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Ricky’s Wimbledon 2019 Men’s Singles Draw Analysis: Federer Has To Be Feeling Good

Security personell on duty in preparation for the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 30 June 2019. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO COMMERCIAL SALES

By Ricky Dimon

If Roger Federer’s name had been on the No. 3 seed chip instead of Rafael Nadal’s, they still would have ended up in the same half of the draw when names were pulled from a hat during the draw ceremony on Friday. But that doesn’t mean this brewed-up seeding controversy will end anytime soon, as it would be Federer—not Nadal—with the more difficult path to the semifinals if the seeding had not deterred from the rankings.

Either way, now that the bracket is set it’s time for the griping to end and the games to begin. There’s nothing Nadal can do about having Nick Kyrgios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Marin Cilic in his eighth of the draw. Well, winning is one thing he could do. But winning will be a tougher proposition for the Spaniard than it will be for Federer and Novak Djokovic in their respective sections. The absolute softest quarter of the draw, however, is home to Kevin Anderson and Alexander Zverev.

 

Djokovic’s quarter

Generally, it isn’t ideal in round one of a slam for any top player to run into an opponent who has beaten him twice before—including once at a major and once already in the same season. Yes, Philipp Kohlschreiber cruised past Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 at the 2009 French Open and upset him 6-4, 6-4 at this year’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Of course, this is not the Indian Wells Djokovic and this is not an in-form Kohlschreiber. The world No. 1 is a different beast in majors, having won three of the last four while also coming off a semifinal finish at Roland Garros. Kohlschrieber has plunged to 57th in the world at 35 years old and he is 0-2 on grass in 2019 with losses to opponents outside the top 75.

Kohlschreiber isn’t going to beat Djokovic and neither is anyone else during week one. The threats are either Gael Monfils or Felix Auger-Aliassime in round four and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters. But Monfils rarely rises to the occasion against the best in the business and Auger-Aliassime has never won a Grand Slam match. Although Tsitsipas would have no fear against Djokovic, the Greek may not get there if he has to meet nemesis Daniil Medvedev on Manic Monday.

Best first-round matchup – Grigor Dimitrov vs. (Q) Corentin Moutet

Moutet isn’t a big name; not yet, at least. Current form, though, suggests the 20-year-old Frenchman can hang with and potentially even beat Dimitrov. Moutet reached the French Open third round (was one set away from playing Nadal in the fourth round), won a clay-court Challenger title in Lyon, and then qualified for Wimbledon without any trouble). Dimitrov, on the other hand, is a nightmarish 2-6 in his last eight main-draw matches. Still, the Bulgarian cannot be discounted because he remains undeniably talented and made a run to the Wimbledon semis in 2014.

Best potential second-round matchup – (11) Daniil Medvedev vs. (Q) Alexei Popyrin
Best potential third-round matchup – (19) Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. (16) Gael Monfils

Possible surprises – Dimitrov has to break out of his slump at some point, and what better way to do it than at major he knows and loves against an opponent who has never won a slam match? It is not out of the question for the 28-year-old to beat Auger-Aliassime and eventually make the second week. Also don’t be surprised if Medvedev becomes as a quarterfinalist, as he must be salivating at the real possibility of another battle against Tsitsipas.

 

Anderson’s quarter

Based on every factor ever invented, Anderson is the weakest of the top four seeds. Based on current form and slam experience, Zverev is the weakest of the 5-8 seeds. Throw them together in the same section and what you get is a wildly up-for-grabs semifinal spot. And who are the contenders currently celebrating their good fortune of landing in this quarter? Among them are Karen Khachanov, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka, Roberto Bautista Agut, Benoit Paire, and Feliciano Lopez.

Of that group, Bautista Agut may be liking his draw the most. The veteran Spaniard can likely sleepwalk through two rounds before battling Khachanov, against whom he is 3-0 lifetime on anything other than clay (1-0 on grass). As for Raonic and Wawrinka, a third-round tussle under any circumstances would be an enormous match. Given the opportunity in front of both players with this particular draw, it would be even bigger than usual.

Best first-round matchup — (4) Kevin Anderson vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert

In past years, this matchup probably would have resulted in a beatdown for Anderson (it did, in fact, go to Anderson in straight sets at the 2015 Winston-Salem event). But the 2018 Wimbledon finalist has been struggling physically, missing the clay-court swing due to an elbow injury and then losing in the Queen’s Club second round to Gilles Simon. Moreover, Herbert is now concentrating on singles after once being a borderline doubles specialist. In fact, the Frenchman was not even going to play doubles this upcoming fortnight until Andy Murray suddenly asked him to be his partner. Herbert is up to No. 38 in the world thanks in part to a recent SF showing in Halle.

Best potential second-round matchup – (10) Karen Khachanov vs. (WC) Feliciano Lopez
Best potential third-round matchup – (15) Milos Raonic vs. (22) Stan Wawrinka

Possible surprises — Seriously, who would constitute a surprise a semifinalist? Anderson? If healthy, no. Zverev? No. Raonic or Wawrinka? Definitely not. Khachanov? No. Bautista Agut? No. Lopez? No; he just won Queen’s Club. Paire? N-…wait…. Yes! From a mental standpoint, Paire stringing together five straight standout performance would be shocking. But in terms of sheer talent, nobody in this section blows him out of the water. Beyond the seeded players, Nicolas Jarry and Antalya runner-up Miomir Kecmanovic could make some noise.

 

Nadal’s quarter

Nadal-Kyrgios this. Nadal-Kyrgios that…. That’s all anyone seems to be talking about when it comes to the men’s draw. But it’s not even a sure thing yet. Jordan Thompson, Kyrgios’ opening opponent, cannot be discounted. To be honest, if the winner was going to play the winner of something like Guido Andreozzi vs. Bradley Klahn, Thompson would probably win. Knowing what the immediate reward is, however, Kyrgios will almost certainly be inspired and thus take care of business. If he does, get your popcorn ready for Thursday.

If Nadal’s Wimbledon campaign doesn’t end with Kyrgios, neither will his difficult draw. Big hitters Tsonga and Cilic also loom prior to the QFs, and even though they are far from their peaks right now they always have a chance to take the racket out of Nadal’s hands on grass. On the other side of this section, either Fabio Fognini or Gilles Simon could take advantage of Dominic Thiem’s inexperience on the greenery.

Best first-round matchup — (5) Dominic Thiem vs. Sam Querrey

On paper, this has nightmare written all over it for Thiem. Clay has always been the Austrian’s best surface and grass is even worse for him than hard courts. Querrey, on the other hand, is a former Queen’s Club champion (2010) and his Wimbledon record includes a 2016 QF (beat Djokovic in the third round) and a 2017 SF (knocked out Tsonga, Anderson, and Murray). The 31-year-old just finished runner-up in Eastbourne and he will enjoy two full days of rest because he does not play Thiem until Tuesday. Thiem, though, finished runner-up at the French Open and his Indian Wells title this spring confirms that he is no one-surface wonder.

Best potential second-round matchup – (2) Rafael Nadal vs. Nick Kyrgios
Best potential third-round matchup – (12) Fabio Fognini vs. (20) Gilles Simon

Possible surprises — Nadal’s presence awoke a sleeping giant in Acapulco, and Kyrgios has been back asleep ever since. Will it have the same effect in SW19? Stranger this have happened, and if Kyrgios upsets the 18-time major winner he immediately becomes the favorite to reach the semis. Also look for an in-form Simon and USO quarterfinalist John Millman to enjoy success in SW19. Querrey could, as well…but he could just as easily get demolished by Thiem.

 

Federer’s quarter

You know Federer has an easy draw when neither the ATP, Tennis.com, Swiss media, Eurosport, or the BBC (and the list could go on and on) has written a single article about how he has the toughest draw in human history. Not one! No, not even the most biased opinions can claim that Federer is in trouble in his quarter of the bracket. It will be smooth sailing for the 37-year-old in week one, although Alexander Bublik could at least provide some entertainment in the third round—albeit while getting disposed of in 90 minutes. It won’t get much testier in round four, as Jan-Lennard Struff is Federer’s likely foe at the point.

The interest is on the other side of this section. Nishikori is the favorite because he is a model of consistency, but Federer would be just fine with that because the world No. 7 has proven to be no threat to the top guys over the past five years. The winner of a third-round contest between John Isner and Jan-Lennard Struff would be far more dangerous on grass. Isner has not played since losing to Federer in the Miami final, so hopes are not high for the 2018 Wimbledon semifinalist. As such, this could be a red-hot Struff’s breakthrough at the slam level (to an even greater extent than the French Open was, that is).

 

Best first-round matchup — Taylor Fritz vs. Tomas Berdych

Fritz vs. Berdych has no business being a “best first-round matchup,” but such is the nature of things in Federer’s quarter. It’s just not very strong—and won’t become strong unless Berrettini remains on fire or Isner shakes off his rust in swift fashion. Speaking of rust, there is no guarantee that Berdych will even stay in the draw. The veteran Czech has not played since Indian Wells because of back issue. If somehow healthy, though, he could do damage. Berdych is 12-6 this season and he is an awesome 42-14 lifetime at the All-England Club with a final run in 2010. Fritz, meanwhile, is coming off his first career title in Eastbourne.

Best potential second-round matchup – (27) Lucas Pouille vs. Alexander Bublik
Best potential third-round matchup – (9) John Isner vs. (33) Jan-Lennard Struff

Possible surprises — The only way Federer isn’t winning this quarter is if Isner is 100 percent, plays his way into form with easy matches in round one and two, beats Berrettini, and then topples Nishikori. None of that—aside from maybe easing though two rounds—is likely. Berrettini should be the only surprise in this section, and the fact that he “should be” means it wouldn’t really be surprising. Based on the draw, this could be good time for Alex de Minaur to end his slump.

 

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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