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Ricky’s preview and picks for Day 1 at Wimbledon, including Nadal vs. Millman and Verdasco vs. Anderson

Wimbledon is getting underway on Monday and the schedule includes both Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic. Nadal is facing John Millman, while Cilic could have a tough one on his hands against Philipp Kohlschreiber. Fernando Verdasco and Kevin Anderson are also in action.

Ricky previews three of the best Day 1 matches and makes his predictions.

(4) Rafael Nadal vs. John Millman

Each of Nadal’s two Wimbledon triumphs has come immediately following a French Open title. The Spaniard is hoping that summer lightning strikes three times, as his stellar 2017 campaign is already highlighted by a 10th Coupe des Mousquetaires. Nadal was particularly dominant in Paris this time around, refusing to lose even a single set the entire way despite facing two-time Roland Garros semifinalist Dominic Thiem and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in his last two matches.

Up first for Nadal is Millman, whom he has never faced. Due to major hip problems, the 28-year-old Australian is down at 137th in the world and did not play a single match this season until late May. He has played only one ATP-level contest in 2017 (a four-set French Open loss to Roberto Bautista Agut) and followed that up with a trio of setbacks in the second rounds of grass-court Challengers. Millman should win at least a handful of games because of Nadal’s grass-court rust, but this will be nothing short of one-way traffic from start to finish.

Pick: Nadal in 3

(31) Fernando Verdasco vs. Kevin Anderson

Although Verdasco is finally seeded again at a major, he still managed to stumble upon another tough first-round draw–this time in the form of a sixth career meeting with Anderson. Already this season Verdasco has faced Novak Djokovic (Australian Open) and Alexander Zverev (French Open) in major openers, losing to the former and upsetting the latter. The Spaniard eventually succumbed to Kei Nishikori during fourth-round action in a match that saw him win the first set 6-0 and drop the fourth 6-0. Verdasco also ran into Nishikori in the Halle first round and fell 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4.

Heading into Monday, Verdasco is leading his head-to-head series against Anderson 3-2. However, their only previous grass-court encounter came last summer in Nottingham and Anderson prevailed 6-3, 7-6(6). The 6’8” South African has struggled with injuries in recent years, but he is back up No. 45 in the world and recently appeared in the Roland Garros fourth round with a defeat of Nick Kyrgios in the process. Anderson tuned up for Wimbledon by advancing one round in Eastbourne, where he clobbered Thomaz Belucci before falling to Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4. Growing in confidence, the former University of Illinois standout should be able to win just enough free grass-court points with his booming serve to survive what will likely be a competitive affair.

Pick: Anderson in 5

Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (7) Marin Cilic

Cilic and Kohlschreiber will be facing each other for the 10th time in their careers. Kohlschreiber owns a somewhat surprising 6-3 lead in the head-to-head series, but the two veterans have never clashed on grass. In their only showdown since 2012, the German got the job done 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on the indoor hard courts of Rotterdam early in 2016.

But bad news for Kohlschreiber: he appears to be slowing down at 33 years old. He has slumped to No. 57 in the rankings due in part to a modest 17-14 record for his 2017 campaign, including a 1-5 mark in his last six clay-court outings. Kohlschreiber’s grass-court swing includes a quarterfinal in Stuttgart (fell to eventual winner Lucas Pouille) and a second-round setback against runner-up Alexander Zverev in Halle. Cilic started slow this year but has taken off since, with a title in Istanbul, Masters 1000 quarterfinal finishes in Monte-Carlo and Rome, a quarterfinal showing at the French Open, a semifinal appearance in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and a runner-up performance at Queen’s Club. Not only does the sixth-ranked Croat enjoy a massive edge in current form, but he has also reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals three straight years. He may go even farther in 2017.

Pick: Cilic in 4

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.