Wimbledon, a Preview of the Men's Draw: Djokovic Is on Pace to Win His Twentieth Slam Title - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon, a Preview of the Men’s Draw: Djokovic Is on Pace to Win His Twentieth Slam Title

The Championships are back after two years. Will Federer be fit enough to compete? If not, this could be a big chance for Zverev.

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Novak Djokovic - Wimbledon 2019 (via Twitter. @wimbledon)

The most eagerly anticipated fortnight of the year in tennis is upon us, and now that the draw has been made it is time to analyze what might be ahead of us and who should prevail in the end on the lawns of Wimbledon. In my view, the draw is almost equitable for all of the top players and the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament ought to be a smorgasbord for all of the fans who have a reverence for tradition and an appreciation for a grass court festival that is not only beautifully run but also followed more closely by general sports fans than any other tennis event. And that is the way it should be.

 

Let’s look closely at the men’s draw. The clear tournament favorite Novak Djokovic will open his quest for a third consecutive title and a sixth overall against British wild card Jack Draper. Perhaps the 34-year-old would prefer to see a more familiar face across the net but surely it will not take him long to find his range and to start picking Draper apart from the back of the court. The view here is that he might have one tough set as he finds his bearings but I expect Djokovic to be the victor in straight sets.

Djokovic is likely to meet Kevin Anderson in the second round. Three years ago, the lanky South African overcame John Isner in a marathon Wimbledon semifinal which lasted six hours and 36 minutes. Djokovic also contested a hard fought semifinal that year as well, eclipsing Rafael Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set. They waged war from the backcourt for five hours and fifteen minutes but that was over the course of two days. Djokovic then cut down Anderson on Centre Court in straight sets to seal the crown.

Three years earlier on Court One, Djokovic had another memorable meeting with Anderson in which he trailed two sets to love. But he rallied to take that round of 16 battle in five tense sets on his way to a third title run at the All England Club. If they meet in the second round this year, the circumstances will be different. Anderson is not the same player he was in either 2015 or 2018. At 35, he is struggling to regain his confidence after injuries and disappointing results across the past couple of years. Anderson remains formidable, though, and he may get inspired if his serve is on against Djokovic. I will give him one set against the world No. 1 but no more than that.

In the third round, Djokovic could meet Alejandro Davidovich and his round of 16 opponent is likely to be either No. 17 seed Cristian Garin or the enigmatic No. 13 seed Gael Monfils, but ether way Djokovic should not have many difficulties making his way to a potential quarterfinal with No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev. Rublev will have his work cut out for him to make it that far. No 9 seed Diego Schwartzman and No. 19 Jannik Sinner could do battle in the third round with the winner facing Rublev in the round of 16, but I believe Rublev on form should make it through to an appointment with Djokovic.

Rublev is a big hitter and a total professional. He cares deeply about his craft and has an unwavering desire to win every match he plays. But he has never played Djokovic before. The Serbian will not allow this encounter to turn into a slugfest. He will rely heavily on his defense and ball control and throw in a lot of backhand slices to break the rhythm of Rublev. I am picking Djokovic to oust Rublev in four well-played sets.

Now that we have Djokovic into the semifinals, who will join him there? The seedings tell us that No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will be the man standing across the net from Djokovic in the penultimate round. The Greek stylist has a tricky opening round assignment against the gifted yet underachieving American Frances Tiafoe. Tiafoe has sometimes performed commendably against top players at majors. This year in Melbourne, he pushed Djokovic to four hard sets at the Australian Open in the second round and in 2017 he took Roger Federer to five sets in a first round showdown at the U.S. Open.

Tiafoe will surely be inspired against Tsitsipas, who has yet to play his best tennis on grass. Here is a fellow who just reached his first major final at Roland Garros, where he took the first two sets against Djokovic before bowing in the title round. Tsitsipas was a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year, losing another five setter to Djokovic. He has twice been a semifinalist at the Australian Open, including an appearance in that round this year.

Will he demonstrate that he can adjust to the grass this year and improve his backhand return? I believe the answer is yes. Tsitsipas should account for Tiafoe in four sets and then he should play his way through safely over the next few rounds. In the fourth round he could find himself facing either Dan Evans, No. 15 seed Alex de Minaur or even the surging young American Sebastian Korda. Korda takes on De Minaur in he first round. That will be a blockbuster and I envision a five set verdict either way. The winner would probably play Evans in the third round, although the British player has an arduous first round appointment against 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez.

Lopez is appearing at Wimbledon for the 19th time in his distinguished career. He made his debut in 2002 and has been to the quarterfinals three times across the years. With his aggressive game and first rate volleying skills, Lopez is always dangerous on the lawns. The No. 22 seed Evans will have to return well in this intriguing contest.

My guess is that Evans will pull out a five set victory but then lose to Korda in the third round. Tsitsipas will have his hands full with Korda in he round of 16 but will win in four sets. I am picking No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov to reach the quarterfinals against Tsitsipas, and that one could be a dandy. But I believe Tsitsipas will topple Shapovalov in five sets to set up a semifinal appointment against Djokovic.

Now let’s proceed to the bottom half of the draw. If all goes according to plan and the seedings hold up, No 7 seed Matteo Berrettini will play No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals, and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev is due to confront No. 6 seed and eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer. Is that going to happen?

Berrettini opens against the guileful Guido Pella, the 31-year-old, left-handed Argentine who is a very capable grass court player. That will be no easy contest but Berrettini is feeling good about himself after winning the title at the Queen’s Club in London. He will succeed in four sets. But a more dangerous confrontation for the Italian player could be a third round duel with No. 28 seed John Isner.

This would be a top of the line server’s duel. Berrettini now has established himself as one of the premier servers in the game of tennis, right up there among the top five. Isner, of course, has one of the greatest weapons in the game with his serve. Both Berrettini and Isner struggle with the return of serve. So there will not be many service breaks in this compelling contest. I believe Berrettini, however, is in better form at the moment. The match will feature four tiebreakers, and the Italian will win three of them.

In the round of 16, it looks like Berrettini will meet Casper Ruud, and he will stop the No. 12 seed from Norway in four sets, moving on to the quarterfinals. Zverev in my view should move smoothly into the round of 16, but in that round will be severely challenged by none other than No. 21 seed Ugo Humbert. The Frenchman was victorious in Halle, ousting Rublev in the final. Earlier in the tournament he defeated Zverev. Humbert has the unenviable task of playing Nick Kyrgios in the first round of Wimbledon, but I believe he will get through that battle in four sets.

Can Humbert replicate his Halle performance across the best of five sets in a much bigger setting against Zverev? I doubt it. Zverev has become comfortable at all of the majors over the last year. He should have won the U.S. Open last year but squandered a two-sets-to-love lead against Dominic Thiem in the final. Moreover, he served for the match in the fifth set before losing that agonizing skirmish with the rugged Austrian.

Zverev could well have been in the final of Roland Garros a few weeks ago but he fell in five sets against Tsitsipas after taking the third and fourth and reaching 0-40 on the Tsitsipas serve at the start of the final set in that semifinal. So I am going with him to beat the impressive Humbert in five sets at the All England Club.

And so Zverev and Berrettini will meet after all in the quarters. The German beat the Italian in the final of the Masters 1000 tournament at Madrid last month. He has a 3-1 career head to head lead over Berrettini. To be sure, Berrettini has improved markedly over the past few years, and he is playing the finest tennis of his career at the moment. Nevertheless, I see Zverev securing a four set triumph over Berrettini to reach the semifinals.

Medvedev opens up against the industrious Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. Struff is currently ranked No. 45 in the world but he is a much better player than that and a big server with a game well suited to the grass. Struff just upended Medvedev on grass in Halle. He will make life difficult for the Russian again at Wimbledon, but Medvedev will come from behind to win in four sets.

The Russian could have another tough match inn the second round against either Spanish wild card Carlos Alcaraz or Tommy Paul of the United States. In the third round, Medvedev could well meet 2017 Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic (the No. 32 seed) and one round later he will be up against No. 14 seed Hubert Hurkacz or perhaps the Italian wizard Lorenzo Musetti. Musetti versus Hurkacz will be an intruding first round battle. None of these matches will be facile for Medvedev, yet somehow he will plod on to the quarters.

But will he face Federer? The Swiss Maestro is not heading into Wimbledon with the kind of preparation he wanted. Gone from the game for over a year while enduring two surgeries on his knee, Federer has played only four tournaments and eight matches this season. He surely wanted to go deep into the draw in Halle but he contested only two matches there, falling tamely in the final set against the gifted Félix Auger-Aliassime.

Clearly Federer will be buoyed by the British crowds who have always cheered his every move. This will be his 22nd Wimbledon and it could well be his last. Federer will surely want to make the most of it and undoubtedly he remains the most natural grass court player in the field.

Tennis – Wimbledon – London, Britain – July 16, 2017 Switzerland’s Roger Federer poses with the trophy as he celebrates winning the final against Croatia’s Marin Cilic REUTERS/Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool – RC1C1D8B8F80

He will commence his campaign for the “Crown Jewel” of tennis against the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. This should be an ideal beginning for the Swiss, who owns a 6-0 career head-to-head record over his left-handed rival. Twice Federer has stopped Mannarino at Wimbledon, including their most recent encounter in the round of 16 three years ago.

Federer will not waltz through this match but he will win in four sets, and then he could meet another Frenchman in the second round. That would be Richard Gasquet. In the third round, Federer is likely to play No. 29 seed Cameron Norrie. He will be tested by British player. But Federer will get it done in four sets.

Predicting Federer’s fourth round opponent is no simple task. It might well be the Italian Lorenzo Sonego who is seeded No. 23. That is my guess. And Sonego will throw everything he has at Federer after having a great week in Eastbourne. The problem is that he is overmatched on grass. Federer is a four set victor in this one.

Although I have my share of doubts about both Medvedev and Federer as they head into this edition of Wimbledon, I still believe they will uphold their seedings and clash in the quarterfinals. Although Federer has won all three of their career meetings, the last time he took on Medvedev was in Miami back in the spring of 2019. Medvedev is a different player now.

This quarterfinal could be tumultuous as Federer looks to assert himself with his attacking game. It will come down largely to the quality of his first serve and the capacity of Medvedev to counter with solid and deep returns from his customary position far behind the baseline. It will be a pendulum swinging affair but in my view the better grass court player will not be victorious. His lack of match play will catch up with him as Medvedev rallies from two sets to one down and wins in five.

Both semifinals are set: Djokovic and Tsitsipas will renew their rivalry. The Serbian has won six of his eight meetings with the Greek player, including that memorable Roland Garros five set duel.  I believe Djokovic will be more at home on the grass than Tsitsipas. His second serve returns will be very burdensome for Tsitsipas and the Serbian will outmaneuver his adversary from the baseline.

I am picking Djokovic over Tsitsipas in four sets after they split the first two. Zverev and Medvedev will come at each other full force. Medvedev will have the upper hand in the longer rallies while Zverev has the edge when he opens up the court and blasts winners. It will be very close. Medvedev has prevailed in his last three confrontations with Zverev and hopes to even their career series at 5-5.  But Zverev is the victor here in five enticing sets.

And so it will all come down to Djokovic versus Zverev for the Wimbledon title. Djokovic has won six of their eight career meetings, including a come form behind four set win in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year. This will be another dandy of a duel. Zverev will feel immense pressure to get at least 65% of his first serves in because Djokovic will be all over his second delivery. Zverev will take chances from the baseline to avoid getting worn down by the precision and immaculate ball control of the Serbian.

They will split the first two sets but Djokovic comes through in the clutch to win a tight third set tie-break, and then slowly pulls away in the fourth. Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon with a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3 triumph over Zverev, claiming a 20th Grand Slam title, tying Federer and Rafael Nadal for the record in the process. He claims his third major in a row with the victory in Great Britain. And he puts himself one title away from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Grand Slam.

That is how I see it, but this much is certain: even casual sports observers will be watching this Wimbledon with heightened interest as Djokovic pursues history of the highest order and fans from every corner of the globe celebrate the return of the sport’s centerpiece event after it was canceled a year ago due to Covid considerations. The tennis world will rejoice as Wimbledon makes a spectacular comeback.

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Steve Flink has been reporting full time on tennis since 1974, when he went to work for World Tennis Magazine. He stayed at that publication until 1991. He wrote for Tennis Week Magazine from 1992-2007, and has been a columnist for tennis.com and tennischannel.com for the past 14 years. Flink has written four books on tennis including “Dennis Ralston’s Tennis Workbook” in 1987; “The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century” in 1999; “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” in 2012; and “Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited”. The Sampras book was released in September of 2020 and can be purchased on Amazon.com. Flink was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Frances Tiafoe And Jack Sock Ready To Rain On Federer’s Parade At Laver Cup

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Frances Tiafoe describes his first match at this year’s Laver Cup as ‘iconic’ but he is determined to seal victory with doubles partner Jack Sock. 

 

Tiafoe, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open earlier this month, will feature in what will be the final match of Roger Federer’s illustrious career. The Swiss maestro has announced that the team competition will be the last event he will play before retiring from the sport at the age of 41. Federer will partner up with long-time rival Rafael Nadal in what promises to be an emotional encounter for all involved on Friday evening. 

“It’s going to be iconic to be part of that,” Tiafoe told reporters in London. “Both guys are absolute legends, and obviously Roger’s last dance. We are definitely just out there trying to get a win.”

Looking at the wider picture, Tiafoe knows a win in the doubles could prove vital in team World’s bid to win the Laver Cup for the first time in history. Whilst on paper his achievements are overshadowed by those he faces, his current form gives him the edge. Federer hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon last year due to a knee injury. Furthermore, Nadal is still trying to get back to his best shape following an abdominal injury and was beaten by Tiafoe at the US Open. 

“This is a special night. I just think me and Jack are just looking for a special night, come out there, have fun,” he continued. “The crowd is obviously going to be for them. You understand that kind of moment, and just go out there and do your part and just try to get a win. It’s going to be a special night tomorrow. I’m just happy I get the opportunity to do it with Jack.”

Sock, who has won three Grand Slam titles during his career, echoes Tiafoe’s desire to seal victory over the two tennis giants. 

“I’m just stoked to be a part of it with my guy Foe (Tiafoe),” he said. 
“We will go out and enjoy the moment, but not going to hold anything back. Sorry, Roger. Don’t want to spoil the night.”

Federer’s final match at The O2 Arena in London is set to take place in front of a sellout crowd. Following his retirement announcement, ticket sales for the three-day event have exploded. Ace Odds have reported a 4020% rise in demand for tickets with prices starting from £900. An extraordinary outcome considering the most expensive ticket for the Laver Cup was originally £510. 

The doubles match involving Federer, Nadal, Tiafoe and Sock is estimated to start around 20:20 BST on Friday. 

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