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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for Day 1 at Wimbledon, including Murray vs. Basilashvili

Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray faces a tough first-round test vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili. EPA-EFE/VICKIE FLORES.

By Ricky Dimon

Wimbledon gets underway on Monday, when Andy Murray will be among those in action. Novak Djokovic gets the tradition of kicking off play on Centre Court as the defending champion, and he is facing a different British wild card in Jack Draper. Needless to say, Djokovic-Draper is not expected to be one of the marquee matchups of Day 1. But there should be some good ones, and Ricky previews those and makes his picks here.

(WC) Andy Murray vs. (23) Nikoloz Basilashvili

Murray is playing singles at Wimbledon for the first time since an injury-plagued run to the quarterfinals in 2017. Since then he has played sparingly due to hip problems, with fleeting success in both singles and doubles but mostly just struggling. The 34-year-old Scot has competed in only four singles tournaments this season, including just one since February. Murray’s first-round draw at Queen’s Club was favorable (beat Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-2) but then it turned sour (lost to eventual champion Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-3).

Up first for the world No. 119 on Monday is Basilashvili, who is no stranger to facing future Hall of Fame opponents making comebacks. The 28th-ranked Georgian defeated Roger Federer in Dubai and went on to take the title, which has propelled him to surprising success in 2021. Basilashvili’s impressive bounce-back from a disastrous 2202 season includes 19 total match wins. He just reached the semifinals on the grass of Halle before falling to Andrey Rublev in three sets. Although Murray’s Wimbledon record is sparking, you can pretty much throw all of that out the window. He obviously isn’t the same player now, and it’s hard to see him surviving a best-of-five test against an opponent of Basilashvili’s quality.

Pick: Basilashvili in 4

Mackenzie McDonald aims to upset Karen Khachanov at Wimbledon EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG

Mackenzie McDonald vs. (25) Karen Khchanov

Khachanov and McDonald will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers and for the second time this season when they meet again on Monday. Their only previous encounter came a few months ago on the indoor hard courts of Marseille, where Khachanov prevailed 7-6(4), 6-4. It has mostly been a disappointing 2021 for Khachanov, though. The 29th-ranked Russian is just 15-13 and his only grass-court appearance resulted in a first-round Halle loss to Rublev.

McDonald will be happy to get a shot at revenge on grass. The 108th-ranked American already has eight grass-court matches under his belt this summer, with a semifinal showing at the Nottingham Challenger and successful qualification for Wimbledon. McDonald’s last trip to the All-England Club resulted in a fourth-round run in 2018. The 26-year-old’s current form and grass-court experience should see him through to a minor upset over a struggling opponent.

Pick: McDonald in 5

Other top matches

(Q) Denis Kudla vs. (30) Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – In the slams played on grass (Wimbledon) and clay (French Open), certain matchups often all boil down to the surface. This is one of those matchups. If there is such a thing as a grass-court specialist, Kudla is one. ADF most definitely isn’t. Kudla in 4.

(Q) Christopher O’Connell vs. (13) Gael Monfils: This is in an absolutely wide open section of the draw, where we are going to have a surprise fourth-round participant no matter what. Monfils is a shadow of his former self and O’Connell has confidence after qualifying for the main draw. O’Connell in 4.

(9) Diego Schwartzman vs. Benoit Paire: There really isn’t much analysis needed for a match involving Benoit Paire. Schwartzman isn’t great on grass, but he is still good enough to beat the Frenchman with ease. Schwartzman in 3.

Marton Fucsovics vs. (19) Jannik Sinner: On paper this is one of the best matchups of the first round. Fucsovics will be thrilled that he isn’t matched up with nemesis Andrey Rublev, but facing Sinner isn’t exactly good news. The Italian continues to be one of the breakout stars on tour. Sinner in 4.

(3) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Frances Tiafoe: Seriously, does anyone get worse Grand Slam draws on a more consistent basis than Tiafoe? This is another terrible one, as Tsitsipas is second in the race to Turin after reaching the Australian Open semis and the French Open final. Tsitsipas in 4.

(22) Dan Evans vs. Feliciano Lopez: Is there a better classic grass-court matchup than Evans vs. Lopez? Absolutely not. Both of these guys have the potential to make the second week. Yes, even at 39 years old the Spaniard can still get the job done on this surface. Nonetheless, Evans is in great form and playing at home. Evans in 4.

Sebastian Korda vs. (15) Alex de Minaur: At the French Open, it was Korda who was coming off a title the week before. He promptly got blown out in the first round by Pedro Martinez. Now it is de Minaur who just won a tournament two days before the start of the major. Will the Aussie be able to avoid the same fate as Korda? Probably. De Minaur in 4.

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