended third round battle at the All-England Club.

In that match, Cilic squeaked by 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (3), 17-15. That match saw eight total breaks of serve with the Croat converting five out of 16 chances, while Querrey took three on eight chances. One of the big differences in that match was second serve with the American winning only 47 percent of his points, while Cilic won 64 percent. Cilic also had more winners than Querrey (85-70) and more unforced errors (58-52). As you would expect, both served big and both looked to play shorter and aggressive points off the ground.

Their other Wimbledon encounter was back in 2009 in the second round. That match also went the distance with Cilic taking it 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4. So you might want to make sure you stock up on snacks and beverages if you’re going to watch this one. They could be a while.

Match Tactics

The term serve-bot will probably be thrown around regarding these two and it’s not really accurate. Yes, both are going to get their share of freebies on serve, but these two both move well for their size. Querrey has been much more aggressive in his desire to come forward on grass and it’s paid dividends. The 18 shot exchange between Murray and Querrey (highlight reel fodder) exemplified Querrey’s improved movement and that he does indeed have good net skills. Cilic has worked to hone his own skills at moving forward and volleying. He’s improved a great deal over the last two years in those categories.

I think you’ll see quite a few similarities in the pattern of play from both players. Any serve that has enough juice on it that results in a poor return, expect to see the server come forward to finish off an easy point at the net. Querrey especially I think will consistently do this to avoid many lengthier rallies from the baseline. The short and aggressive style he has employed better this year is what is going to give him the best chance to win. Cilic is comfortable enough in playing baseline rallies that it could work to his advantage to see what Querrey has by getting him involved in that pattern. I don’t think Sam is going to be totally gassed, but it’s worth figuring out early. That means Cilic needs to bring his best return game.

That’s another aspect where I think he’s vastly underrated. Cilic has a Top 30 rating on return based on the ATP’s formula that uses percentage of points won off return, break conversion rate and return games won. Cilic has a better success rate at percentage of return games won versus Querrey. Cilic wins around 25 percent, while Querrey is closer to 19 percent. The American does have a slightly better rate of break conversion though at nearly 40 percent to 38 for Cilic.

Both have faced big servers at Wimbledon this year. Cilic of course just faced Gilles Muller and acquitted himself well on return, taking 30 percent of the points off the Muller serve. Against Steve Johnson (not quite as big a serve), he was even better with a 42 percent win rate on return. Querrey played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kevin Anderson back-to-back, taking 30 percent of the return points from Tsonga and just 25 percent from Anderson. The break conversion rate was a big difference for Querrey, getting five breaks on just ten chances. He’ll need to be efficient against Cilic in that category to win.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

I’ve often touted the element of the “First Timers” club at this stage of Grand Slams. Some players are unaffected by nerves in this spot, being just one match away from a Grand Slam final. Others freeze up and do not play their best. Querrey is a veteran at age 29, but this is a massive and unexpected spot for him. His parents were not even along for the trip until he surprised and beat Murray last round. I do think this is the best surface for success for Querrey and he’s certainly found a good rhythm, yet the feeling here is that he could be emotionally down a shade after the Murray win.

For Cilic, this is business as usual. Sure, he’s not exactly someone who is in this position every Grand Slam – but this is his third semifinal and all of those have come in the past few years. It’s more familiar territory for him and the match-up is fairly favorable. Their past history suggests the sets will be tight with either a single break of serve or a tiebreak settling things. I think Querrey needs success early, much like Muller needed it against Cilic to truly contend in that match. Coming off a series of five set matches, I would not want to find myself down a set or two. The American may be confident in that he can figure out a way to win again, but going the distance again could be playing with fire.

Cilic will want to find a service rhythm and then simply apply pressure to Querrey to match him on serve. I think if he can do that, he’ll find the big points on his racquet. It’s been eight years since Andy Roddick made the Wimbledon final, which is the last time an American male made it. Don’t get caught up in the number of sets that Querrey has played because those five set matches were relatively short. I think that means he has a chance here because of how close these two have contended against each other in the past. I won’t be stunned at this point if things fall Querrey’s way in this match. He’s had Lady Luck on his side seemingly, but I think Cilic is just a shade better on this surface still and has been in a groove for most of the grass court season. But hey – this is Cilic vs Querrey at Wimbledon, let’s at least make it five sets to decide things.

Prediction: Cilic wins in five sets

Roger Federer can get one step closer to a record breaking 8th Wimbledon title on Friday as he clashes with 11th seed Tomas Berdych. Federer was won seven straight against Berdych and 18 of 24 overall in their careers.

(3) Roger Federer vs (11) Tomas Berdych

Federer has been scary good at Wimbledon, wiping out 6th seed Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals. The Swiss’ first serve was amazing with the 3rd seed winning 90 percent of his first serve points. Raonic barely got any looks at break chances with five as the total for the match with Federer saving them all. Four of those came in one game in the third set. The few times that Federer was in trouble, he was able to reverse course and take control with a near perfect ground game. That was evidenced in the third set tiebreak where Raonic seemed prepared to get a set with a 3-0 lead and going on serve. Fed would win seven of the final eight points including two big serves to wrap up the win. If possible, Federer is getting better as this tournament goes on with a close to flawless ground performance against Raonic that tallied 46 winners and just nine unforced errors.

Berdych won an injury shortened match against Novak Djokovic to advance to his second straight semifinal at Wimbledon. Berdych edged the opening set in a tiebreak and then broke Djokovic to get out to a 2-0 lead in set two. That is when Djokovic decided the pain in his elbow was too much as he threw in the towel. The Serb said the pain was at its worse when he was serving and hitting forehands. His subdued service numbers show that effect as he won just 29 of 47 points played on serve before retiring. In all of that, Berdych still only managed to break Djokovic’s serve the one time in the second set. It’s hard to say exactly how Berdych was performing overall due to the Djokovic injury, but one thing that was evident was a wicked first serve from the Czech. He won 93 percent of the points played there and that has been his best weapon in London.

Third Meeting in 2017

Wimbledon marks their third encounter this year with Federer rolling in straight sets at the Australian Open and then working much harder in a three set win in Miami. There, Berdych took a set and also pushed Federer to a third set tiebreak where the Swiss saved two match points before securing the win. That will breed some confidence for Berdych, but also will be that black cloud in the back of his brain if he’s got himself in winning positions again. Berdych has certainly seemed to have a bit of a mental block in recent years in trying to close out some of the big names on tour.

It was a marked improvement for Berdych in Miami as he took his first set off of Federer since 2014 (five straight matches). Unfortunately for Berdych, he may well be facing closer to the version of Fed that won the Australian Open. In that match, Federer was unstoppable on serve as he won 95 percent of the points off his first serve and never saw a break chance against him. He did manage four breaks of the Czech’s serve in that one and teed off on Berdych’s second serve for 21 of 30 points played.

This will be their third meeting on grass with both prior matches at Wimbledon. Berdych stunned Federer 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals in 2010. The Czech would go on to beat Novak Djokovic in the semifinals to make his lone Grand Slam final, where he lost in straights to Rafael Nadal. Federer won the other Wimbledon meeting way back in 2006 by a score of 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

Match Tactics

You have to start with the serve of Federer being a focal point for this match. He had been solid overall through four rounds, but looked other worldly in the quarters against Raonic. The rhythm and precision he was hitting with on serve was nearly impossible for Raonic to touch for the better part of their three sets. Raonic was able to make a few inroads as the third set wore on, but it was already too late. So how can Berdych avoid a similar fate? First, he can hope that Federer’s level will be something less than last round. It’s an honest assessment because if it’s at that level, then this sets up for a repeat of the Australian Open in January.

The problem for Berdych is if he sets up too deep against the Federer serve, the Swiss has shown a willingness to use chips and drop shots to absolutely kill opponents for sticking back on the baseline. Go back to the Halle final against Alexander Zverev. It was cruel punishment what Federer did to Sascha in that one, but a perfect game plan by moving in and putting balls away with soft droppers again and again. If Berdych tries to maintain a more normal receiving position, then he has to find a way to get his racquet on that serve consistently. I think Berdych has to adopt a “home run” type of attitude on return. He has to hit the ball back solidly or he’s dead meat.

Any shanked returns or lunging returns that cost him court position will see Federer move swiftly to the net and put those away for easy points. Most of this means Berdych’s own serve is going to have to match Federer blow for blow. His first serve has always been very powerful and effective. It’s usually too many second serves that find the Czech in trouble. Much like Federer, Berdych will look to use his power and precision to get less than effective returns from the Swiss. That will allow him to move in when warranted to get quick and aggressive finishers in short rallies. Also expect to see plenty of quick 1-2 punches off those serves with Berdych trying to mix up his court position.

When they do set up in ground rallies that last more than a few shots, the forehand will also be the preferred weapon of choice for both. Federer was pretty effective targeting Berdych’s backhand in their meetings earlier this year and he still came to net quite a bit, even on hard courts. The Swiss is obviously more comfortable there on grass and it will force Berdych to make quick decisions to try and beat Federer. Fed is volleying well, so Berdych’s best options might be trying to beat him out wide on the backhand side to see if the Swiss can stab those effectively or not.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

It’s really hard seeing Federer flopping at this point, but you also have to be a tad realistic that he won’t be as keyed up for this match-up as he was against Raonic last round. That could give Berdych a slight opening early on to get after it and make this an interesting match. As with any player who has been almost unstoppable, you’d like to put some match pressure on them by making them play from behind for the first time to see how they respond.

Kei Nishikori did that to Fed at the Australian Open by taking set one in a match that eventually went to Federer in five. Last year at Wimbledon, it’s what both Cilic and Raonic did in highly competitive matches. The formula is pretty simple I think then for Berdych and that is to find a way to have success early with your game plan. See if you can rattle the G.O.A.T. For me that is landing that first serve and seeing if you can stick with Fed for the set and hope something good happens for you late to steal it.

Berdych is playing with much more confidence than Raonic who really didn’t stand much chance when his serve was a little flat. I think the Czech has a chance to at least take a set here and on a day when most expect Federer to roll into the final, don’t be surprised if it’s at least a bit tougher than you expect.

Prediction: Federer wins in four sets

2017 Wimbledon Quarterfinals Preview

WIMB17QF

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

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

(1) Andy Murray vs (24) Sam Querrey

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

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

Historically Speaking

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

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

The Pig’s Bottom Line

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

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

Prediction: Murray wins in four sets

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

(7) Marin Cilic vs (16) Gilles Muller

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

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

Historically Speaking

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

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

The Pig’s Bottom Line

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

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

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

Prediction: Cilic wins in straight sets

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

(3) Roger Federer vs (6) Milos Raonic

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

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

Historically Speaking

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

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

The Pig’s Bottom Line

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

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

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

Prediction: Federer wins in five sets

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

(2) Novak Djokovic vs (11) Tomas Berdych

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

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

Historically Speaking

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

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

The Pig’s Bottom Line

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

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

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

Prediction: Djokovic wins in four sets

2017 Wimbledon Draw Preview

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

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.