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Wimbledon Men's Preview: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the top two seeds, but will we see a dark-horse title run by a younger contender?
A year ago, Matteo Berrettini reached his first major final and comes in with a nine-match win streak on grass. Is his time for a major breakthrough now?
Published Jun 24, 2022
The Big 4—Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray—have won every men’s title at Wimbledon since 2002. And they would seem to be in the driver’s seat to keep that streak alive for another year. Djokovic and Nadal are the top two seeds, and Murray, after making the final of a grass-court tune-up, is a legitimate sleeper pick. It also won’t hurt that two of the leading younger contenders, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev, will be absent. Still, the man who beat Murray in that final, Matteo Berrettini, is in the draw, and he may just be the favorite.
In 2021, Djokovic came to London on a tidal wave of momentum, which he rode to his third straight Grand Slam title and 20th overall. But that was where the wave crested; 12 months later, after a four-set loss to Nadal at Roland Garros, he’ll have to generate his momentum from scratch. Not that the six-time champion can’t do it. Relatively speaking, he’s in the easier half of the draw. Nadal, Berrettini, and Kyrgios are all in the bottom section, while the high seeds in Djokovic’s half are Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz, and Carlos Alcaraz.
But not everything looks like smooth sailing. Two U.S. towers of serving power, Reilly Opelka and John Isner, are in Djokovic’s quarter, as is Jannik Sinner and recent revelation Tim van Rijthoven. Alcaraz is something of a question mark on grass. His overall talent is obviously sky high, but last year at Wimbledon he was taken out by Medvedev in three quick sets in the first round. This year an elbow injury has kept him out of all of the tune-ups on turf. He’ll also start with a pretty tough opponent in Jan-Lennard Struff.
And what about Murray? The two-time Wimbledon champion reached the final in Stuttgart two weeks ago, a result that would seem to give him a fighting chance during the fortnight. But he could quickly find himself in choppy water: He second-round opponent might be Isner, and his third-round foe might be Sinner.
Player of Interest: Oscar Otte. The 32nd-seed is coming off two semifinal appearances in Stuttgart and Halle.
First-round matches to watch:
- Alcaraz vs. Struff
- Sinner vs. Stan Wawrinka
- Murray vs. James Duckworth
This section would seem to be a land of opportunity for rank-and-file players. The highest-seeded player here, Ruud, has never won a singles match at Wimbledon. The second-highest seed, Hurkacz, did make the semifinals last year, but his career record at the majors is just 16-16, and he’s hardly a lock to go deep at any Slam.
Who might have a chance to taking advantage of this opening? Last year, Frances Tiafoe showed off some flash on grass when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and made the third round. Cam Norrie also made the third round, and as the ninth seed he’ll have higher expectations in his home country this year. Grigor Dimitrov and Tommy Paul have the athleticism and all-court games for the surface. But Hurkacz, champion over Medvedev in Halle last week, remains the favorite.
First-round match to watch: Hurkacz vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
The strange thing about this section is that the top seed, Tsitsipas, seems to be among the most vulnerable big names to an early defeat, while the second-highest seed, Berrettini, is among the top two or three favorites to win the whole thing. Theoretically, the tournament sets up well for the Italian. He’s won two straight titles on grass, he’s fresh after missing the clay season, he’s already been to the final here, and his heavy serve-forehand combination makes him a tough out in a best-of-five format.
Still, there will be obstacles. Berrettini starts against a solid opponent in Cristian Garin, may have a tricky one in Jenson Brooksby in the third round, and could play either Tsitsipas, Shapovalov, Bautista Agut or Nick Kyrgios in the quarters.
Players of Interest: Shapovalov and Kyrgios. The Canadian made the semis last year, but is 0-5 since the Italian Open. Kyrgios, meanwhile, looks fitter than usual, and as we know, is capable of beating anyone on any day. That includes Tsitsipas, who he could face in the third round.
For the third straight Slam, there are questions about Nadal’s physical status. Clearly, he answered those questions pretty convincingly by winning the title at the last two. Could he do it again and keep his surprise quest for the Grand Slam at age 36 alive? This one will be the toughest. Nadal hasn’t won Wimbledon since 2010, hasn’t been to the final since 2011, and hasn’t played the tournament, or on grass, since 2019. He’ll be vulnerable to a big server or big hitter in a way he isn’t on the other surfaces.
Is there anyone in this section who might give him a scare? Sam Querrey, a grass aficionado, could be his third-round opponent. Marin Cilic, 2017 Wimbledon finalist, could meet him in the fourth round. And Felix Auger-Aliassime, who nearly beat him in Paris, or Taylor Fritz, who did beat him in Indian Wells, may be waiting for him in the quarterfinals. But Nadal made the semis the last two times he played here, and if he’s his normal self, he should get there again.
First-round matches to watch:
- Auger-Aliassime vs. Maxime Cressy
- Fritz vs. Lorenzo Musetti
Semifinals: Djokovic d. Hurkacz; Berrettini d. Nadal
Final: Berrettini d. Djokovic
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