Wimbledon Gentlemen's Qualifying Singles: Who Can Come Through? - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Qualifying Singles: Who Can Come Through?

The Wimbledon starts with qualifying on Monday! Who will be the 16 qualifiers that make it to the main draw?

Jakub Bobro

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The top seed in the qualifying for Wimbledon is rather symbolic. The World No. 100 Alessandro Giannessi hasn’t played on grass since the last Wimbledon qualifying, where he lost to then No. 706 Joe Salisbury. It is safe to say that Giannessi will most likely not make it to the main draw. No. 26 seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras lost the only match on grass he played this year, and qualified for Wimbledon only in 2012, 5 years ago. The unseeded players in the section are the real contenders – Sam Groth, Simone Bolelli, or Tobias Kamke will make the main draw. Groth – Bolelli is a popcorn first round which makes the broadcasters glad they purchased the streaming rights, even with the absence of Maria Sharapova. Bolelli entered with a protected ranking as he has been out of the tour with injury for 9 months. He hasn’t played on grass for over 2 years, but he made the Round of 32 on three previous occasions. I think Groth will come through this match and go on to qualify. He had a solid showing at the grass challengers, reaching semis at both. Groth’s best result is a 3rd Round, and he could replicate it with the right draw. Tobias Kamke will probably beat Menendez-Maceiras, but his journey will end with Groth. The veteran Aussie should manage to beat any of his potential final round opponents.
My Pick: Sam Groth

 

The qualifier from the second section will come from the match between 2nd seed Santiago Giraldo and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Giraldo reached the 3rd Round on 2 out of 3 of his last appearances at Wimbledon. Tsitsipas seems to have a game suited for grass, and went 1-2 on the surface this year. He lost in semifinals of Junior Wimbledon to Denis Shapovalov but won doubles with Kenneth Raisma beating Shapovalov and Auger Aliassime. It’s his first appearance in qualifying at the age of 18, and Giraldo’s first since 2009. Giraldo’s experience will be the deciding factor in the 3 set endeavor. Yannick Hanfmann could challenge Giraldo, but I see the Colombian continuing. Opponents in the final round have a total of 0 matches won on grass this year, all of them preferring clay.
My Pick: Santiago Giraldo

The biggest contenders for this qualifying spot are also meeting in the first round – No. 21 seed Taylor Fritz and Marco Chiudinelli. Chiudinelli is still in Top 200 at 35, and this will be one of his last solid chances to qualify for a slam. The Swiss beat Fritz just a couple of weeks ago in Stuttgart, so he is my pick. 3rd seed Tennys Sandgren has been on a rise this year, but with little to no experience on the most tricky surface, it’s difficult to see how Sandgren would beat Chiudinelli.
My Pick: Marco Chiudinelli

The unseeded players are not very impressive, so 4th seed Lukas Lacko and 23rd seed Peter Gojowczyk are the main contenders for this ticket into Wimbledon. Lacko will definitely need it, he is defending 115 points from last year, when he qualified and went on to beat Lorenzi and Karlovic before falling to Cilic. Lacko qualified for Stuttgart and Halle, losing to Struff and Mischa Zverev respectively. Gojowczyk won three matches in Stuttgart but lost in Surbiton and Ilkley. The head-to-head is 1-1, with Lacko winning their only match on grass. Lacko has also played in many more slams, and reached Round of 32 at Australian Open, which should give him the edge in a Best-of-Five match in the final round.
My Pick: Lukas Lacko

5th seed Andrey Rublev is the overwhelming favorite to qualify for Wimbledon. The #NextGen Russian lost out to Marcus Willis last year in the second round but should get in this time. Rublev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Mikhail Youzhny in Halle before losing to Karen Khachanov, a fellow young Russian. This performance convinced me that Rublev will beat Joao Domingues, James McGee, and Paul-Henri Mathieu and qualify for his first Wimbledon. Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo is also there, almost comically. The 39-year-old Spaniard is trying to break his 6 match losing streak. This will be Mathieu’s last Wimbledon, and just like at Roland Garros, he wasn’t given a wild card. While Mathieu managed to qualify for his home slam, I don’t think he will replicate it. Mathieu retired in Ilkley, so he might be carrying an injury.
My Pick: Andrey Rublev

Section No. 6 is perhaps the weakest section. None of the 8 players in this section registered a single win on grass this season, so there isn’t a clear favorite. Go Soeda is the highest seed, but lost to Glasspool and Fritz in straight sets in the lead-up. Ilya Ivashka is coming in the best form, winning the Fergana Challenger. However, it was played on hard courts, and Ivashka has only played two matches on grass in his career, not winning a set in either. Grega Zemlja reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon before but has been struggling with injury. I would put my money on Ivashka of this line-up. The Belorussian is 196 cm tall, which warrants him a certain advantage on grass. This section is mostly a coin toss, and I can’t see the qualifier from this section doing particularly well in the main draw.
My Pick: Ilya Ivashka

Following Section No. 6 is another section that’s hard to predict. Seeds Kavcic and Robert both prefer clay. I could see Akira Santillan make his way to the final round past Kudla and Kavcic. It is true that Kudla reached the 4th Round just two years ago, but went winless in the lead-up. The American has been struggling overall, and his ranking has been declining. I could be wrong, this could be a great restart point for his career. However, Santillan scored wins over J.P. Smith, Hiroki Moriya, and Stefan Kozlov in Surbiton, which makes him the favorite in my eyes. As to who will meet him in the final round, it will probably be Tim Smyczek or Andrew Whittington. I think it is time for the 20-year-old who switched from representing Australia to Japan in 2015 to make some waves by qualifying for his first slam and come into the tennis public eye.
My Pick: Akira Santillan

The last section of the top half has three big contenders, all fighting for one final round spot. Lukas Rosol is more of an honorary and nostalgic contender. The hard-hitting Czech has fallen out of Top 200, is 1-2 on grass this season, but the memories of his incredible victory over Rafael Nadal don’t allow me to leave him out. In an all-American serve bonanza, Reilly Opelka and Rajeev Ram have been drawn against each other in the opening round. 19-year-old Opelka has been consistently rising and could be on the verge of Top 100 by U.S. Open. Opelka went 3-3 on grass, taking losses to Thompson, Copil, and Shapovalov. Rajeev Ram lost to Daniil Medvedev in straight sets, his only match since Roland Garros. I think that 2 years after his Junior Wimbledon title, Opelka could qualify for the main draw and be impactful. No one in the top part won a match on grass, and the 8th seed Darian King has not won since March.
My Pick: Reilly Opelka

Illya Marchenko seems to be the overwhelming favorite to qualify despite a not-so-great grass season, going 2-3. The Ukranian has been struggling this year, and with his flat game, he could put it together at Wimbledon. Benjamin Becker is very far from his former heights, 31st seed Andrej Martin has never enjoyed success outside of clay. Marcus Willis seems to be his only real challenger, as he earned wins over Kudla and Ebden, and took Groth and De Minaur to three sets. That match does not have a clear winner, and I am sure that Willis will have the crowd pushing him to summon his best tennis.
My Pick: Illya Marchenko

The overall theme of this section is players trying to prove themselves. Sasha Bublik will want to show everyone that Australian Open wasn’t a one off. Oscar Otte, who rose from No. 521 at the beginning of the year to No. 170, will want to prove that he can transfer his success to grass. Daniel Brands and Luca Vanni will want to prove that they are still here and capable of stringing wins together. Both have been struggling to do so recently. I believe Sasha Bublik has the best chance to prove his point, and he will be the one to qualify.
My Pick: Alexander Bublik

In Section 11, all 8 players seem to be contenders. 11th seed Sergiy Stakhovsky went 4-2 on grass and also qualified for Paris (coincidentally facing Kenny de Schepper in both Paris and London). Stakhovsky’s biggest success came on grass when he upset Roger Federer at the 2013 Wimbledon. De Schepper scored wins over Marchenko and Norrie. His loss to Stakhovsky at Roland Garros was decided in the final set tiebreak, which must give the Frenchman hope and a craving for revenge. Wild card Edward Corrie went winless in the grass season but took a set in all three matches. A battle of generation will be conducted between 18th seed Jurgen Melzer and Alex De Minaur. Melzer is 18 years older than the Australian, also twice his age. De Minaur won their previous meeting last year in Eckental, and his wins on grass should give him the confidence to beat Melzer. He certainly has the game for it. I think it will be a final round between Stakhovsky and De Minaur, where the Ukranian will come through. De Minaur lost in the final of Junior Wimbledon last year, and it seems he will now lose in the final qualifying round.
My Pick: Sergiy Stakhovsky

Section 12 is one of the weaker ones found in the draw. Despite a weak lead-up, I see 12th seed Ruben Bemelmans charging through to the main draw. Last year, Bemelmans went 0-2 on grass, but qualified for Wimbledon anyway. Mathias Bourgue found success on the European clay challengers, but I don’t expect it to translate onto grass in a major way. I think it will give him confidence which should help him beat Krueger but ultimately lose to Bemelmans. The Belgian will then go on to beat Gerald Melzer in the final round. The younger of the Melzer brothers doesn’t like grass, but the favorable draw should help him get there.
My Pick: Ruben Bemelmans

It really comes down to two players in this section. John-Patrick Smith and Bjorn Fratangelo will battle for the main draw spot in the final round. Smith went through qualification to reach semifinals in Nottingham and lose to Sam Groth. Fratangelo’s best surface is clay, but he consistently reached quarterfinals in Nottingham and Ilkley. The Australian’s lefty serve and volley style has the most impact on grass, and I believe that he will rise to the occasion, and defeat Fratangelo. This would be the second Wimbledon main draw in John-Patrick Smith’s career.
My Pick: John-Patrick Smith

14th seed Maximilian Marterer is the favorite to qualify, as he qualified for Halle and pushed Steve Johnson to three sets in Stuttgart. A #NextGen match was drawn between Duckhee Lee and Elias Ymer, but since Ymer prefers clay, and Lee is in a run of bad form, it may turn out to be underwhelming. British wild card stands out due to his wins over De Minaur and Marchenko. I expect the 18-year-old Brit to get to the final qualifying round and make a match of it against Marterer.
My Pick: Maximilian Marterer

No big name jumps out at you in this section, and there are no outright favorites. Ryan Storrie and Neil Pauffley faced each other in pre-qualifying. Italians Travaglia and Caruso stayed on European clay. 15th seed Peter Polansky went winless on grass. 20-year-old Quentin Halys got wins over Novikov and Kravchuk in Ilkley, and I think he could be the one to take advantage of one of the weaker sections.
My Pick: Quentin Halys

The final section is headed by Konstantin Kravchuk. The Russian had a poor showing on grass, going 1-3. To be fair, he lost to Lacko, Copil, and Halys, no real surprises. He should definitely win his opening match over Matteo Donati. The No. 293 hasn’t played a match on grass in 2 years. 19-year-old Stefan Kozlov had a great grass season, which started off slowly with a loss in Surbiton. In Rosmalen, Kozlov beat Dustin Brown before losing to eventual finalist Ivo Karlovic. It was all topped off by a great performance at the Queen’s Club, where the American reached second round out of qualifying. Kozlov beat De Schepper, Herbert, and Steve Johnson. Kozlov is the favorite for me, and if he continues his form from Queen’s, he could get some wins in the main draw.
My Pick: Stefan Kozlov

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US Open: Shelby Rogers Delivers; Serena Still A Threat To Win 24th Major

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Serena Williams - US Open (photo Twitter @usopen)

After all of these years of playing in the U.S. Open, Shelby Rogers is finally a seeded player.

 

The Charleston, S.C., native has been playing America’s premier tennis event almost continuously since her debut in New York in 2010. She’ll turn 30 years old in a few weeks and has worked her way up the rankings to 31st in the world.

That’s a big achievement from the little girl who hung on the fences more than two decades ago to watch her older sister Sabra play high school matches that eventually led to an Al-American career for Sabra at Emory University. Sabra became a psychologist and, of course, is one of  Shelby’s biggest fans.

LOOK OUT FOR ROGERS?

Rogers took the direct route. She didn’t play high school tennis, but left the classroom before high school to train in tennis, study online and play the junior circuit. She turned pro in 2009 at age 16.

Monday evening at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, It took Rogers awhile to start living up to her ranking. But once she turned the corner after dropping the first set in nine games, Shelby started looking like a seasoned top 30 player.

Rogers sort of blew The Netherlands’ slim Arantxa Rus away, taking a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in the opening round of the U.S. Open. Rogers especially played the deciding 28th game of the match like the veteran pro she is. She hit one long forehand and netted one ball in that game, but otherwise she rode her big serve to victory in the clinching game. At 40-30, she delivered a huge first serve down the middle that Rus couldn’t put into play.

WOMEN’S RACE TO TOP PRIZE WIDE OPEN

The way things are on the women’s tour these days, with no true leader while once-amazing top-ranked Iga Swiatek tries to regain her dominance, anything is possible.

Yes, even finally a 24th Grand Slam title for Serena Williams.

But this is about Shelby Rogers. She is playing the best tennis of her career nearly a decade and a half after her life as a professional tennis player started.

With any kind of luck, Rogers could leave New York ranked among the top 25 players in the world, or maybe higher if she continues to serve and play the kind of big-ball tennis she played  in the last 19 games Monday night.

WHO’S NEXT IN LINE

So, what’s after Swiatek, who started the year on fire with a long unbeaten streak that went through the French Open and rewarded her with as many points as the confined totals of the Nos. 2 and 3 players. Of course, Ashleigh Barty’s retirement after winning the Australian Open opened the door for Swiatek’s rise to the top.

And then Wimbledon’s grass took care of Swiatek.

Nos. 2-5 Anett Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur are all outstanding players, but none currently fit in the great column. They appear to be waiting in line for Swiatek or another Barty-like player to step forward to rule the women’s tour.

WHAT ABOUT UKRAINE’S DARIA!

Then there are almost totally unknown players such as Ukraine’s Daria Snigur. I hadn’t given Snigur much chance at all on the pro tour until her shocking U.S. Open first-round victory over multi-Grand Slam tournament winner and seventh-ranked Simona Halep. 

The last time I had thought about Snigur was when she upended Charleston’s Emma Navarro in the Junior Wimbledon semifinals and then won the Junior Grand Slam tournament.

At Junior Wimbledon in 2019, I thought Navarro, who also is now on the WTA Tour and is currently ranked 145th in the world, would roll past Snigur the way she had in the 2019 Junior French Open quarterfinals. But Snigur is so deceptive with her ground strokes that strike like lightning, she dominated Navarro at that Junior Wimbledon.

So, maybe the currently 124th-ranked Snigur may be ready to make a mark on the tour after scoring her first tour victory by defeating Halep.

NO NOVAK, BUT RAFA IS THERE

Without Novak Djokovic, the men are about as unpredictable as the women, with the exception of one player. Rafa Nadal, of course, entered this U.S. Open, with a perfect 19-0 record this year in Grand Slams.

Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion at the U.S. Open, but even though he is ranked No. 1 in the world, it’s a long road to the final for the Russian. Medvedev hasn’t always been predictable.

And already, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas has been eliminated by a complete unknown, Daniel Elahi Galan.

Wow! The Greek star probably was about as much of a favorite as Medvedev.

And poor Dominic Thiem was cast on an outside court. And he lost. Just a couple of years ago, Thiem was winning the U.S. Open.

My top five picks in order would be: Nadal, Jannik Sinner, Nick Kyrgios, Medvedev and Andy Murray. Yes, Andy looks pretty fit.

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James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Will Rafael Nadal Keep The Grand Slam Winning Feeling Going In New York?

Rafael Nadal has injury doubts heading into his search for a 23rd grand slam title in New York.

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Rafael Nadal (@usopen - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal will look to repeat successes from Melbourne and Paris by answering his doubters with triumph in New York.

 

The Spaniard enters the last grand slam with injury doubts having only just come back from an abdominal injury suffered in his Wimbledon quarter-final against Taylor Fritz.

It was injury that saw his calendar grand slam dream come to an end and ever since then has been recovering in the hopes of finishing the grand slam year strong in New York.

However in his first match back Nadal was defeated in three sets to Borna Coric in New York which has put doubts on whether the Spaniard can be a threat in the US.

Nadal will likely not have to worry about Novak Djokovic but a victory in New York could see him be world number one with current number one Daniil Medvedev defending the title.

The likes of Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be standing in Nadal’s way and if the Spaniard isn’t match-fit then he could face an early exit.

However as tennis pundit Barbara Schett pointed out, ruling out Nadal at this stage would be foolish and the Spaniard always raises his level at the grand slams, “The match is always different from practice,” Schett told Eurosport.

“And whoever had an abdominal injury and a tear on the abdominal muscles knows how it feels. You have to be extremely cautious. You’re worried that you’re going to reinjure it again.

“And I think that’s what we’ve seen on Wednesday. When he played against Coric, he was a little bit uncertain how the body was going to hold up. And for sure he’s going to feel better and better.

“If there’s no damage to the abdominal muscle, then he still has a week and a half to improve his health, to improve the trust also that he can extend and he can’t bend on the serve because that’s the trickiest shot, the serve and the smash.

“When that is the case, Rafa Nadal certainly can be dangerous again at the US Open. I mean, he’s so fired up at every single Grand Slam. We’ve seen this year playing the best tennis of his life. You can never, ever write him off.”

Nadal is currently undefeated at grand slams and if fit, the Spaniard will certainly fancy himself to win another seven matches at the US Open this year.

Whatever it should be interesting to see if Nadal improves before the US Open with the tournament starting on the 29th of August.

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Does WTA Need A Top Rivalry To Drive The Sport?

Iga Swiatek is the WTA’s dominant world number one but does she need a rival in order to drive the sport to new heights.

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Iga Swiatek (@TennisHandshake - Twitter)

The WTA has a dominant world number one and a variety of talented players on the tour but the one thing it’s lacking at the moment is a top rivalry.

 

First of all it was supposed to be Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka, then Ash Barty and Osaka and also Barty and Iga Swiatek.

However none of these match-ups created a top rivalry over a long period to generate an overwhelming amount of interest.

After Barty’s shock retirement, many people were left disappointed at the fact that her and current dominant world number one Iga Swiatek could not compete for the sport’s biggest titles in a fierce rivalry.

Now Swiatek sits at the top of the WTA rankings with almost a 4,000 point lead at the top. The rest of the field are very talented and that in itself is an intriguing aspect of the WTA’s appeal.

But the one thing the women’s game lacks is a top rivalry to generate a hype that the ATP clearly has right now.

As Mark Petchey said it’s an issue that needs solving soon as every sport has one, “Rivalries drive the sport. What they do is make sure that it manifests itself in a big polarisation of a large fan base, against another one,” Petchey was quoted as saying by Tennis365.

“You look across the board, over F1, look at the tribal nature of AFL, of Premier League football here. It’s a huge part of what you need to have a successful sport. That is the one thing that is missing from the women’s tour at the moment, is a superb rivalry, with a little bit of edge.

“That’s why I say I’m sad that Ash pulled up stumps, because I think that rivalry could’ve developed with Iga in that way. Would it have been quite as intense as the Rafa-Novak and Roger-Novak rivalries? Probably not. But it would have been there. Going into every major saying that you’re not looking forward to a specific clash potentially when the draw comes out, does hurt the tour a little bit. 

“You can’t keep saying ‘oh, anyone can win it’. Because you’re just not tagging anybody… you’re not setting the scene for something amazing that’s going to happen, a nice little volcanic eruption right at the back-end of a major. They need some people to be a bit more consistent and getting through, because that’s what will be a massive driver for the WTA.”

It’s hard to argue with those points of view from Petchey as rivalries are what are talked about for decades after players have retired.

It will be interesting to see whether Swiatek will continue to dominate the rest of the field or whether someone can build a rivalry with the Pole heading into the remainder of the season.

The next big WTA event of the year will take place at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on the week of the eighth of August.

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