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Balanced Draw Gives Nadal Tougher Half • But Federer Might Be Tested Early


By Ricky Dimon


Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Nick Kyrgios, and Kei Nishikori all find themselves in the same half of the Wimbledon draw. And yet, this can still be considered a balanced draw. That says a lot about the current state (in some cases) of that aforementioned group, and it also says a lot about the quality on Roger Federer’s side. The Federer half also includes 2017 Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic in addition to Grigor Dimitrov, Kevin Anderson, Sam Querrey, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka, and Borna Coric.


The result should be a entertaining fortnight the whole way.


Federer’s quarter

Although the bottom half of the draw is more difficult in general, Federer may not be able to completely sail through his section. Dusan Lajovic isn’t the easiest of R1 opponents and possible R3 adversary Ivo Karlovic is somebody no one ever wants to see on the other side of the net at Wimbledon. Federer is also on a collision course for the last 16 with Coric, who just upset him in three sets in the Halle final. Coric, however, could be in line for a tough third-round test in the form of Antalya runner-up Adrian Mannarino.


Anderson and Querrey lurk on the other side of this quarter. The two big servers consistently enjoy success at the Grand Slam level; in fact, they have squared off in the second week at two of the past four Grand Slams (Querrey prevailed 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-7(11), 6-3) in the Wimbledon fourth round before Anderson won 7-6(5), 6-7(9), 6-3, 7-6(6) in the U.S. Open quarters). Their final on the indoor hard courts of New York earlier this year required a final-set tiebreaker. Querrey, however, has a rough draw—possibly with Sergiy Stakhovsky in the last 64 and either Richard Gasquet or Gael Monfils in the last 32. Anderson could meet 2017 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Gilles Muller in the last third round.


Best first-round matchup – (23) Richard Gasquet vs. Gael Monfils

This has to go five; doesn’t it? Monfils has been sent packing from the All-England Club the last three years by fellow Frenchmen, and in five sets on each occasion (by Gilles Simon in 2015, by Jeremy Chardy in 2016, and by Mannarino in 2017). The last three non-retirement encounters between Monfils and Gasquet have all went to final sets, including a 6-2, 6-7(7), 7-6(4) win for Monfils in their most recent showdown last season on the lawn of Eastbourne. Gasquet recently lifted the ‘s-Hetogenbosch winner’s trophy, and although Monfils has struggled this year he is coming off a respectable semifinal showing in Antalya.

Best potential second-round matchup – (25) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Gilles Muller

Best potential third-round matchup – (16) Borna Coric vs. (22) Adrian Mannarino


Cilic’s quarter

Federer would have preferred to see Dimitrov instead of Cilic in his half of the draw, just as Cilic undoubtedly wanted to show up in Nadal’s half instead of Fed’s. But aside from that, this is a favorable draw for the No. 3 seed. His nearest seed is Filip Krajinovic (has been out since Miami) and his two possible seeded R4 opponents are Raonic and Lucas Pouille. Raonic is again dealing with a physical problem (shoulder) and Pouille is an alarming 5-9 in his last 14 tournament matches. The Frenchman may also have a tough opener on his plate against grass-court guru Denis Kudla.


For the time being, of course, the big story in this quarter is a first-round contest between Dimitrov and Wawrinka. Because of his injury layoff (knee), Wawrinka heads into SW19 unseeded and it left him at the mercy of the draw—which produced something worthy of a slam semifinal when both of these men are at their best. Neither one is anywhere close to his best right now, which means the winner could be in trouble against either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Jared Donaldson in the last 32.


Best first-round matchup — (6) Grigor Dimitrov vs. Stan Wawrinka

From a quality standpoint, this probably won’t be one for the record books. Dimitrov has been unable to build on the momentum from his Nitto ATP Finals title, while Wawrinka remains rusty as he returns from injury. The Bulgarian is a mere 19-12 in 2018 and 11th in the race for a spot at the O2 Arena. Wawrinka is 5-9 and coming off a lopsided setback against Murray in the Eastbourne first round. Still, the Swiss is three-time Grand Slam champion, Dimitrov is a former Wimbledon semifinalist, and they are two of the biggest names in this field of 128. Without question, this is the marquee matchup of the first two days at the All-England Club.

Best potential second-round matchup – (9) John Isner vs. Steve Johnson

Best potential third-round matchup – (13) Milos Raonic vs. (17) Lucas Pouille


Zverev’s quarter

Zverev and Thiem also landed in the same quarter at Roland Garros and managed to earn their places (just barely in Zverev’s case) in a head-to-head quarterfinal clash. What are the chances they also square off in the Wimbledon quarters? Unlikely at best. Thiem just about warrants the “clay-court specialist” distinction and his road to the QFs in SW19 is a brutal one, likely including Karen Khachanov in R2, either Fernando Verdasco or Frances Tiafoe in R3, and Djokovic at the beginning of the second week. Zverev could go up against either Kyrgios or Nishikori in the last 16.


Can Djokovic capitalize on an opportunity in this section and take his comeback to a whole new level? Things have been trending in the right direction for the former world No. 1 since he exited Indian Wells and Miami in unceremonious fashion, with a semifinal performance in Rome, a quarterfinal result at Roland Garros, and a runner-up finish at Queen’s Club (had championship point against Cilic in the title match). Djokovic will likely breeze through two rounds at the All-England Club before possibly battling Kyle Edmund.


Best first-round matchup — (30) Fernando Verdasco vs. Frances Tiafoe

Two of the biggest forehands in tennis will be on display when Verdasco goes up against Tiafoe. That is just about where the similarities end, because Tiafoe is just 20 years old and Verdasco is at the other end of his career spectrum at 34–a left-hander who is in his 18th season on tour. Although the Spaniard has never captured a grass-court title and just one of his 23 lifetime ATP finals has come on grass, he has advanced to the second week at Wimbledon on four occasions—including a quarterfinal result in 2013. Tiafoe defeated Robin Haase in the Wimbledon first round last and the American recently made a quarterfinal appearance at Queen’s Club.

Best potential second-round matchup – (4) Dominic Thiem vs. Karen Khachanov

Best potential third-round matchup – (12) Novak Djokovic vs. (21) Kyle Edmund


Nadal’s quarter

Nadal will not mind his draw even though his half is deeper from top to bottom than the top half. None of the seeds in the world No. 1′s eighth—Diego Schwartzman, Fabio Fognini, and Marco Cecchinato—like playing on the green stuff. Schwartzman has never won a single match on it and Cecchinato had never won one until he earned two surprising victories in Eastbourne last week. Speaking of Eastbourne, grass-loving Mischa Zverev won his first ATP title and is Nadal’s likely third-round foe for Wimbledon. Zverev could present Nadal’s most difficult test prior to the quarterfinals.


The other side of this quarter is completely wide open, as the seeds are vulnerable and the unseeded floaters have the potential to rock the boat. Del Potro has not yet played on grass this summer, David Goffin is struggling, Jack Sock is in nothing short of disastrous form, and Denis Shapovalov is a novice on the greenery. Whoever emerges from the early-round quartet consisting of Murray, Shapovalov, Chardy, and Benoit Paire could make a real run.


Best first-round matchup — Benoit Paire vs. Andy Murray

This not a good matchup for Paire, as Murray has been able to tune out the Frenchman’s occasional nonsense en route to a 2-0 lead in the head-to-head series (including a 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-4 success in the Wimbledon R16 last season). The 31-year-old Scot can handle his opponent’s firepower with stalwart defense and can exploit Paire’s forehand. That being said, this of course is not the same Murray that Paire saw in 2016 and 2017. Early returns in the former world No. 1’s 2018 comeback are encouraging, but he still has only three matches under his belt (a victory over Wawrinka; losses to Kyrgios and Edmund).

Best potential second-round matchup – (5) Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Feliciano Lopez

Best potential third-round matchup – (5) Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Andy Murray


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


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