Wimbledon 2015 Week 2 Men’s Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Week 1 at Wimbledon finished with a late night five-setter under the centre court roof, as once again grass court tennis brought out the best in some of the top ATP players, and the worst in others. Most of the favorites are still in contention, and are resting up on this middle Sunday to prepare themselves to race to the finish line next week. We saw a couple of wild upsets, but all in all the quality of the week 2 field is excellent, and here is a look at the matchups, and a bit about what happened in the first week.
Men’s round of 16 matchups
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. (14)Kevin Anderson
Novak Djokovic has once again rolled through week 1 of slam with an unblemished resume, as he fought off challenges from Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jarkko Nieminen, and Bernard Tomic without dropping a set. Now however, the real test of his form will begin, starting with the big serving and lanky Anderson who beat Lucas Pouille in 4 sets, the surprising Marsel Ilhan also in 4 sets, and Leonardo Mayer in straight sets. Djokovic is 4-1 against Anderson and has won their last four meetings, his form on return has been excellent and he’s gotten breaks when needed, suggesting to me he’ll be able to break Anderson in the clutch and come away with a win, in three to four sets. As asides, Nieminen ousted Lleyton Hewitt from Wimbledon in a long fifth set in round 1, ending the former champion’s illustrious Wimbledon career in singles, while Ilhan shocked former Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz in round 1, and make Turkish fans swell with pride in one of the bigger week 1 upsets. After the Djokovic match, Tomic lashed out at Tennis Australia over their lack of support for him, and made more headlines off the court than on this tournament. Djokovic in 4 sets
(9)Marin Cilic vs. (WC)Denis Kudla
Marin Cilic has had to claw his way into week 2, while American wild card Denis Kudla has cemented himself as a talented grass court specialist with his own memorable Wimbledon run this year. The Croatian beat Hiroki Moriya in straights, but then needed five sets against both Ricardas Berankis and John Isner to advance into the round of 16.
Berankis gave it his all, serving well against a bigger player in Cilic, but the former top junior came up just short 7-5 in the 5th, while Isner served his way to two sets, but lost two tiebreaks, and then after getting the 5th set to 10-10 and forcing a suspension of play due to darkness on Friday night, came out flat Saturday morning and lost two consecutive games for a 12-10 fifth set loss. Isner once again disappoints in a slam, as the American #1 couldn’t get over the hump, even on a favorable surface such as grass.
As for Kudla, he’s keeping American hopes alive on the men’s side and it started with a comeback from 2 sets to love down against the veteran Pablo Cuevas who ran out of gas late, after that he defeated pesky young gun Alex Zverev in four, and Santiago Giraldo also in five sets, staving off a collapse in the third set to win the final two frames 6-1 6-3.
Kudla is 13-1 on grass in 2015, and given that Cilic struggled with the undersized ball striker Berankis, and could be dealing with a bit of fatigue, the American baseliner will get his chance to counterpunch to a win. That said he’ll need to be mentally strong nad maintain his serve to have a chance, and Cilic is still the favorite given experience, and ranking. Kudla will never have a better chance at beating Cilic than on grass, but I think he’ll come up just short in 4 or 5 sets. Cilic in 5 sets is my pick. Kei Nishikori, the favorite in this section, withdrew with an injury after a five set win over Simone Bolelli in round 1.
(4)Stan Wawrinka vs. (16)David Goffin
Stan Wawrinka has looked to be on his game at Wimbledon this year, he beat Joao Sousa, Victor Estrella, and Fernando Verdasco without dropping a set, and wasn’t threatened by any of those opponents. When Stan gets on a roll and gets hot, like he did in Paris, watch out, and David Goffin is likely his next victim in the round of 16. The Belgian is 0-2 against Wawrinka in his career (including a loss in Chennai this year), but he does have the fact he has won three matches without a hint of struggle increasing his chances in this one.
Goffin demolished Horacio Zeballos, Liam Broady, and solid grass court player Marcos Baghdatis and has only had three close sets of tennis out of the 9 he’s played. Both these players are in great form, but Wawrinka’s backhand and brute power should blitz Goffin, resulting in Wawrinka in 4 sets. It should also be mentioned that Broady came back from two sets to love down against Marinko Matosevic, as the young Brit was aided by the crowd to an upset victory in round 1.
(21)Richard Gasquet vs. (26)Nick Kyrgios
A rematch of both their meeting this year in the Estoril final (Gasquet won with ease on clay), and their epic 2014 Wimbledon match (Kyrgios saved more than a half dozen match points to win 10-8 in the fifth set from two sets to love down), this one could prove to be yet another classic if the Frenchman and the Aussie bring their a-game. Gasquet hasn’t dropped a set and rolled through Luke Saville, Kenny De Schepper, and Grigor Dimitrov with ease, the win over Dimitrov was particularly impressive as the Bulgarian never pressured him, even on grass.
Kyrgios beat Diego Schwartzman and Juan Monaco in straights, and made more waves for his outbursts on court and behavior towards the chair umpire than for his tennis results. In round 3 that changed though, as he upset Milos Raonic in 4 sets to setup this match. Raonic was particularly poor on return in that one, and once again the aggressive approach of Kyrgios seems to be paying off for him on grass.
It’s hard to predict how this one will go, and Gasquet is more “reliable” as a commodity, but Kyrgios certainly has more peak, and he seems healthy and motivated, with that in mind, I’m going with Kyrgios to reach his second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal and upset Gasquet in 4 sets. Kyrgios in 4 sets. He’s becoming an unpopular player in the eyes of some folks, but that doesn’t make him any less talented, even though Gasquet will be a tough opponent to oust.
(22)Viktor Troicki vs. Vasek Pospisil
Thanks to Rafael Nadal being upset once again at Wimbledon, this time by the aggressive serve and volleyer Dustin Brown in 4 sets, this is the round of 16 matchup we have (also aided by David Ferrer’s pre tournament withdrawal). Troicki defeated Alex Nedovyesov and Aljaz Bedene in four sets, before getting past the dangerous but inconsistent Brown in the same number of sets. Dreddy’s aggressive style worked against a defensive and flat footed Rafa, but Troicki’s more varied game was a more challenging matchup, as the Serbian has regained his great grass court form and still serves as a dark horse of the players remaining.
Vashy has found success in both singles and doubles this time at Wimbledon, the Canadian has been popping serves and survived a five setter with Vincent Millot in round 1. After coming through that he found it a bit easier against Fabio Fognini in round 2, advancing in four sets, and then he had to win 8-6 in the 5th against home hero James Ward, who had a cinderella run to the third round and will now be ranked inside the top 100 for the first time in his career. The long five setter had very few break point chances, and Pospisil did what he needed to do to get the win with a late 6-6 break.
Troicki and Pospisil have never met before, and Pospisil’s serve could keep Troicki at bay, that said, Pospisil is likely to be more fatigued than Troicki, and the Serbian has shown more consistent ability on grass. At the end of the day Troicki should outperform the remaining Canadian in this draw and advance in 4 sets. Troicki in 4 sets
(3)Andy Murray vs. (23)Ivo Karlovic
Andy Murray is 5-0 against Dr. Ivo, and has a Wimbledon win against him (2012 4 sets), that said the massive serving Croatian always presents a unique challenge on grass, a challenge the Brit will have to rise to face if he is to end the week holding the trophy. Murray has thus far been relatively unchallenged by Mikhail Kukushkin, Robin Haase, and Andreas Seppi, dropping just 1 set this week in three matches. Kukushkin nearly came away with a set but choked under pressure, while Seppi took a set that was aided by Murray having shoulder pain, but an injury timeout quickly resolved things, and the counterpunching Scot otherwise has looked solid on serve and on return this week.
Karlovic has had to battle to get this far, but the veteran has scored impressive wins over Elias Ymer in 4 sets, Alex Dolgopolov in 5 sets (13-11 in the 5th) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 4 sets. Tsonga survived Gilles Muller, another big server, in round 1, but Karlovic proved two much for him as he was awful on return, and due to a controversial call in the 4th set tiebreak between them, lost the match instead of forcing a fifth set. Dolgopolov likewise battled and they played just one tiebreak (a tiebreak he won), but his serve broke down under pressure in the 5th.
Given the head to head, I have to go with Murray, and I do think he’ll get through this, presuming the shoulder is ok, without dropping a set. At Karlovic’s age he should be more fatigued at this point, and Murray should be quick to exploit that as he is one of the best returners in the game. Murray in 3 sets
(6)Tomas Berdych vs. (12)Gilles Simon
Perhaps the most interesting matchup at this stage, Simon is 6-4 against Berdych in the h2h, but Berdych won their meeting this year and they have never faced each other on grass. The Czech has had a relatively comfortable draw as he got past Jeremy Chardy in two tiebreaks and four sets, and then rolled past the serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut in straights, and surprise third rounder Pablo Andujar in 4, as Andujar started strong but couldn’t maintain that level.
Simon beat Nicolas Almagro in straights and Blaz Kavcic in four sets, then won a late night five setter against Gael Monfils to conclude the third round on Saturday night. The match began on court 1, but after three sets (Simon leading 2-1) was moved to centre court under the roof, so that the third round could finish with middle Sunday looming. Simon got off to a slow start at the new venue but Monfils ran out of gas and he finished it 6-2 in the 5th before the 11 P.M. curfew.
Simon will rally in this one, while Berdych will bring his power to this matchup, and it could go either way, that said Berdych has been the better player in 2015, and his current form suggests he’ll prevail in this one, given the fast surface of grass should aid his chances. Berdych in 4 sets
(2)Roger Federer vs. (20)Roberto Bautista Agut
Federer demolished RBA twice last year, and he’ll seek to do so again as he continues his quest for yet another Wimbledon title. The Swiss maestro has been in tune with his tennis against Damir Dzumhur, Sam Querrey, and Sam Groth, dropping just one set against Groth, and beating the others in straights. His level dropped, and Groth, a big server, pushed hard to take the fourth set, but otherwise Federer has been firing winners, and his game has been especially clean, with very few unforced errors this tournament.
As for RBA, he beat Ruben Bemelmans in 3 sets, Benoit Paire in 5 sets, and qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili in 3 sets to advance this far. The Spaniard has had a weak draw that has worked in his favor, and given Federer’s controlled aggression, the result should be Federer in 3 sets.
Predictions for the rest of the tournament:
Djokovic d. Cilic in 3 sets
Wawrinka d. Kyrgios in 4 sets
Murray d. Troicki in 3 sets
Federer d. Berdych in 4 sets
Djokovic is 12-0 in his career against Cilic, he’s looked solid this tournament and Marin should be exhausted to this point, barring a shock, Djokovic shouldn’t even drop a set.
Wawrinka just beat a slightly injured Kyrgios at Queens, and his game is clicking right now, whether it’s Gasquet or Kyrgios, Stan the man should get past either without pulling his hair out.
Murray is 7-0 against Troicki (including a win not long ago in Queens on grass), it’s simply not a good matchup for Viktor, and presuming Murray doesn’t have any lingering shoulder issues he should cruise into the semis without Nadal in his way.
Federer has won his last three meetings against Berdych and he should avenge their last Wimbledon meeting (2010), and beat the mentally weak Czech to reach the semis
Djokovic d. Wawrinka in 5
Murray d. Federer in 5
Both semifinals could be true classics this year, Wawrinka is the one opponent Djokovic would not like to face right now, given Stan crushed him in Paris, that said this is grass not clay, and the faster surface should favor Djokovic if he doesn’t have a mental block against the Swiss. The world #1 is now 2-2 in his last four against Wawrinka as they have a truly even rivalry going at this point in time. Wawrinka in his current form will have a great chance to reach the final, and perhaps even win the title, but Djokovic should be able to recover from the Roland Garros result and reach the final at Wimbledon as he bids for his second straight title.
Murray-Federer is the matchup most people have been craving since the draw was released, as they are two of the purest and best grass courters in the current mens game right now. As legend goes, Murray won at the Olympics on grass to get the gold, while Federer won a few weeks prior in the Wimbledon final back in 2012. At this new stage in their careers, Murray is in perhaps the best form of his career, while Federer isn’t quite as sharp as he was in best of 5 sets compared to 2012, that should flip this result and see the UK #1 bidding for Wimbledon title number 2, with considerably lessp pressure than 2012 or 2013.
Murray d. Djokovic in 5 sets
I’m predicting five set semifinals and a five set final, because it’s incredibly hard to decide between these two great grass courters, as to who the champion will be. Djokovic would be a probable favorite if he got this far, and his recent success against Murray certainly makes him a deserving favorite. That said Murray has won a Wimbledon final over Djokovic before, and he’s played the world #1 better this year with each match. Grass is his best surface in terms of having a chance to win another slam, and beat Djokovic, and with that I’m going with Murray like I said at the start of the tournament to take home Wimbledon #2 and Slam #3.