With two-time champion and leader of the 2013 Race to London Rafael Nadal seeded at number five, the Wimbledon draw was even more anticipated than usual this year.
The Spaniard fell into the quarter of third seed Roger Federer, meaning the pair could meet at the quarter-final stage to play their first match at SW19 since the classic 2008 final. The two legends are in the same half of the draw as Andy Murray, leaving top seed Novak Djokovic and number four seed David Ferrer over in the top half of the draw.
Check out the full draw here: Wimbledon Men’s Draw
While Djokovic will be delighted to see his toughest opponents battling each other on the other side of the draw, the Serb may be less thrilled at his first round opponent: Florian Mayer. Mayer made the quarter-final at Wimbledon last year. The German’s idiosyncratic style, which employs a wide range of different spins on the backhand wing, should make for an interesting work-out for the world number one. France’s Jeremy Chardy could make an impression in round three but it will most likely fall to veteran de jour Tommy Haas to try and stop Djokovic coasting through in the fourth round. The pair faced off in the Roland Garros quarter-finals three weeks ago with Djokovic avenging a defeat in the Miami with a fiercely-contested win in straight sets. Haas will feel he can get closer on grass but Djokovic is such a formidable player at Slams that anything other than the German’s very best will most likely fall short.
Djokovic’s seeded opponent in the quarter-final is Tomas Berdych, who made the final here back in 2010. During that run Berdych swept Djokovic aside in the pair’s only meeting on grass to date and the Czech’s other success in a 2-13 head-to-head came at this year’s Rome Masters. If Berdych falls early (he opens with a tricky encounter with Martin Klizan) the man most likely replace him at the quarter-final stage is number nine seed Richard Gasquet, who is having a solid year and has been as far as the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
In addition to his impressive head-to-head with Berdych, Djokovic enjoys a 10-2 record against his potential semi-final opponent, David Ferrer. Overall it will be a big surprise if Djokovic does not take advantage of his good draw and await the winner of Nadal-Federer-Murray mêlée in the final.
Round one to watch:
Giles Simon vs. Feliciano Lopez
Given Simon’s views on equal pay and Lopez’s much talked about (in the British press anyway) looks, there’s no doubt which player will get the support of most female spectators in this clash. However it should be an intriguing contest with Simon’s counter punching style contrasting with Lopez’s heavy serve and net play – and the players will have clashed a couple of days before in the Eastbourne final as well.
David Ferrer’s climb up the rankings has played dividends as he maintains his top four seeding for another major tournament. The surging Nadal will surely pass him in the coming weeks but Ferrer could overhaul Federer with a good performance in SW19 as the Swiss is defending 2000 points from his title win last year. Ferrer opens against Martin Alund and his first seeded opponent could well be the Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in round three. Possibilities for the fourth round include the flatlining Milos Raonic, former Halle winner Philipp Kohlschreiber and Ivan Dodig.
Ferrer’s quarter-final opponent will come from one of the more entertaining sections, which is headed up by eighth seed Juan Martin del Potro. The big hitting Argentine may have to fend off Grigor Dimitrov to get there and that match could be the pick of round three. Kei Nishikori could then be waiting for the winner. While playing Ferrer for a place in the semis would be considered an opportunity for del Potro, it should be noted that the Spaniard easily defeated him in round four last year.
Who will fall in (round) three?
Juan Martin del Potro vs. Grigor Dimitrov
This would be a popular macth if it comes to pass. The sort of match del Potro needs to win to maintain his place in the elite, the sort of match Dimitrov needs to win if he is to join him there.
With two living legends, and famous rivals at that, in this section, we may be about to witness the most hyped quarter-final match in tennis history – certainly the most since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi met in the last eight of the US Open. Federer and Nadal have played three times at Wimbledon, all of which have been in the final with the 2007 edition considered a classic and the 2008 heralded as the greatest match of all time. Federer leads their grass head-to-head 2-1 but Nadal has had the upper hand in their matches this year and hasn’t lost to Federer in a Grand Slam since that 2007 encounter. Given Federer’s age and preference for grass, this may well be his best chance of improving his Grand Slam record against Nadal.
If it seems presumptive to assume they will play, consider this: staggeringly Federer has made the quarter-final stage of the past 36 Grand Slam tournaments while Nadal has only failed to make that stage twice in the past 19 he has played in. Of course one of those failures came last year when Lukas Rosol blasted the Spaniard out in the second round but casting around the draw for this year’s Rosol is not easy. Steve Darcis is first up for Nadal, followed by the winner of Łukasz Kubot and Igor Andreev. Beyond that the men most likely to spring an upset are the mercurial Benoit Paire, big serving John Isner (who once pushed Nadal to five sets at Roland Garros) and his seeded fourth round opponent Stan Wawrinka. Of those Isner is the most credible, although dependent on the American serving to his very best.
Federer starts against Victor Hănescu and could play Rosol himself in round three, although Fabio Fognini and Jurgen Melzer will be competing for that honour. Nicolas Almagro is the fourth round seed but Jerzy Janowicz could make for a dangerous stand in for the clay specialist and is probably the biggest threat to Federer at this stage. The seeded semi-final opponent for this section is Andy Murray. Nadal or Federer may have to face three of the big four to lift the trophy while Djokovic will face a maximum of one.
Round one to watch:
Jerzy Janowicz vs. Kyle Edmund
18-year-old Edmund will have the full support of the home crowd in this match. The Brit took Simon to two tie breaks at Eastbourne but playing the giant Janowicz is a very different sort of challenge.
Lleyton Hewitt vs. Stan Wawrinka
Lleyton’s here, he’s brought his lunch bucket and you know he’s prepared to go all day in order to get the job done. This one has five sets and a case of post-match fatigue for the winner written all over it.
While Murray avoided the possibility of Nadal looming in the quarter-final, he has been given Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as his prospective quarter final opponent. The Frenchman has made the semi-finals in the past two years and is a significant threat to any player on grass. After that of course Murray would expect to play the winner of Federer and Nadal’s royal rumble.
Going back to the start, the Scot opens against Benjamin Becker and could face fellow Brit James Ward in the second round. Tommy Robredo would make for an interesting third round opponent and Murray will be happy enough with Janko Tipsarevic as his round of 16 match-up. Tsonga meanwhile has a tricky opener with David Goffin, who must feel a little unfortunate to follow up his opener with Djokovic at Roland Garros with the another elite adversary at Wimbledon. Queen’s finalist Marin Cilic has the most credible shot of disposing the Frenchman; the two could meet in round four.
Round one to watch:
Janko Tipsarevic vs Viktor Troicki
This all Serb affair should be worth a look and Troicki has a decent chance of achieving the upset.
Michael Hale is a tennis writer based in London. You can follow him on Twitter via @TennisMike_