Will The Federer-Nadal Slam Streak Push to Seven?
The narrative to start Wimbledon this year is no longer about whether Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal can add another Grand Slam title to their resume, it’s now back to the point of whether or not anyone can beat them? Since the improbable Federer-Nadal final at the 2017 Australian Open that ended with Federer claiming the crown, the 1A/1B “GOATS” have alternated Slam titles in each of the last six. Federer won his year’s Australian Open and Nadal answered with yet another French Open title. That brings us to Wimbledon, where Fed won last year for the first time since 2012. From 2013-2017, it was Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic taking home two titles each at the All-England Club.
The case can be made that Federer is in no worse shape than he was form-wise heading into last year’s Wimbledon. In 2017, he lost his Stuttgart opener to Tommy Haas and then went on to win the title the following week in Halle. The Haas loss wasn’t unexpected as it was the Swiss’ first match since March, as he took his clay court sabbatical. This year, Federer was pushed to three sets in his opener in Stuttgart against Mischa Zverev, but then found his game and ran to the title over Milos Raonic. The following week though he would fall short in the Halle final to an unexpected source in Borna Coric.
Fed arguably looked a bit shaky at times, needing a masterful escape over Benoit Paire in the second round and then dodging two tight matches that ended 7-6, 7-5 against Matthew Ebden and Denis Kudla in successive rounds. For me, last week wasn’t all that poor from Federer considering he had not played since March again and was playing back-to-back tournaments where he made finals’ runs. He may not have been his sharpest, but I think the two weeks showed that he’s still elite on grass, but perhaps has given some players a bit more hope after seeing a non-grass savant like Coric take him down.
As for Nadal, Wimbledon will be the first time we’ve seen him in a grass court match since last year’s tournament. He showed reasonably well for a man who had not played on the surface since 2015. Rafa would lose a thrilling five set match against Gilles Muller in round four at 15-13 in the fifth seed. He’s seemingly shaken off the shock exits he had back in 2011 and 2012, but has not been to a final since making it back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. Nadal has been practicing on grass in Mallorca and played some competitive matches at the Aspall Tennis Classic against the likes of Matthew Ebden and Lucas Pouille. Rafa edged Ebden 7-6 (3), 7-5 and lost to Pouille 7-6, 7-5.
Those should serve as important warm-ups for Rafa with Ebden having been in solid form on grass and Pouille, despite a mostly poor run since the end of February, is a a solid test on the surface. Nadal’s challenge of course will come when he plays against power players who can utilize the speed of the surface to avoid lengthy rallies with Nadal. He won’t have that to open with the Spaniard set to battle Dudi Sela. I’ll focus more on the draw itself later, but the quick first peak at his quarter and you see few of those types who can catch lightning in a bottle and serve him off the court.
Murray Withdraws, Djokovic Confident
The big news on Sunday was the withdraw of Andy Murray. The Scot said after consulting with his team that playing best of five tennis right now is not the best thing for his continuing recovery from hip surgery. I think this was 100 percent the right idea if Murray is trying to work towards 100 percent fitness in the coming months. I think his ultimate goal is to be fit and match tough as the U.S. Open rolls around. That leaves us without at least one of the “Big Four” for the fourth straight Grand Slam.
Novak Djokovic will return to the scene of the crime in London. Last year, this is the tournament where his elbow flared up and forced him to retire in the quarterfinals. Djokovic has rebounded from his disappointing exit at the French Open, going to Queen’s Club and putting together a finals run. He put together some of his more consistent tennis of the season in beating the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, future Antalya champ Adrian Mannarino and in-form Jeremy Chardy. The Serb fell short in three sets in the final to Marin Cilic, but came away sounding like a man brimming with some much needed confidence.
Djokovic said after Queen’s Club that he feels like he’s playing his best tennis in the last 12 months. That 12 months of course includes last year’s Wimbledon where the elbow issues took a turn for the worse, forcing him to pull out of the tournament after advancing to the quarterfinals. I don’t think it’s off base to suggest that this tournament might be the definitive mental hurdle that the Serb needs to clear to feel “all the way back” to being a consistent threat again. As a three-time winner of this event, he can certainly be a danger, but will need to prove that consistent play from Queen’s Club can carry over into the best of five format.
Upsets in round one of a Grand Slam are a given. It’s simply a matter of how many seeds fall and who is the biggest victim. In 2017, six seeds fell in the opening round with 5th seed Stan Wawrinka as the highest seed to go one and done. He was the first top ten seed to lose in round one in London since 2013. That was the year that Rafael Nadal was stunned by Steve Darcis. Looking below, you can see that at least four seeds have been shown the door in the opening round every year since 2010 …
With the state of men’s tennis and a lack of consistency among so many players from week to week, there could certainly be quite a few upsets in the early going. Here is a look at who could join the illustrious list of Eliminati members, those who take down seeds in their opening matches.
Despite his recent heroics in Halle, Borna Coric has never been one associated with great success on grass. Perhaps the winds of change are taking him in a new direction off of that win, but meeting the big hitting Russian in round one is a challenge. Medvedev lost their only career meeting at last year’s Next Gen Finals, but he’s proven capable on grass with an 11-7 career mark. He was also responsible for last year’s biggest upset, beating Wawrinka in round one at the All-England Club. His year has been plagued by inconsistency, but I think there’s a realistic chance that Medvedev pushes Coric hard in this opener.
This could be a fun first rounder with Monfils set to go against Richard Gasquet. They have played 16 times with La Monf holding a 9-7 edge. He comes in with some decent form for the first time in a while after making the semifinals in Antalya. They split two grass court meetings in 2017 with Monfils winning in Eastbourne and Gasquet taking the match in Halle. Gasquet won the Libema Open on grass and then predictably was out of gas in Halle the week after with an opening loss to Leonard Mayer. Gasquet lost in round one last year to David Ferrer for the first time since 2006 when he lost to Roger Federer. Monfils has only been dumped out in round one two times in nine tries all-time at Wimbledon. This is tough to call and that of course means Monfils could win.
The Russian has never won at Wimbledon in four tries, but he draws Philipp Kohlschreiber who is on a three year losing skid at the All-England Club. Granted two of the three losses were to Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic, but the German has lost his opener five of the last seven trips to London. He was not even quite up to snuff with his usual modus operandi of playing well on grass in Germany this year, so despite Donskoy’s lack of success, this might be tricky. I would put this on the lower end of possibilities as Kohlschreiber is clearly a better grass court player, but has to overcome some mental hurdles in this spot.
The Chilean may not have a Grand Slam win to his credit or a grass court win for that matter, but he draws Filip Krajinovic to open and that gives him a chance for me. Krajinovic has not played since March due to a leg injury. He withdrew from all grass court events he was scheduled to play at, which also leads you to wonder if he’s recovered or not. Even if he’s ready, Krajinovic has no wins on this surface either. I think Jarry despite being more known for his clay court prowess, has the “big” game that can do some damage on a quick surface. He’s got a real shot here if Krajinovic even laces up his sneakers.
Kudla rekindles memories of his 2015 fourth round run at Wimbledon by making a surprise semifinals run in Halle in recent weeks. Kudla scored some impressive wins over Lukas Lacko, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Yuichi Sugita before falling in a tight two setter to Federer. He draws Lucas Pouille in the opening round. The Frenchman went 2-2 in the grass build-up tournaments and also beat Nadal in exhibition play. Pouille has avoided first round trouble the last two years at Wimbledon, but he’s been prone to one and dones in 2018 with five of his last seven tournaments going that way.
Albot is nothing to talk about on grass, but neither is Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard is 0-5 all-time on grass and has once again chosen to skip any of the build-up tournaments. Carreno Busta is 0-3 at Wimbledon with losses to David Ferrer, Monfils and Raonic. Albot isn’t in that class, but I think you can see that PCB isn’t one who will have a ton of confidence on this surface. On talent, PCB should be the pick, but this smells ripe.
The American gets a shot at Fernando Verdasco in round one. Tiafoe got two credible wins at Queen’s Club with wins over Leonardo Mayer and Jared Donaldson. Tiafoe got an opening round win against Robin Haase last year at Wimbledon and sets his sights on Verdasco who was 1-3 on grass this summer. Verdasco has lost his opener three of the last four years in London and will likely have a tough time against the American who has the power to hit big winners on grass if his consistency holds up.
The German draws one of the bigger surprises on grass this summer in Damir Dzumhur. Dzumhur won the title in Antalya on Saturday over Mannarino and also won sets off of Sugita and Kyrgios in the two German tournaments. Dzumhur has never made it past round two and most will be inclined to think his hot run means he’ll avoid any early trouble. I think despite Marterer making his Wimbledon main draw debut, he”ll push the 27th seed some in the first round.
A rough draw for Denis Shapovalov as Chardy has been on fire on grass this summer. The Frenchman won the Surbitron Trophy on grass on the Challenger circuit and then followed that with a finals appearance at the Libema Open and a semifinal run at Queen’s Club. Shapovalov is just 1-4 on grass, competing pretty well on the surface, but failing to find the winning touch. Chardy would rank near the top of possibilities in scoring a first round upset for me.
The Italian has never won on grass, but he draws the great disappointment known as Jack Sock. The American has gone one and done in five of his last six tournaments. That includes losing in QUALIFYING at Eastbourne last week to Daniel Brands. Sock has also failed to win a main draw match at Slam since escaping with a first round win at last year’s Wimledon. Until Sock proves that 2018 is anything but the big pile of suck that it’s been, I wouldn’t trust him to win what looks like a great and winnable match-up.
Ebden is 0-3 against David Goffin, but he’s been in solid form on grass this summer. He has utilized the serve and volley that can cause trouble on grass. Goffin is making his return to Wimbledon after missing last year. He made the fourth round in both 2015 and 2016, but had lost his opener in two of three trips – albeit it against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray. Goffin lost his lone tune-up against Feliciano Lopez at Queen’s Club and probably has enough to win here, but Ebden could make it tricky.
Alex De Minaur
The Aussie was a disappointing loser to Mikhail Kukushkin at Eastbourne, but had been on a big run on grass on the Challenger circuit. He won the title in Nottingham and made the final at Surbiton. He will face Marco Cecchinato who scored his first wins on grass this past week in Eastbourne against Denis Istomin and John Millman. This is a like versus like match-up for me with two guys who like to use their defense and speed to track down balls and force their opponent to hit the extra shot. This could wind up being a real competitive opening rounder and De Minaur has the ability to grab the win after getting some needed rest.
Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Roger Federer: 92-11 (8x winner)
(8) Kevin Anderson: 12-10
(11) Sam Querrey: 17-10
(16) Borna Coric: 1-4
(22) Adrian Mannarino: 15-10
(23) Richard Gasquet: 28-12
(25) Philipp Kohlschreiber: 11-13
(32) Leonardo Mayer: 8-10
The top seeded Swiss should feel good about this quarter. Outside of Borna Coric’s unexpected win over him in Halle, he has pretty much owned the seeds in this quarter. Fed will open against Dusan Lajovic, a near repeat of their lone meeting that came during last year’s second round. The Swiss topped Lajovic 7-6 (0), 6-3, 6-2. I’d say Fed’s path looks pretty clear until the fourth round. In the top half with Fed, Coric and Mannarino figure to be the seeds to watch. Mannarino has made round four twice in his career, including last year. The Frenchman went 5-3 in three grass tournaments this summer and he’s got the net skills that play well to this surface. I like his draw and prefer him over Coric to meet Federer in round four.
Coric has to overcome his poor history here and a rough match-up with Medvedev to start. Let’s not forget that the Croatian had a 2-7 record on grass until last week. Wins over Alexander Zverev and Fed in Halle will breed confidence, but not as much as a first round win over Medvedev might. I think if Coric gets that notch under his belt, then watch out. Mannarino does hold a 2-0 edge over him in their careers however, with a win on grass in Antalya last year. I think if you’re looking for dangerous floaters in this half, Medvedev is obvious, but another Russian could also be of interest. Mikhail Youzhny at 36 is in the twilight of his career, but he’s been competitive on grass. He’s had to fight through qualifying this summer and did not win a main draw match, but he showed tough against the likes of Thiem, Mischa Zverev and Robin Haase in losing first round matches. He draws Ivo Karlovic in round one, who he is 4-1 against. That includes a grass court win in Halle last year. I’m not suggesting a deep, deep run, but Youzhny could surprise into the third round.
The bottom half of the quarter is led by Anderson and Querrey. Anderson has made the fourth round three times since 2014 and Querrey has made the quarters and semis in the last two trips to Wimbledon. Querrey could face in interesting clash in round two if Sergiy Stakhovsky gets past Joao Sousa in round one. Stak found some of his best form in winning the Ilkey Trophy last week, a Challenger level grass court tournament. The 32-year-old has always been a tough out here and could make life challenging for Querrey despite a 1-3 record against him. The Gasquet-Monfils match in round one in this half could go a long way in determining a deep runner in this section. Both have good records against Querrey with Gasquet at 3-1 and Monfils at 2-0. If they don’t take too much out of each other in round one and can stay healthy and on schedule, look for a Frenchman to slot into round four.
The other part of this bottom half sees Anderson and Kohlschreiber as the seeds. Anderson was a quick exit at Queen’s Club, losing a tough three set match to Leonardo Mayer, so he doesn’t have much match play on grass this summer. Still, the 8th seed hasn’t needed much to get going on grass in the past. He did lose in round one in 2016, but was against a tough nut in Istomin. This year, he draws easier with Norbert Gombos to open. The tougher test could come in round two against Andreas Seppi. The Italian will need to beat John Patrick Smith to make that happen. JPS is still looking for his first Slam win, but he’s not a slouch on grass. Don’t be surprised if Seppi has a tough time against him. Should Seppi survive, Anderson gets another shot at him with their only meeting a straight sets win for the South African at Wimbledon last year.
The other intrigue lies with Kohlschreiber. He’s had trouble winning in London, but has a draw that could be conducive to a few wins. He starts with Donskoy who is not at his best on this surface. Gilles Muller could await in round two. The big lefty draws American Michael Mmoh in round one. Mmoh is in as a lucky loser, while Muller is hoping to turn around a poor season. He was a surprise quarter finalist last year, but had not been past round two in his last four trips to Wimbledon. Kohlschreiber beat Muller in Dubai in 2017, their only career meeting. If it comes down to those two in round two, it should be a good veteran match-up and tough to call. Muller is the tougher out for Anderson, who is 3-2 against the South African. If he gets on a roll, then you could look for an upset.
I don’t think you can definitely say this should be Federer with ease. I do think he played fairly well this summer in the grass court build-up, but he also showed some vulnerability at times. That being said, beating Fed in a best of five on grass takes on a different air – much like trying to beat Nadal in a best of five on clay. The feeling for me is that a younger player like Coric or Medvedev who don’t know they should lose to Federer are the ones to be more scared of as the Swiss moves on. The other guy who would be an X-factor if he survives Gasquet is Monfils. He’s got four wins over Fed and relishes the spotlight.
All of that set up and I’m still not stupid enough to pick against Federer before the semifinals.
Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Marin Cilic: 27-11 (F – 2017)
(6) Grigor Dimitrov: 15-8
(9) John Isner: 10-9
(13) Milos Raonic: 20-7 (F – 2016)
(17) Lucas Pouille: 5-4
(20) Pablo Carreno Busta: 0-3
(28) Filip Krajinovic: 1-5
(31) Stefanos Tsitsipas: 0-1
This is a quarter full of talent, but only one proven commodity and that is Marin Cilic. The third seed should have lofty expectations here with four quarterfinals in his last five Slams played, including two finals appearances. He’s been to four straight quarterfinals here with last year’s final being his best finish. He starts against Yoshi Nishioka, which should afford the 2018 Queen’s Club champion a comfortable first round win. The top half where Cilic lives isn’t likely to have a lot of questions for Cilic until he gets to round four, where he is seeded to face Milos Raonic. Krajinovic is the other seed and as laid out earlier, he hasn’t played in three months. I don’t expect much from him, so an unseeded player like Jarry or the winner between Mackenzie McDonald and Ricardas Berankis, could find themselves in round three against Cilic.
Raonic is again an injury question after pulling out of Queen’s Club with a strained perctoral muscle. He should be fine, but he’s still fragile. When on, he showed again that he is a threat on grass with a run to the Stuttgart final. He gets Brit Liam Broady to open. The intrigue in this half could hinge on what form of Lucas Pouille we get. The 17th seed has a difficult opener against American wild card Denis Kudla. Should he survive, then we may well see a Pouille-Raonic clash in round three. Raonic holds a 3-0 edge and just beat Pouille in Stuttgart earlier this summer on grass.
In the bottom half, the lead seeds are Dimitrov and Isner, but the guy I am most interested to watch is Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek teen has continued to improve on all surfaces this year and should at least get his maiden Wimbledon win this year. As for Dimitrov, his season has gone off the rails since making the Rotterdam final. He’s gone just 9-9 since that tournament. Wimbledon has been his second most successful tournament behind the Australian Open, but he’s failed to come close to his best run to the semifinals back in 2014. He’s made round three twice and the fourth round (2017) once since that highlight moment. On paper, seeing Stan Wawrinka might be a cause for concern in round one, but Dimitrov has a good head-to-head record against him and grass has not suited the Swiss the best. The real showdown for me could come in round three is Tsitsipas can take care of business against Gregor Barriere and then either Malek Jaziri or Jared Donaldson.
In the other section of this quarter, you’re staring and John Isner and Pablo Carreno Busta as the seeds. I told you of PCB’s allergy to grass and despite a winnable opener, I don’t think the Spaniard does much again. He could get that first grass court win there, but then likely goes out in round two to the survivor between Cameron Norrie and Aljaz Bedene. Bedene seems more likely with more experience, having made round three here last year. He also owns a couple wins over PCB in their careers. Isner goes to Wimbledon with no grass prep, but his first round opponent, Yannick Maden, doesn’t seem the sort to upset him. The challenge lies in round two where he faces Steve Johnson or Ruben Bemelmans. Johnson has been especially tough on him with four straight wins and Bemelmans This part of the draw could really open up for someone like Johnson or Bedene to sprout a mild surprise.
Pablo Carreno Busta
I think this quarter swings on a possible Cilic-Raonic match in the fourth round. The hope is that Raonic is healthy to make that one to watch. Cilic is 2-1 against him, but their matches usually hinge around one or two breaks to decide things. I think with all eyes on Cilic due to his recent Slam success, Dimitrov should really play loose and free in this spot. His part of the draw and overall experience, could have him primed for at least a quarterfinal run. I think the important thing for him is not struggling out of the gate against Wawrinka. It’s hard to pick against Cilic with the Croat showing good mental strength in Slams of late and owning favorable records against the top dogs in this section. Raonic sticks out as the alternate runner here for me if he can stay away from the injury bug.
Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) Alexander Zverev: 6-3
(7) Dominic Thiem: 5-4
(12) Novak Djokovic: 58-10 (3x winner)
(15) Nick Kyrgios: 10-4
(21) Kyle Edmund: 2-6
(24) Kei Nishikori: 13-9
(27) Damir Dzumhur: 3-5
(30) Fernando Verdasco: 22-15
Zverev could not have asked for much worse than what has been laid on him in this quarter. After making his break through at the French Open to get to his first Slam quarterfinal, Sascha has lost two straight matches. That includes a loss to Coric on grass in Stuttgart, although admittedly I think Coric did play great in that match. I do think his early draw here looks pretty good with James Duckworth to open and then either Taylor Fritz or Lorenzo Sonego in round two. The real battle could begin in round three, where Sascha is slated to meet (27) Dzumhur. Dzumhur has surprised on grass and had Zverev on the ropes in their five set war at the French Open in May. I think grass would help Zverev more so if that match unfolds, but it could still be a tricky one.
More trouble could come in round four should Sascha get that far with Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios as the seeds in the other quadrant of this half. Kyrgios is going to be the most watched, but he has some tough customers in his way. He opens against Istomin, then could see hard hitting Marius Copil in round two and perhaps fellow Aussie Bernard Tomic in round three. Yes, Tomic is still alive and perhaps perfectly cast as a lucky loser entry after getting blown own in the final round of qualifying. Nishikori likely could have something to say about this section too with the man from Japan opening against Christian Harrison. He could then see Tomic or Hubert Hurkacz, another lucky loser, in round two.
Tomic has actually won two straight from Nishikori, both in 2016. We know this is the Aussie’s best surface and he reminded of that with a semifinal run at the Libema Open this summer, losing to Gasquet in three sets. The 25-year-old lost in round one last year, but has a quarterfinal and a couple of fourth round finishes to his credit at Wimbledon. If I am Nishikori, I’d rather not face Tomic in round two. He could blow him out, but Tomic could also show up and be capable of making things very interesting. Most will hope for another installment of Zverev-Kyrgios, but I think there are enough factors/players here that we see something different.
In the other half, lead seeds are Dominic Thiem and the resurgent Novak Djokovic. Djokovic is going to get a long look from most who believe the Serb’s run at Queen’s Club is an indicator that he’s not far off of being a major factor again. Best of five tennis will be the challenge to his consistency and I think his challenge early is to take care of business without expending extra energy. He begins with Tennys Sandgren who has still not won a Grand Slam match outside of Australia. A win nets the 12th seed a shot against Horacio Zeballos or Guido Andreozzi. The path for me looks clean until round three where Djokovic is seeded to meet Edmund, but Yuichi Sugita could also be a factor. Edmund won’t be afraid of Djokovic after scoring his first win over the Serb in Madrid this Spring. The Brit’s bigger challenge is a poor record on grass (5-14) and little success at the All-England Club.
The other quadrant with Thiem has a lot of dangerous unseeded players. Thiem begins against Marcos Baghdatis, who once upon a time was one of those players. He’s not in that category at this time. I expect Thiem to advance to round two, where he could find big trouble in Karen Khachanov. The big hitting Russian faces David Ferrer to start with the Russian having beaten the Spaniard in three sets indoors earlier this season. Grass should play well to Khachanov’s power. Khachanov would pose an interesting risk to Thiem’s stay in London. Khachanov is 7-3 on grass and made round three last year. He’s got that quick 1-2 punch of big serve and big groundies that can trouble on this surface.
The other part of this segment sees Verdasco against Tiafoe in round one and Marton Fucsovics against Julien Benneteau. That is pretty wide open and you could reasonably see any of those guys into round three with the exception perhaps of Fucsovics who has had some health issues lately. For me, that leaves Thiem or Khachanov as the guy likely to be set up for a showdown against Djokovic in round four.
Djokovic is going to be a popular pick here and even if he still has not proven to be his best, I think you do see why you would like him better than unprovens like Zverev and Kyrgios. Kyrgios was consistent here until losing in round one last year, having made the fourth round twice and a quarterfinal in the previous three trips. He says he is as healthy as he’s been in a long time, but Nishikori is a road block even on grass. Nishikori is 3-0 against him, although grass definitely might be Nick’s best shot to turn that around. I think this will come down to which one of three guys conserves his energy better early on – Zverev, Kyrgios and Djokovic. Sascha knows first hand how important that is now after the run of five setters in France wore him out late. I lean slightly to Djokovic with everyone else, but do think Kyrgios is capable albeit tough to trust in best of five sets.
Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Rafael Nadal: 43-10 (2x winner)
(5) Juan Martin Del Potro: 17-8
(10) David Goffin: 10-6
(14) Diego Schwartzman: 0-3
(18) Jack Sock: 4-5
(19) Fabio Fognini: 10-9
(26) Denis Shapovalov: 0-1
(29) Marco Cecchinato: 0-1
Nadal’s chances on grass always seem to come down to how many power players might stand in his way. In that regard, this is one of the best draws he could have hoped for with a fairly simple early route. Rafa plays Dudi Sela in round one and that should afford him a solid start. The second round would pit him against Mikhail Kukushkin or Vasek Pospisil. Pospisil has struggled to get back to the form that saw him as a quarter finalist at Wimbledon back in 2015. Since then, the Canadian is 1-8 at Slams. A win could do wonders for him, but I don’t know that he would truly challenge Nadal at this point. Rafa’s third round opponent is anyone from a group including Cecchinato, De Minaur, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and newly minted Eastbourne champ, Mischa Zverev. There are a lot of gritty, speedy defenders in that bunch – but no one who is going to overpower Rafa. I think Nadal gets through to round four.
It’s Diego Schwartzman and Fabio Fognini as the seeds in the other section in this half. Schwartzman is still searching for his first grass court win and may get it against Mirza Basic in the opening round. The second round would be tougher with either Jiri Vesely or Florian Mayer waiting. Vesely just made the semis in Antalya and would be the bigger ask. Mayer at one time was a quarter finalist here (2012), but has been hampered by injuries the last few years. It would be a shocker even against Schwartzman I think to see him push through a few rounds. Fognini begins with Taro Daniel who doesn’t seem the sort to win on grass. The interesting match-up could come in round two if Simone Bolelli can utilize his lucky loser status and get a win against Pablo Cuevas in round one. Cuevas is 1-4 on the surface, so Bolelli surely has a shot. That would then pit two doubles partners against each other in round two with Bolelli liking grass better than Fognini.
The other half of the quarter sees Del Potro and Goffin as the highest seeds. Del Potro’s problem comes in round two with Feliciano Lopez as a potential opponent. Del Potro will need to get past Petr Gojowyczk first , but if he does he finds himself against a serve and volley type who will test him. Lopez has Federico Delbonis in round one. Lopez is a three time quarter finalist at Wimbledon, but he has only been as far as round four since his last QF in 2011. Should we see Del Potro versus Lopez, be weary of the upset potential. The other match in this segment to watch is round one with Shapovalov against Chardy. Chardy has been red hot on grass and he could have an inside track to round three. He may have to get past fellow Frenchie Benoit Paire who now faces Jason Jung in round one instead of Andy Murray. There is some definite potential for an unseeded player to get to round four in this part of the draw.
In Goffin’s segment, the Belgian has tricky Matthew Ebden to being. If he survives. then he will see either Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Stephane Robert. Ramos-Vinolas has made round three the last two years at Wimbledon but doesn’t seem likely to repeat that feat. The other seed here is Jack Sock. I don’t need to beat a dead horse, he has been awful this year. Once again he is presented with a draw that could lead him to a few wins, but he hasn’t shown any interest in winning this season. He faces Berrettini in round one and then either Gilles Simon or Nikoloz Basilashvili in round two. Basilashvili is the one to watch here and he could sneak into round three if Sock continues to suck. Goffin has made round four his last tro trips to London and could be in for another if he avoids trouble against Ebden early.
This is the exact kind of draw that I think Nadal would have loved to have crafted himself. It’s definitely a possibility that he could run through this quarter and into his first Wimbledon semifinal since 2011. Del Potro’s power would be the big test in this quarter, but the Argentine might not even be around by the quarters where he would potentially face Nadal. Feliciano Lopez would be the other intriguing contender if he can pull off some upsets. He’s beaten Rafa two straight times, but it’s been almost three years since their last meeting. Grass would however be a great chance for him to frustrate Nadal and avoid playing long rallies. That’s a big if though because he has a tough path to getting to that point. Either way, I thnk Nadal has an opportunity to play for a spot in the semis with the draw.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …
Is there an end in sight to the Federer-Nadal strangle hold on winning Slams? Grass is one surface that has become tougher in the era of the big server to repeat feats on. Federer was the last player to win back-to-back at Wimbledon, but that came from 2003-2007 during his era of complete dominance on this surface. Since then, it’s been all Big Four winning the titles, but none have been able to go back-to-back. Does Federer break the string? It’s obviously possible, but I think this is a tough draw LATE. He has to go through Cilic potentially in the semifinals and Cilic has shown that he is on par with Fed at Slams.
Their last three Slams have seen Federer win in five at the Australian Open this year and in five at Wimbledon in 2016. That came on the heels of Cilic’s stunning victory over Fed at the 2014 U.S. Open, where he won his lone Slam title. I think Cilic has a real shot if they play again to get a rare win. That could leave the door open for someone like Nadal or Djokovic to take advantage of perhaps a slightly compromised Cilic. The Big Four will still have a ton to say about who wins the title this year, but I’m going with Cilic. He’s consistent and this is his best Slam.