Opposite Milos Raonic, a player contesting his first ever Grand Slam final, Andy Murray was the dominant player in the 2016 Wimbledon final, and a deserving champion for the second time in his career at Wimbledon. Murray has now won three titles out of eleven career Grand Slam finals and he’s reached the final of every Grand Slam this year. With Ivan Lendl in his box, and all of the UK sporting fans showing him love, Murray went on to an inspired 6-4 7-6 7-6 win over the big serving Canadian.
Raonic’s typically strong serving wasn’t the same as it had been all tournament. His nervous play in key moments, coupled with Murray’s elite return game gave the Brit a serious advantage in the map. Murray faced just two break points in the match, saving them both, as Raonic was poor when returning. On his serve, he was under pressure in all three sets, although he was only broken in the first set. Raonic also bottled both the second and third set tiebreaks, losing them both without putting any pressure on Murray.
This match was a great learning experience for Raonic, and he’s likely to make more slam finals in the future. The Canadian #1 continues to improve his game. He defeated David Goffin, Sam Querrey, and Roger Federer in the second week. He was pressed hard by a hungry Goffin, and Federer, but he came through in the clutch, and perhaps those tough wins left him sapped for this final against Murray.
The British #1 and world #2 made up ground on Novak Djokovic as he defeated Nick Kyrgios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Tomas Berdych, pushed only by Tsonga, to reach the final. Tsonga forced a fifth set, but Murray dominated that fifth set, and the level of his game wasn’t touched all tournament by any other player.
After achieving more Grand Slam joy, Murray now has a shot at defending his Olympic Gold Medal in Rio, and should be looking to make up more ground on Djokovic during the US Open Series tournaments this Summer on hard courts, a surface he plays well on.
Pierre Herbert and Nicolas Mahut continued a great Wimbledon for them, as Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were defeated in the men’s doubles final by the fellow all-French pairing. Herbert and Mahut are one of the most promising doubles pairings in a long time based on their recent success. The grass season has now concluded, and tennis now heads to hard courts, and European clay before the Olympics in Rio. The second week of Wimbledon was completed without incident, after a first week full of rain and disruption.
Everybody loves an underdog story and the men’s Wimbledon qualifying draw saw two players’ dreams turn into a reality.
On one end of the spectrum, there is British world No.775 Marcus Willis, a player who has spent most of his year working as a coach at the Warwick Boat Club in England. The 25-year-old has been ranked as high as 322nd in the world (2014) and currently has eight Futures under his name. Then on the other side is Albano Olivetti, a fast-serving Frenchman who stepped away from the tour for 18 months following an injury sustained from a car accident. The two are very different men, but their achievement within the past week are jointly remarkable.
British No.23 Willis came through six qualifying matches to reach his maiden main draw. On his way, he stunned fourth seed Yuichi Sugita in three sets. Then the 25-year-old followed up on the milestone win with back-to-back triumphs over Russian players Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev. Incredibly, Willis achieved the spectacular run in only his second competitive event of the year and his first since a Tunisian Futures event in January due to injury.
“I am absolutely delighted to win and to qualify for Wimbledon. It’s a victory for everyone who had believed in me and stuck by me throughout,” he said earlier in the week. “I can’t wait to get to the practice courts at Wimbledon. It will be a special feeling, but I’m just going to keep my head down and rest up before next week.”
On Monday Willis will become the lowest rank player to feature in the 128-player draw without the use of a protected ranking since India’s Mahesh Bhupathi received a wildcard in 2000. He is now guaranteed at least £30,000 in money, which is almost a third on his entire career earnings.
If it wasn’t for a woman called Jennifer, this underdog story would have never happened for Willis. He was on the verge of been in America but was persuaded to halt his American plans and continue his competitive career.
“I met a girl, Jennifer, who basically told me that I was an idiot and that I should keep going. I’m very grateful for her.” The 25-year-old told atpworldtour.com.
Besides Willis’ British triumph, Olivetti has his own French fairytale. Bursting onto the scene in 2012 when he stunned world No.8 Mardy Fish to reach the quarter-finals of the Marseille Open, the Frenchman has shown glimmers of his talent. In May 2014 he achieved a ranking best of 161st before a car accident ruined his momentum on the tour. As a result of the accident, Olivetti had to undergo a procedure to treat a cervical hernia as he missed the entire 2015 season.
Returning to action in January this year, the 24-year-old has clinched two Challenger titles in the doubles, but he has had minimal luck in the singles. This dry run ended on the Wimbledon grass. Using his protected ranking to enter qualifying, he defeated unseeded players Andre Ghem, Gregoire Barrere and Edward Corris to reach his first Wimbledon main draw. The trio of wins has made Olivetti the lowest ranked player to qualify for a grand slam since world No.1122 Mark Knowles at the 1998 Wimbledon Championships.
The achievements of Willis and Olivetti shows why the qualifying draws are so vital to the lower ranked players. They travel around the world to the strangest places in the hope that they can achieve their dream. It is a demanding challenge that takes its toll on players in numerous ways, physically, mentally and financially. Life in the lower class section of tennis isn’t pleasant, but it doesn’t mean that their dreams won’t come true no matter how unlikely they may seem.
2016 Wimbledon Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been a quick transition from clay to grass for the ATP’s best, and now it’s time for Wimbledon 2016. The spotlight has been on London for political reasons as of late, and now the sporting world will focus in on one of the best sporting events in the world. Here is a preview, with predictions.
London, Great Britain
June 27-July 10, 2016
Prize Money: £13,163,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (2)
3: Roger Federer (3)
4: Stan Wawrinka (5)
5: Kei Nishikori (6)
6: Milos Raonic (7)
7: Richard Gasquet (10)
8: Dominic Thiem (8)
Former champion Rafael Nadal is the only notable player absent from Wimbledon this year.
First round matchups to watch:
Kyle Edmund vs. Adrian Mannarino
Both players have reached quarterfinals on grass this year, Edmund is the British #2 and would love a home win, while Mannarino is a steady veteran who excels on quick surfaces. Edmund could win this, but I have Mannarino finding a way to advance.
(27)Jack Sock vs. Ernests Gulbis
Neither Sock nor Gulbis had much tune up prior to Wimbledon, Gulbis has found form as of late and could pull off a surprise upset, but Sock’s forehand is likely too lethal on this fast surface.
The serve and volleyer Ivo Karlovic should have an edge to advance over his countryman Borna Coric, although he’s had a poor season overall. Karlovic won three matches on grass prior to Wimbledon, and although I see Coric taking a set, he doesn’t have the grass court experience yet to prevail.
(29)Pablo Cuevas vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Cuevas was an unlikely finalist in Nottingham, and that sets him up to potentially win a round or more at Wimbledon. Kuznetsov is an intriguing new talent who has risen this year in the rankings, and his power tennis seems suited for fast surfaces. Fatigue may play a factor for Cuevas, but I tip him to advance in this one given his recent inspired play.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs. Sam Groth
Groth notched five wins on grass in recent weeks, although none of them were remarkable in terms of his opponents. The big server is still one of the toughest opponents to face on this surface however, and though he’s had a down season, if he serves well, he could be lethal against Nishikori. The Japanese #1 withdrew from Halle, and had little warm-up prior to Wimbledon, but he’s a great returner and I have to think he’ll still win this match given the huge gap in talent.
Mayer upset Thiem in Halle, where the oft-injured German veteran took home the title. Thiem is a better player and he’s far superior this season, he also took home the title in Stuttgart, showing his own grass court prowess. Mayer should test the young Austrian, but I see him running out of gas after the first three sets.
(14)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Jordan Thompson
The Queens quarterfinalist RBA could be tested by the Australian Thompson who has a knack for playing well on grass. This is a potential upset special if Thompson rises up and plays his best tennis, but I have Bautista Agut prevailing.
(19)Bernard Tomic vs. Fernando Verdasco
Tomic is 4-1 against Verdasco in the h2h and just defeated him at the Queens Club tournament in three sets. Verdasco has a history of success at Wimbledon, as does Tomic, and this should be a high quality contest. Tomic’s recent form is superior and he plays his best on grass, although his focus and passion continues to be in question. Verdasco could edge this match, but I favor Tomic to prevail and get one of his best wins of the season.
Wawrinka fell meekly to Verdasco at Queen’s, although his grass court record over his career has been above average. He should cruise past the young American Fritz, but this is a great test for the likely future ATP star, and we’ll see if this match develops into something less routine for the Swiss champion.
(18)John Isner vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Baghdatis has never defeated Isner (0-6) but his recent play on grass has outperformed the American #1, as he posted a pair of quarterfinals in Halle and Nottingham. Isner is the favorite, but I’m going with Baghdatis in an upset, as the wily veteran should be more consistent over the course of a likely five sets.
(15)Nick Kyrgios vs. Radek Stepanek
Kyrgios is fantastic on grass and his attacking game is well suited to make a deep run yet again at Wimbledon. Stepanek was a quarterfinalist in Stuttgart, and his serve and volley style also sets up well for Wimbledon. He could test the young Australian, but that test should improve his performance and boost his chances of having a good tournament.
Australian and French Open champion Novak Djokovic will continue his quest for a first ever Grand Slam, along with a third consecutive, and fourth overall Wimbledon title. A winner of seven straight matches, Djokovic should ease past Britain’s James Ward, a loser of three straight on grass, in round 1, and then defeat the Edmund/Mannarino winner in round 2. Sam Querrey should await round 3, as the Den Bosch semifinalist opens with a struggling Lukas Rosol, with Thomaz Bellucci or qualifier Ruben Bemelmans to follow. Rosol is capable on grass, but Querrey is in better form, and neither Bemelmans or Bellucci or in great form. All in all expect Djokovic to ease his way into the second week.
Stuttgart finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber looks set to reach the second week as well. Kohlschreiber opens with a struggling Pierre-Hugues Herbert with either Damir Dzumhur or Denis Kudla to follow. Kudla’s pure ball striking should fall short against Kohlschreiber’s crafty play, and then either David Ferrer or Nicolas Mahut await in round 3. A struggling Ferrer opens with Den Bosch quarterfinalist Dudi Sela, the Israeli veteran may wear him out enough to allow Mahut to pull off a tremendous upset, as the Den Bosch champion is a great serve and volleyer who is well suited to grass. Kohlschreiber over Mahut is my pick.
David Goffin looks set to reach the second week, the Belgian opens with a struggling Alexander Ward, with either Teymuraz Gabashvili or qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin to follow. After that it should be Kevin Anderson for the Belgian #1. Anderson opens with a struggling Denis Istomin, with either Nicolas Almagro or Rogerio Dutra Silva to follow. Anderson played well at Wimbledon last year, but he’s struggled this season, and Goffin should be superior.
Milos Raonic should setup a meeting with Sock in the third round, presuming Sock defeats Gulbis, and Diego Schwartzman/Robin Haase, while Raonic defeats Pablo Carreno Busta and Andreas Seppi/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Seppi has had a great grass court season and should defeat GGL, but Raonic was a finalist in Queen’s and his power serve game is well suited for grass. Haase should get the better of Schwartzman, and then Sock should advance before falling to Raonic in round 3.
The holder of seven Wimbledon titles enters this year’s tournament without a single ATP title to his name. Roger Federer had an injured back that forced him to pull out of Paris, but he should still ease past Guido Pella and then Ricardas Berankis or Marcus Willis in round 2. Federer should face his first test against Alexandr Dolgopolov. The streaky Ukrainian isn’t as accomplished on grass as he is on other surfaces but he should still get the better of Evgeny Donskoy and Dan Evans or J.L. Struff. Given the surface, Federer should at least reach the second week before things get tougher for him.
If Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils are to meet in round 3 they will have to navigate a tough path. Monfils missed Paris and opens with Jeremy Chardy, his countryman. Simon was poor in pre-Wimbledon grass court action and opens with the veteran Janko Tipsarevic, who is still on the injury recovery trail. I have the Nottingham champion Steve Johnson rising up and defeating Monfils, but I have Simon slipping past a struggling Grigor Dimitrov in round 2. Dimitrov opens with qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo, while Johnson faces Malek Jaziri. Simon over Johnson is my pick in the third round.
Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic, both Croatians, should be opposite each other in the third round. Cilic, a semifinalist at Queen’s Club, opens with Brian Baker, a loser of four straight matches, with the serve and volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky likely to follow, after Stakhovsky defeats Yoshihito Nishioka. Stakhovsky could challenge Cilic, but he’s a good grass court player, and far better overall than the Ukrainian. Karlovic will face qualifier Lukas Lacko or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi after he does battle with Borna Coric. Cilic is 2-1 in the h2h against Karlovic, and I have him advancing into week 2.
Kei Nishikori has a challenging draw, after Groth, and either Julien Benneteau or Illya Marchenko, Gilles Muller, a finalist in Den Bosch, is his likely opponent. Both Benneteau and Marchenko are struggling and unlikely to pose much of a threat to Nishikori. Muller, a great grass court serve and volleyer, opens with Santiago Giraldo, with Cuevas/Kuznetsov to follow. Nishikori has never lost to Muller, and although he’s at risk for an upset, I’m going with Kei to prevail.
Stan Wawrinka could be in trouble, after Fritz, he’ll face off with Juan Martin Del Potro, a dangerous dark horse in the draw. Del Potro’s power tennis could knock Wawrinka back, but I have Wawrinka finding a a way to prevail and setting up a third round match against qualifier Marius Copil, who is sharp on grass and opens with Lucas Pouille, who is poor on grass. Donald Young should defeat Leonardo Mayer before falling to Copil in round 2, and then I have Wawrinka reaching week 2.
The Tomic/Verdasco winner looks well suited to advance into round 3. The winner is likely to get qualifier Radu Albot, or Gastao Elias in round 2, with Roberto Bautista Agut likely to follow in round 3, after the Spaniard defeats Jordan Thompson and Mikhail Kukushkin/Martin Klizan. Klizan is a good player but he’s been struggling as of late. Tomic should make the second week, but I’m going with Bautista Agut because I don’t trust the Australian to consistently play well.
Tomas Berdych will be in danger against the young Alexander Zverev in the third round, presuming Zverev defeats veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu and the veteran Mikhail Youzhny (who opens with Horacio Zeballos). PHM has two recent wins over Zverev, but the Halle finalist looks ready to rise, Youzhny is also a tough opponent but hasn’t shown his previous level of form in years now. Berdych opens with Ivan Dodig, with Benjamin Becker or Facundo Bagnis to follow. He lost his only Wimbledon warm-up match, and I have Zverev knocking him off in the third round.
Thiem or Mayer have Jiri Vesely or qualifier Igor Sijsling up in round 2, with Joao Sousa or Luke Saville/Dennis Novikov likely in round 3, unless Dmitry Tursunov upsets Sousa. Saville is a bit of a grass court specialist and I have him winning over Sousa in round 2, before falling to Thiem.
The former Wimbledon Champion and runner-up in the last two Grand Slams, Andy Murray, opens with wild card Liam Broady, with either Benoit Paire or John Millman likely in round 3, and Yen-Hsun Lu or Alex Kudryavtsev up in round 2. Lu has been in incredible form on the challenger tour on grass, but Murray should still demolish him, and Paire/Millman. Paire opens with qualifier Franko Skugor, while Millman has dirtballer Albert Montanes. With Paire in poor form, I have Millman has a third round surprise.
The first real test for Murray should be against the winner of Nick Kyrgios/Feliciano Lopez in the third round, Kyrgios has either Dustin Brown or Dusan Lajovic in round 2 after facing Stepanek, while Lopez opens with Rajeev Ram with Fabio Fognini or Federico Delbonis to follow. Lopez is a dangerous serve and volleyer, and Brown could upset Kyrgios, but Kyrgios is the best player in this section and should prevail.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga wasn’t fit in Paris, but he’s a good grass court player, and he should be in better shape for Wimbledon. Inigo Cervantes is an easy opening opponent, with Taro Daniel or Juan Monaco to follow. Monaco hasn’t been in great form as of late, and thus I have Tsonga in round 3, opposite Marcos Baghdatis. After Isner, a qualifier is up in round 2, either Albano Olivetti, or Matthew Barton. I have Baghdatis upsetting Tsonga, after a win over Barton, he’s one of my dark horse picks for the tournament, and Tsonga isn’t likely to be 100%.
Richard Gasquet has been playing great in recent months, Gasquet opens with Aljaz Bedene, with Marcel Granollers or Victor Estrella to follow, more than likely Granollers. Viktor Troicki opens with qualifier Tristan Lamasine, with Vasek Pospisil or Albert Ramos next, Pospisil is a tough out on grass, but Troicki should fall to Gasquet in round 3.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Nicolas Mahut, Gilles Muller, Juan Martin Del Potro and Marcos Baghdatis
Mahut has to get past Ferrer, and although Philipp Kohlschreiber stands in his way, he could go as far as the second week. Muller should get as far as round 3, and Nishikori is one of the more beatable top seeds, if he wins that match he’ll be into the second week with a shot at the quarterfinals.
Del Potro could shock Wawrinka and make a big push for the second week and beyond, although he’s still unlikely to be at the level needed to do that. Baghdatis could fall in round 1 to Isner, but if he advances, he’s set to make the second week as a veteran presence in the draw.
Round of 16 Djokovic d. Kohlschreiber
Raonic d. Goffin
Federer d. Simon
Nishikori d. Cilic
Thiem d. Zverev
Wawrinka d. Bautista Agut
Gasquet d. Baghdatis
Murray d. Kyrgios
Djokovic beat Kohli at Wimbledon last year, Raonic has a win this year over Goffin, Federer dominates Simon and beat him at Wimbledon last year, Nishikori has a clear h2h edge over Cilic, Thiem is 3-0 over Zverev, Wawrinka is a better player than RBA, Gasquet has a win over Baghdatis this year and has been in great form, and Murray should find a way over Kyrgios given his 4-0 h2h.
Quarters Djokovic d. Raonic
Nishikori d. Federer
Thiem d. Wawrinka
Murray d. Gasquet
Murray has won five straight against Gasquet, I have Thiem upsetting Wawrinka on grass to even the h2h, Federer’s level has declined thus I have Nishikori in an upset win, and Djokovic is 7-0 against Raonic.
Semis Djokovic d. Nishikori
Murray d. Thiem
Djokovic and Murray are a cut above anyone else in the draw, and on grass they appear set for a final battle.
Final Djokovic d. Murray
Murray won Queen’s in advance of Wimbledon, and he’s been playing some remarkable tennis as of late, thus he’ll have a real shot against Djokovic, but the world #1 has been the best player in the world all season and that shouldn’t change on grass.