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2017 Wimbledon Men's Preview: A quarter-by-quarter breakdown
Published Jul 03, 2017
Who said the Big Four are in decline? A decade after they took over the men’s game, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the Top 4 seeds at Wimbledon. This time, though, the roles have been reversed. While Murray and Djokovic, who have won the last four titles here, are seeded No. 1 and 2, it’s Federer and Nadal who come to London as the players to watch. Here’s a look at what we might see from them, and the rest of the field, over the next two weeks.
Murray is the top seed, the defending champion and the local favorite, but few at home or abroad are picking him to win it this time around. He looked distracted in a first-round loss at Queen’s last week, and this week he pulled out of an exhibition twice due to hip soreness. Still, Murray always tightens the ship at Wimbledon, and his draw looks like it will let him work his way into the tournament. A second-round meeting with Dustin Brown would generate plenty of buzz, but Brown, while he has a win over Nadal at Wimbledon, is just 5-6 for his career there.
The road could get rougher for Murray after that. The other two seeds in his half of this section are Nick Kyrgios and Lucas Pouille, two young power players who like grass and are destined to go deep at Wimbledon at some point. The top seed in the other half is Stan Wawrinka. The semi between Murray and Wawrinka in Paris was the match of the men’s draw; on grass, Murray, if his play and his health improve, should have the edge.
Also here: Two-time Wimbledon semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; he’s slated to face Sam Querrey in the third round, and Wawrinka in the fourth.
First-round match to watch:
Wawrinka vs. Daniil Medvedev. The Russian is an unorthodox talent who likes grass.
What are Nadal’s chances? On the one hand, he hasn’t made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2011. On the other, he’s playing his best tennis in three years, and even in the years when he went deep at Wimbledon he had to survive several close calls in the early rounds. If he can survive one or two this year, he’ll likely be tough to beat in the second week.
Where might those close calls come from? The most obvious threat is Karen Khachanov. At 6’6”, with a two-handed backhand and a powerful serve and forehand, the 21-year-old Russian has all the ingredients to be a Rafa killer. Khachanov also happens to have started playing his best tennis of the season since moving over to grass.
Also here: Marin Cilic. A dark horse for the title, the Croat has been to the quarters the last three years, and had match points on Federer in that round in 2016. He’s also one of the few players outside the Big Four who knows for a fact that he can win a Grand Slam. The question is: Can he beat Rafa? Nadal is 4-1 against Cilic.
First-round match to watch:
Cilic vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
The stars were aligned for a 10th win by Nadal at the French Open; now they seem to be similarly aligned for an eighth Federer win at Wimbledon. Can anyone create an unforeseen disturbance in the universe? Federer begins against Alexandr Dolgopolov. The Ukrainian’s shot-making magic can rival Federer’s at its best, but actually beating Federer on Centre Court in best of five? That will require a strong closer, and this is not Dolgopolov’s specialty. Something similar can be said for two other seeds in Federer’s half of this section, Mischa Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov. Between them, the German and the Bulgarian have all the shots and a few extra—and between them they have an 0-9 record against Federer.
While the shot-makers are in Federer’s half here, the bigger hitters are on the other side: Milos Raonic, who beat Federer in the semis last year; Alexander Zverev, who beat him on grass in Halle in 2016; and Jack Sock, who made the third round at Wimbledon last year. Judging by their current forms, a Federer rematch against Raonic would go the Swiss’ way.
First-round match (for U.S. fans) to watch:
John Isner vs. Taylor Fritz
In 2011, 2014 and 2015, Djokovic bounced back from a tough French Open defeat to redeem himself with a big Wimbledon win. He’s coming off another tough one in Paris, a quarterfinal blowout at the hands of Dominic Thiem. The difference this time is that while Djokovic was clearly the world’s best player in the years when he won at Wimbledon, in 2017 he has been anything but. While he’ll have new mentor Andre Agassi with him in London, they have their work cut out for them if Djokovic is going to regain anything like his top form over the next two weeks.
Djokovic opens against a mixed-bag opponent in Martin Klizan; while the lefty Czech is a shot-maker, and he pushed Nadal hard here three years ago, he’s just 1-5 at Wimbledon for his career. A tougher test could come in the third round, where Djokovic is scheduled to face Juan Martin del Potro. Their five-set Wimbledon semifinal was one of the best matches of 2013.
Also here: Thiem. The Austrian has never been past the second round at Wimbledon, and he has a potentially difficult opener against Vasek Pospisil.
First-round matches to watch:
Thiem vs. Pospisil
Del Potro vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis. The Aussie beat Raonic last week at Queen’s.
Richard Gasquet vs. David Ferrer
Sleeper: Feliciano Lopez. The newly-minted Queen’s champ could get a shot at Djokovic in the fourth round.
Semifinals: Nadal d. Murray; Federer d. Djokovic
Final: Federer d. Nadal
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