Wimbledon 2014 Week 1 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
London, Great Britain
June 23-July 6, 2014
Top 8 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Rafael Nadal
3: Andy Murray
4: Roger Federer
5: Stan Wawrinka
6: Tomas Berdych
7: David Ferrer
8: Milos Raonic
Of the ATP top 50, the long-term injured Juan Martin Del Potro is out, along with Tommy Haas, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Nicolas Almagro, Florian Mayer and Ivan Dodig are also not in the draw, but all other top 50 players are participating.
1st round matchups to watch:
(14)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Jurgen Melzer
Tsonga is struggling right now, as he comes off a round 2 loss at Queens club. He hasn’t had a strong season, but I still think he will survive a test against Den Bosch semifinalist Melzer, who he beat at the French a couple of weeks ago and has a 4-1 overall h2h edge. Melzer can produce some good results and he’s finding him form again, so this should match should not be routine.
(18)Fernando Verdasco vs Marinko Matosevic
Matosevic is 7-2 on grass this season, and that stat, along with an even 1-1 h2h, is what gives him a chance against defending quarterfinalist Verdasco, who has had some consistency issues at the slams.
I’m picking Verdasco in 4 or 5 sets myself, but Matosevic seems boosted after finally getting over the hump of his first slam main draw win at the French, and this match could produce some fireworks if either or both players get worked up.
(27)Roberto Bautista Agut vs Steve Johnson
RBA comes off a maiden ATP title at Den Bosch, and he will be a favorite against the improving American Johnson who he has beaten twice this year on hard courts as part of what has been a career year for the Spaniard. RBA is looking to improve on his slam results and is a possible dark horse this year. His all-surface game is unusual for a Spanish player, and Johnson’s newfound mental fortitude and improved technical skills will be put to the test here.
If RBA isn’t fatigued I favor him to advance.
Dominic Thiem vs (Q)Luke Saville
Thiem is a much talked about rising young talent who is now an ATP regular, while Saville is a 20 year old Aussie, who was formerly the number one junior in the world and has two junior slams on his resume (one of them is Wimbledon 2011). He qualified here for Wimbledon as a pro player and Thiem has very limited experience on grass, losing his only warm up match this year in Queens 4 and 2 to David Goffin. The odds and recognition favor Thiem, but I like Saville to pull off the upset given his superior experience on grass. The Aussie could make a break through here at Wimbledon and introduce himself to the tennis world.
Donald Young vs Benjamin Becker
An interesting match between the improved Young and the veteran Becker, who has grass court expertise. Becker comes off the Den Bosch final, and at his age may be worn down a bit, but DY isn’t really at his best on the turf and he didn’t play that well in Eastbourne. Young was, dare I say ‘clutch’ at the French and was one of the last Americans standing. I like him to survive this match as well, probably in the full five sets, if he can weather the Becker serve and grind him down.
(21)Alex Dolgopolov vs (Q)Sam Groth
Dolgo might be in trouble against the huge serving Aussie Groth, who qualified here with three strong wins and also played well in the Nottingham-2 challenger on grass (7-1 on the surface this year overall thus far). The Ukrainian number one retired in his last match in Queens and his results haven’t been the best recently. With the ranking differential between these players, this has me thinking the match is ripe with upset potential, and I’m going with Groth to pull it off.
Dustin Brown vs (WC)Marcos Baghdatis
Dreddy Brown and Baghdatis both have good grass court pedigrees, though Baggy is the much more accomplished player overall who has seen his career hit the skids in recent years. This match has epic five set potential on paper.
Baghdatis got a wild card by virtue of winning the first Nottingham challenger on grass this year, while Brown has a win over Nadal in Halle to add to his resume. This match is a hard pick and cases can be made for both players, but I’m going with Baghdatis to have the experience edge and to pull out a late set victory.
(5)Stan Wawrinka vs Joao Sousa
I don’t really think Wawrinka will lose this match, but the possibility is certainly there if the screws come lose for him like they did against Garcia-Lopez at the French a few weeks ago. Sousa comes off the semis in Den Bosch and he appears capable of playing very good on grass, as he also pushed Federer to 3 sets in Halle. Wawrinka is better in most facets, but if he loses his focus and drifts again, Sousa is not the type of player to mess around with. I would tune in and see what happens here and where Stan’s head might be.
Julian Benneteau vs (Q)Gilles Muller
Another really interesting first round match that has five set epic potential: Benneteau can play well on grass but he hasn’t had the strongest of seasons, while Muller is absolutely on fire right now. He qualified easily for Wimbledon, and has absolutely dominated the challenger circuit this season. The big serving veteran is now finally back playing more astute competition, and his 1-1 record on grass against Benny suggests this one should be close. I may just be a Challenger tennis fan, but I’m on the Muller bandwagon for this one. I like him to advance as long as the serve is clicking and he can get to the net.
Jack Sock vs (Q)Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Sock had a great slam result reaching the third round of the French Open and now he looks to take his talents to the turf against the qualifier Herbert, who has shown signs of promise. Though he is one year older than Sock, his rise has been much more gradual. He beat Jerzy Janowicz in Halle this year and is another player with a big serve as his best asset. Sock is combustible and if Herbert can serve out a lot of holds, I like him to get through this one in 4 or 5 sets, though Jack could surprise me here easily.
(22)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Igor Sijsling
Kohli has never beaten Sijsling (0-3 including a loss in Rotterdam indoors to him this year), and he’s not in the best of form and really hasn’t been all season. He lost earlier than predicted in Halle. Still, the 2012 Wimbledon quarterfinalist is facing a struggling Sijsling, who is very much out of sorts right now having lost three straight matches, all on grass. I would go with Sijsling if he was showing any signs of getting out of his slump on court, but from the matches I have seen him play, he is not, and thus Kohlschreiber should improve the h2h and get through.
Novak is yet again one of the favorites for the title, but he’s nursing a sore wrist and was on his honeymoon before Wimbledon, so perhaps his mind is elsewhere going into this slam. His first match will be against Andrey Golubev, then he has a potentially dangerous meeting with Radek Stepanek, who he beat at Wimbledon 2012 and has only lost to once in a multitude of meetings.
Stepanek comes off the semis in Queens and he can play well on grass, but he will probably fall to Djokovic in round 2 after beating Pablo Cuevas. In round 3, Novak is likely to face either Gilles Simon or Vasek Pospisil, which is a bit of a lucky break for him, as both players have been poor all season. Vashy is just now breaking out
of a losing streak and he played so-so in Den Bosch, winning a couple of matches. Simon lost early in Eastbourne after showing signs of pulling his game together at the French.
I’m going with Pospisil in my bracket, but Djokovic should easily dispatch either player or less likely opponents Robin Haase and Konstantin Kravchuk to reach the second week.
Tsonga/Melzer will face Sam Querrey or Bradley Klahn in round 2. Querrey improved his play in Eastbourne as he reached the semifinals, and he’s a good grass court player, but I don’t think he is in the position right now to get past Tsonga/Melzer. I like Tsonga in the third round against either 17 seed Mikhail Youzhny or James Ward, who face each other in round 1. Youzhny is a good grass court player but he’s had a terrible season, while Ward can perhaps channel some home support and find a run of success at SW19.
The round 1 winner will face Jimmy Wang or Alejandro Gonzalez in round 2, and I’m going with Tsonga to survive the section only because Youzhny has been so poor this season. This section is not weak on paper, but if you follow the actual results of the players, it is a weak section.
6 seed Tomas Berdych, who lost in the Queens quarters, seems to be a Rubik’s Cube right now. He has a strong 21-9 record on grass since 2010 but both his slam results and regular tour results this year have been up and down and he has been unable to break through to the top tier.
He also isn’t getting a lot of attention going into the tournament this year. Berdych should get an early test against Bernard Tomic, a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist in round 2, after dispatching Victor Hanescu, who famously hates Wimbedon. Tomic must first beat Evgeny Donskoy, and he is not guaranteed to win any matches quite honestly.
I like Berdych to get through and face Marin Cilic in round 3 in what should be a very good clash. Cilic must defeat Paul-Henri Mathieu and Kyle Edmund/Andreas Haider-Maurer to get to that stage. Should Cilic and Berdych meet in the third round, the grass h2h favors the Croat 1-0, but Berdych leads the overall fast surface h2h 3-2 and also beat Cilic this year in Rotterdam. Cilic has also lost two straight matches and isn’t anywhere near his red hot form from earlier in the season. I like Berdych to reach the second week.
The section above Berdych should come down to either 12 seed Ernests Gulbis or Verdasco/Matosevic. Gulbis has been playing the Boodles exhibition along with some other top players for his warm-up and he had that surprising run to the French semis, so the newly minted top 10 player is in form. Verdasco, meanwhile, is defending quarterfinal points and played so-so in Den Bosch.
They would meet in the third round, and Verdasco beat Gulbis at the same stage at Wimbledon last year in straights.
This is a different Gulbis right now, and I favor the Latvian to make the second week. His route would be wins over Jurgen Zopp, Sergiy Stakhovsky/Carlos Berlocq and Verdasco/Matosevic or Jeremy Chardy/Daniel Cox.
The defending Champion and great British hope Andy Murray will face David Goffin first, and then Pablo Andujar/Blaz Rola. I doubt he will have much to complain about in those first two matches and should ease his way into the third round for a real test against Bautista Agut, assuming the Spaniard beats Johnson and Tobias Kamke/Jan Hernych.
They have never met, and RBA could trouble Murray, but after the title run in Den Bosch, I’m thinking he’ll be out of gas by the third round. By then, Murray can take advantage of a high unforced error count and get through to the second week, probably without dropping a set.
Murray’s first match of the second week will likely be against one of Kevin Anderson/Fabio Fognini/Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The 20 seed Anderson faces Aljaz Bedene and then ERV/Filippo Volandri, and both ERV and Anderson can play well on grass, with Anderson leading the fast surface h2h 2-0. They played a five setter that finished 7-5 in favor of Anderson at the AO this year, and in that one, ERV effectively choked under the pressure of being 2 sets up. With that match perhaps weighing on his mind, I like the more accomplished Anderson to find a way into the third round. The combustible Fognini, who played the Boodles, and can crash and burn or soar just about anytime, is seeded 16th and will face Alex Kuznetsov and then Teymuraz Gabashvili or Tim Puetz. Gabashvili has maximized a lot of his talent this season and he could make the third round or beyond, but I like Anderson over Fognini to make the second week. Anderson has a h2h win over Fognini on Grass at Queens in 2009.
7 seed David Ferrer and 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov appear to be on a collision course to meet in the fourth round in their section of the draw. Ferrer opens with Pablo Carreno Busta, who has been playing clay challengers prior to Wimbledon and looks to be an easy out, and then is slated to face Andrey Kuznetsov or Dan Evans.
Ferrer pulled out of Den Bosch with the flu, and it will be interesting to see if he has any rust from that. Brown/Baghdatis might spoil that Ferrer-Dimitrov meeting, as one of them must get past Andreas Seppi/Leo Mayer before facing Ferrer in a probable third round meeting. Both are dangerous players and I’m going with an upset in my bracket and placing Baghdatis into the fourth round as I think Ferrer will perform below expectations.
Dimitrov, who won Queens and is a trendy favorite this year to do well at Wimbledon, even after a shock round 1 exit at the French, faces Ryan Harrison, and then Saville/Thiem before meeting Young/Becker or Groth/Dolgopolov in the third round.
This is a section with some names to watch but I like the Bulgarian number 1 to survive it and Groth should make the third round.
The Swiss maestro is one of the co-favorites this year for the title at a tournament he has dominated in his career. He won the Halle title again, and that bodes well for his chances against Paolo Lorenzi, Muller/Benneteau and probably Nicolas Mahut in the first three rounds. Last year, Fed was shocked by Stakhovsky, and if that is going to happen again, it would have to come against Muller/Benneteau or Mahut.
Lorenzi is no threat, but Muller is playing well and Benneteau had a 2 sets to love lead and I believe a match point against Federer in 2012 at Wimbledon, but lost the match in 5 sets.
Mahut must beat clay courters Marcel Granollers and Santiago Giraldo/Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the third round. Giraldo isn’t playing that well, so I doubt he will make noise. Fed dominates the h2h against all these players and this may be one of his last best chances to win another slam, so I doubt he will lose his focus or killer instinct early on in the tournament.
Defending Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz has struggled through an abysmal season and the 15 seed could be headed for an early exit against former champion Lleyton Hewitt in round 2. JJ played the Boodles in preparation and he has never played Hewitt before. Lleyton is also struggling, but Wimbledon seems to give him a fresh focus every year.
Janowicz must first beat Somdev Devvarman, who he had an epic meltdown against at the 2013 AO, while Hewitt must defeat Michal Przysiezny, who has had a terrible season. Janowicz/Hewitt will meet most likely Tommy Robredo, the 23 seed, or grass court specialist Adrian Mannarino in round 3. Robredo has a poor record on grass and has played below his ranking as of late. He opens with Lukas Lacko, while Mannarino opens with Pere Riba. I like Mannarino to sneak into the second week over Hewitt in an open section.
Wawrinka/Sousa is slated to face off with Rendy Lu/Aleksandr Nedovyesov in round 2. Wawrinka could also be troubled by Lu, but I have him reaching the fourth round because his third round opponent, one of Denis Istomin/Dmitry Tursunov/Michael Russell/Julian Reister is nothing special.
The 9 seed John Isner keeps looking to build results. He will face Dan Smethurst, Jarkko Nieminen/Federico Delbonis and one of Alejandro Falla/Ante Pavic/Yuichi Sugita/Feliciano Lopez in the third round. This is a section of in form players as Falla reached the Halle final and Lopez won Eastbourne and reached the Queens final. Lopez and Isner have split fast surface meetings, and that one could truly go either way, but I’m factoring in Feli is probably fatigued by the third round after playing so much tournament tennis the past two weeks.
I like a Wawrinka/Isner round of 16 matchup, though Wawrinka/Lopez would also be intriguing.
Rafa Nadal, who is possibly nursing a sore back, and has been booted early at Wimbledon the last two years, should be on high alert against Martin Klizan. Klizan isn’t a grass specialist, but can play well and can put some power on the ball. He has had good recent results and is not a player to skimp on preparation.
Assuming Rafa, who lost to Dustin Brown in Halle, avoids disaster against Klizan, he probably gets a rematch of his 2012 shock defeat here to Lukas Rosol. Rosol just has to beat the struggling Benoit Paire first. Rosol clearly has the code to beat Nadal, as he has done it, and done it on grass, but his results recently haven’t been stellar on the surface. I think Rafa will find a way to get to the third round, or at least it’s hard for me to pick him not making at least the third round.
History does show he either makes the final or loses in the first two rounds, though. Nadal vs another big server, Ivo Karlovic, is a likely third round matchup. Ivo has to beat Frank Dancevic and Dudi Sela/Mikhail Kukushkin first. He can play well on grass but he is not in as good of a form as the past. Nadal has also never lost to Ivo (4-0, all on fast surfaces) and though big servers like Brown can be his Kryptonite, I think Rafa will survive, perhaps by the skin of his teeth, and reach the second week. Of the top 4 seeds, he is most likely to be sent home in the first week.
Eastbourne finalist Richard Gasquet, who appears to be over his shoulder and back ailments, will face James Duckworth and then Nick Kyrgios/Stephane Robert in round 2. Kyrgios won the second Nottingham challenger on grass and got a wild card, and I’m totally buying into his ability to post good results right now. He has skill and swagger, and he’s a great dark horse to upset Gasquet, and then perhaps Gael Monfils in the third round in what would be a massive showman’s match to reach the second week.
Monfils is slated to play Malek Jaziri and Victor Estrella/Jiri Vesely in the first two rounds. Kyrgios or a possibly tired Gasquet should get out of the section, and that round 2 meeting could go five and go either way.
10 seed Kei Nishikori, if healthy, is likely to do well in the section above Gasquet/Kyrgios/Monfils. Kei faces Kenny De Schepper first, then Marsel Ilhan/Denis Kudla and probably Kohlschreiber/Sijsling in round 3 assuming one of those players defeats Tatsuma Ito/Simone Bolelli in round 2. Kei’s health is a question mark, but I like him over Kohli in the third round. They have never met before.
Nishikori could face 8 seed Milos Raonic, who on paper with his serve and net skills has a good style of play for grass, but in reality has a poor record on the surface and continues to struggle navigating grass court tennis, in round 4, Raonic would need to beat Matt Ebden, Herbert/Sock and probably Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a dangerous all court lurker, in round 3. GGL must beat Dusan Lajovic and JL Struff/Lukasz Kubot to get there though, Kubot reached the quarterfinals here last year but he is in hard to predict form. Herbert/Sock could also surprise, and Sock has beaten Raonic before, so this is an open section with round 4 points up for grabs based upon which player gets hot. In my bracket I’m going with GGL, and Herbert upsetting Raonic to make the third round.
Dark Horses (1 per quarter):
Marinko Matosevic, Marcos Baghdatis, Gilles Muller, Nick Kyrgios
There are multiple options for dark horses in every quarter for me, but I went with 4 unseeded players who could do well.
Matosevic would need to beat Verdasco and likely Gulbis to reach the second week, but if they implode and he manages to put together his best ever slam performance, it is a possibility.
Baghdatis, if healthy and focused, has the game to do well here and he has the luck of Ferrer coming off the flu to perhaps propel him to the second week (and the same could be said for Dustin Brown in this section).
Dimitrov is the big roadblock in week 2. Muller, along with Hewitt, Mannarino and others have the opportunity to do well in the Federer quarter. Should Federer suffer another shock early exit, Muller could make a strong run all the way to the quarterfinals. I like Kyrgios to make the second week, and if Rafa loses before then, or to Kyrgios, Wimbledon becomes the Aussie’s Oyster.
Week 1 predictions (round of 16 matchups and picks)
Djokovic d. Tsonga
Gulbis d. Berdych
Murray d. Anderson
Dimitrov d. Baghdatis
Isner d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Mannarino
Nishikori d. Garcia-Lopez
Nadal d. Kyrgios
Djokovic to blitz Tsonga again.
Gulbis upset Berdych at Wimbledon a couple of years back and I’m picking it to happen again.
Murray shouldn’t be troubled by Anderson.
Dimitrov is 5-0 against Baghdatis sans a retirement loss at Wimbledon against him.
Isner is 2-1 against Wawrinka and I think he’s the better player right now.
Fed should dominate Mannarino.
Nishikori has a h2h and talent edge over GGL.
I think Nadal will get past Kyrgios.
My Full Tournament Picks
Djokovic d. Gulbis
Murray d. Dimitrov
Federer d. Isner
Nishikori d. Nadal
I think Gulbis has a great chance against Djokovic in the quarterfinals, and I’d be comfortable giving him 40% or better odds, but in my bracket I’m going with Djokovic given their French Open meeting.
Murray-Dimitrov could very well go five sets as all of their previous 4 meetings have been high quality, including a 3 set win by Dimitrov in Acapulco this year. Murray has an overall 3-1 edge though, and he’s best on grass so I have him getting through.
Federer should dispatch Isner as he has 4 out of the 5 previous times they have met, and though Nadal is 2-0 against Nishikori on grass, those meetings were quite some time ago at a different stage in their careers,
Nishikori came very close to beating Rafa this year on clay in Madrid, and also played him close at the AO, losing a couple of tiebreaks and a 7-5 second set. He is getting closer and I think he finally gets his revenge on grass, making his first slam semifinal.
Murray d. Djokovic
Federer d. Nishikori
I think Murray is healthier and more motivated than Djokovic right now and he is 2-0 against the Serb on grass, including a Wimbledon straight sets victory in last years final.
Federer just beat Nishikori in a competitive Halle match and I think Wimbledon will be a repeat of that.
Murray d. Federer
It’s a judgment call as they are 1-1 on grass in their career meetings, with Federer having that 4 set victory over Murray in the 2012 Wimbledon final. Murray would be going for his third slam and his second Wimbledon in front of the home crowd with a shot at establishing himself as a player who defended his Wimbledon title. Federer would perhaps be going for his final slam and his eight Wimbledon title.
Winning here might be enough to keep him ahead of Rafael Nadal in the slam count by the time they both hang up their racquets. There’s a lot to play for here, and I’m going with Murray in 4 or 5 sets.