Wimbledon 2015 kicks off tomorrow as the grass court season hits it’s climax. Novak Djokovic no longer has the pressure of the Grand Slam riding on this event after losing in the French Open final but is still the favourite and expected to be in the final.
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Quarter 1 – (1) Djokovic – Nishikori (5)
While he is the best player on the planet, there is a limit on how ‘tough’ a draw can be considered for a player like Djokovic. However, there are a number of capable players who can at least test the World No.1 and perhaps take a set but it still seems incredibly unlikely any of them will take three. Philipp Kohlschreiber is one of the toughest unseeded players, as shown by his No.33 ranking. Kohlschreiber is a one-time quarter finalist at Wimbledon and often impressed at Halle, where he made 2 finals (winning one) and numerous semi finals at his home grass event. He is 1-6 against Djokovic, winning at Roland Garros in 2009 when Djokovic was ranked fourth.
The second round will likely see a centre court send-off for a player who will compete in their last Wimbledon with both Lleyton Hewitt and Jarkko Nieminen announcing retirement plans. Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon champ, really should have defeated Kevin Anderson in his lone grass court warm-up but blew a healthy lead to allow the eventual finalist to progress. Another Aussie seems a likely opponent in round three with the 27th seed Bernard Tomic waiting. Tomic burst onto the scene with his 2011 Wimbledon performance, even taking a set from the 2011 Djokovic who went on to win the tournament. He has exited at the fourth round and second round in the past two years respectively, losing to Tomas Berdych on both occasions.
Jerzy Janowicz, a recent Wimbledon semi finalist, will have very little chance of repeating that but will at least want to get as far as a meeting with Djokovic. The Pole’s inconsistencies remain but with his serve, he can cause damage on this surface. In warmups, he suffered losses to Philipp Kohlschreiber and Kei Nishikori, the latter in three sets. Queens runner-up Kevin Anderson looks the other likely fourth round player from this section with likely the Janowicz-Anderson second round matchup deciding who goes that far. Anderson was impressive in defeating Wawrinka and Simon in London but was outclassed by Andy Murray from the start in the final. Since beating him in 2008, Anderson has lost 9 straight sets to Djokovic.
Thankfully for Marin Cilic, Viktor Troicki is nowhere to be found nearby in his draw. Cilic was beaten by the Serb in back to back weeks on grass in Stuttgart and Queens, as he struggled to get to grips with the grass. Courtesy of his ninth seeding, he has a fairly comfortable route to the fourth round with his probably biggest threat being John Isner. Despite his booming serve, Isner has never really been all that great on grass with a run to the third round last year being his best in six attempts.
Kei Nishikori retired in Halle a few weeks back, sparking fears that the chance of another deep slam run may be derailed by injury. He will be looking to bounce back after what a was a shock exit to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Paris, a match many expected him to win quite easily. Nishikori will start against an opponent who took him 5 at Wimbledon last year in Simone Bolelli but after that the route to the fourth round seems quite straight forward. The other seed he may face is Pablo Cuevas, who is clearly a clay court specialist. If seedings hold, a Djokovic-Nishikori match has plenty of intrigue – especially given their last slam meeting that Nishikori won in four sets at last year’s US Open.
Quarter 2 – (4) Wawrinka – Raonic (7)
Being in the same half, all eyes will be set on a potential Stanislas Wawrinka semi final with Novak Djokovic. However, it won’t be that easy for the Swiss who has had his worst results on grass. Last year, Wawrinka achieved a career best quarter final at Wimbledon and had suffered first round losses in three of the last four years before that. A win over an unmotivated Nick Kyrgios at Queens before losing to Kevin Anderson in straights does little to inspire thoughts of Wawrinka as a contender. Given the early rounds of his draw, it would be surprising to see Wawrinka exit as early as he has in previous years. Joao Sousa and Benjamin Becker will be his likely path to the third round while the first seed he may face, Dominic Thiem, went 1-3 during the grass season this year.
Despite it being far from his preferred surface, Tommy Robredo, will remain a tough foe for whoever he faces. He made the fourth round last year, beating the previous year’s semi finalist Jerzy Janowicz along the way. 2006 semi finalist Marcos Baghdatis had looked to be in good form on the grass but a retirement in the Nottingham semi final earlier in the week cannot be good news for the Cypriot. David Goffin has a grass final to his name this year, losing to Nicolas Mahut in the Netherlands a few weeks back.
While Wawrinka would be the favourite to take this quarter, it would not at all be surprising to see him depart at the hands of any of the seeds in the second half of the quarter, which includes the two losing semi finalists from last year’s event. Grigor Dimitrov was unfortunate to run into an impressive Jack Sock to open in Roland Garros and has an easier time on this occassion beginning with Federico Delbonis. Richard Gasquet will need to beat two qualifiers for a possible battle of the one-handed backhands.
Milos Raonic has a great chance of making the semi finals for the second year running but may have to reverse a 0-4 head to head against Wawrinka to do so. His route there could include two Germans who have had good runs at Wimbledon in Florian Mayer and Tommy Haas although both are from their best after long injury layoffs. A third round with Nick Kyrgios beckons, a rematch of last year’s quarter final. Raonic won that in four sets and a similar result this year would be far from surprising.
Quarter 3 – (10) Nadal – Murray (3)
Andy Murray looks to be back to his best in 2015 with a 41-6 record to date while he has not lost to someone not called Novak Djokovic since late February. It seems most likely that Djokovic would be the opponent in a potential final but grass has to be the best chance for Murray to end a seven match losing streak against the World No.1. He comes into the tournament on a high after winning Queens, defeating Kevin Anderson in the final.
After a tame exit in last year’s tournament, Murray will be out to prove that it was just a one-off and that he will be a contender once more. Halle finalist Andreas Seppi is the first seed Murray can face but there was an element of fortune about his run to the final in Germany, taking advantage of two retirements. Due to his big serve, Ivo Karlovic will be hyped up as someone who can trouble the big guns but much like other limited big serve players in recent years, the Croatian will have no chance of going deep in a best of five tournament. Karlovic currently holds an 11-10 record at Wimbledon and has lost in the first round five times.
As a former semi finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be seen as one of the biggest threats to Murray. Having not played a warmup event, it will be tough to tell what kind of shape on the grass the Frenchman is in coming into Wimbledon, but a semi final at Roland Garros should at least see him high on confidence. However, a tough first round against Gilles Muller means he must be at his best from the get go. Muller took a set from eventual Queens winner Andy Murray in a competitive encounter. Denis Istomin, a winner in Nottingham, awaits in round two preparing to take advantage of the winner.
David Ferrer was set to be eighth seed, but has just announced his withdrawal from the event with an elbow injury. This provides a huge boost for Rafael Nadal, who will now not face a player ranked higher than him before the quarter finals. Nadal, 10th seed, bounced back from his French Open disappointment with the Stuttgart title but then lost early in Queens to Dolgopolov.
With Ferrer gone, a Wimbledon second week spot is available for lucky loser Luca Vanni, James Ward, Jiri Vesely, Paolo Lorenzi, Vasek Pospisil, Vincent Millot, Tim Smyczek or Fabio Fognini. Fognini’s aversion to grass is well documented but he may be able to make it through a weak draw although Vasek Pospisil and Jiri Vesely will have plenty to say about that.
Nadal may have to navigate his way past some tricky traditional grass courters in Dustin Brown and Radek Stepanek to arrive in round four but if seedings hold, he will play Viktor Troicki in round three. He defeated the Serbian in straight sets to win the Stuttgart final a few weeks back.
Quarter 4 – (6) Berdych – Federer (2)
While Roger Federer remains the favourite to move into the semi finals here, there is a great chance for Tomas Berdych to make his second slam semi final of the year. The Czech doesn’t have the greatest of records against Federer at 6-14 but he did win their last meeting at Wimbledon although that was back in 2010 on his way to the final. Nicolas Mahut, a controversial wildcard despite his excellent grass court form, is a potential round two opponent and could cause trouble for Berdych if he has an off day.
In Halle, Berdych lost to Ivo Karlovic thanks to a barrage of aces – 45 in total. It’s unlikely that he will see that many from any of his opponents unless he is involved in a lengthy five setter. In round three, he would be projected to play Guillermo Garcia-Lopez but the winner of Lukas Rosol and Ernests Gulbis may have a better chance of knocking off Berdych, especially the latter who won in straight sets against Berdych in the first round a few years back.
Berdych could play a third Frenchman in four matches if the seeds advance as expected – Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. However, Monfils is not all that comfortable on grass and did retire in his last outing two weeks ago in Halle. Simon made the semis at Queens and quarters at Nottingham in the lead up to Wimbledon, losing to two big servers in Kevin Anderson and Sam Querrey respectively.
Despite the suggestion Roger Federer can no longer compete with the best players in a best of five format, it is worth remembering that he is the current Wimbledon runner up and took the best player in the world to five sets last year. Whether he can repeat that this year is questionable with the return to form of Andy Murray but it will still be a surprise if he departs early.
He opens against Damir Dzumhur, whom he beat at the French Open 6-4 6-3 6-2. Given the Bosnian’s favoured service is clay, this opener could go even quicker for Federer. American opponents in round two and three may cause the biggest trouble for Federer with Sam Querrey and Jack Sock expected in each of the two rounds. Despite his marked improvement this year, Sock has not done much to suggest he can be a legitimate threat to the top players just yet.
In the fourth round, Federer has a 27-0 against the two most accomplished grass court players he may face. While Mikhail Youzhny is on the decline, Feliciano Lopez is still capable at this level and would be a potential quarter finalist in a kinder section of the draw. He should at least make it to meet Federer, hoping to avoid a twelfth straight loss. Roberto Bautista-Agut, who is 0-2 this grass court season, is the other seed in this section.
Novak Djokovic def. Milos Raonic
Andy Murray def. Roger Federer
Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic
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