June 27, 2021

Wimbledon 2021 Preview: Round By Round

Well, it's been quite a road to get to Wimbledon, this year more than usual.

With the pandemic cancelling play at the All England Club last season, it's been a full two years since the last champions were crowned, and the world is a whole lot different than it was back then for so many reasons.

And in the last few weeks things got really interesting. First there was the withdrawal of Rafael Nadal, just days after his heartbreaking loss in the French Open semis, followed quickly by the exit of Naomi Osaka. And in the last few days we learned injury would keep both Dominic Thiem and defending champion Simona Halep out of the draws as well.

Add to that the fact that young standouts like Iga Swiatek, Jannik Sinner, and Sebastian Korda haven't really played on these courts -- Swiatek's Juniors crown notwithstanding -- and you have a lot of opportunity for underdogs to shine. The lead up tournaments, after all, have already given us a glimpse of the former champions and resurgent workhorses who've been able to up their up their games on grass. And any one of them could surprise us over the next fortnight.

Of course, it's going to be hard to stop the favorites, but if there's any year to do it, this might be it. So let's dive right in to the draws.


First Round

Ashleigh Barty (1) vs. Carla Suárez Navarro: This is in part sentimental, as we know each tournament we see her at will be CSN's last, but don't forget the veteran fighter has had some good results here in the past, beating the likes of Sam Stosur, Genie Bouchard and Ekaterina Makarova over the years. It's asking a lot for her to take out the top seed, but it'll be fun to see her try. And who knows, she might just be able to take advantage if Barty isn't back in top form.

Bianca Andreescu (5) vs. Alizé Cornet: The struggles of the former U.S. Open champ have been well documented, and though she's shown glimmers of her former self, it's been hard for her to really find her footing. Cornet, meanwhile, has been pretty solid on the grass recently. She just beat Andreescu earlier this month in Berlin before taking out Garbiñe Muguruza to boot and this past week she put up one hell of a fight against Victoria Azarenka in Bad Homburg, just barely losing the three-hour battle. There's no reason to believe she won't be able to pull off another upset here.

Karolina Pliskova (8) vs. Tamara Zidansek: The former world #1 continues to confound me with her inconsistency. Though she looked strong in her return to the final in Rome, she was absolutely crushed in that match, winning exactly zero games in the course of 46 minutes. She went on to lose the second round at Roland Garros and hasn't won a match on grass yet this season. And while I don't know a lot about how Zidansek plays on the lawn, the surprise French semifinalist has nevertheless proven she's not afraid to be challenged. It's far from out of the question to think she could get a win here too.

Petra Kvitova (10) vs. Sloane Stephens: It's always fun, and a little weird, when two Grand Slam champions -- not that far removed from their peak form -- meet in the first round of a Major. Kvitova has been a consistent force in this sport for over a decade and remains a threat to pick up her third title at the All England Club, just barely missing out in a spot in the Bad Homburg final this past week. Stephens, of course, has been a little more spotty, but a solid clay court season shows she's not willing to give up on the big prizes quite yet. I'm not sure she'll be able to score a win over someone who thrives on grass, but it'll be fun to watch her try.

Johanna Konta (27) vs. Katerina Siniakova: Konta's done well at Wimbledon in the past, reaching the semis in 2017 and the quarters on her last outing, and while she's struggled a bit over the last few months, she was able to make a nice run to the title in Nottingham after an early exit at Roland Garros. But she can't ignore her first round opponent this go-round. Doubles specialist Siniakova, who stunned Serena Williams in Parma, is coming off a run to the title match in Bad Homburg, where she beat Jessica Pegula in the second round. And while it'll be quick turnaround for this match, she's seen her own doubles partner parlay one final run to a Major win, so who's to say she won't be able to do it too? Okay, that's a lot to ask, but she could certainly get a win or two under her belt first.

Second Round

Ons Jabeur (21) vs. Venus Williams: Venus played her first Wimbledon when Jabeur was just two years old. She won the first of her five titles here when she was five. And it was only four years ago that she made her most recent final here. We know better than to ever count her out. But Jabeur is making her own history these days, and after her maiden title in Birmingham, she comes to the All England Club at a career-high ranking. She hasn't played here since her career really started going, so it will be exciting to see how her new-found star power matches up against a long-time legend.

Jessica Pegula (22) vs. Liudmila Samsonova (W): Pegula has been one of the breakout stars of the year, making her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne and scoring wins over Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina, and Victoria Azarenka along the way. At 27-years-old, she's now at her best ever ranking and though she's never won a match at Wimbledon, she did make the quarters in Berlin -- beating Karolina Pliskova on the way, for the fourth time this year -- and expectations are high. Samsonova, meanwhile, is coming off her own monster run in Berlin, where, as a qualifier, she beat five hugely talented and way higher ranked players on her way to the title. The win knocked 43 spots off her then sub-100 ranking and earned her a wildcard here. But she might just be able to prove she deserves even more than that.

Angelique Kerber (25) vs. Ana Konjuh (Q): Okay, first of all, Konjuh shouldn't have had to play qualies to make this main draw. Second, she shouldn't have had to play Tsvetana Pironkova in the final round of the prelims. Third, it's a shame that she'll likely have to face 2018 champ and Bad Homburg titleist so early here, and that one of the two will have to go home early. The 23-year-old Croat is still working her way back up the rankings, and it would be nice to see her make some headway. But Kerber is running a hot streak, and if the French Open taught us anything, it's that playing the week before a Major might be good luck, so she's unlikely to let it end now.

Alison Riske (28) vs. Ann Li: Young Li came out the gates swinging hard this year, stunning Jen Brady to make the final at the Grampians Trophy and reaching the third round in Australia, but we haven't seen a lot of her since then. Riske has been even more MIA, thanks to injury, winning only two matches since last year in Melbourne and pulling out of the French Open last minute. She did make the quarters here on her last outing, though, stunning Ash Barty on the way, just after picking up a title in Den Bosch, so she's clearly comfortable on this surface. Plus, she might be hungry to avenge a loss to Li last year at the U.S. Open. Still, it would be nice to see the underdog make a bigger breakthrough on a bigger stage and this could be that opportunity.

Third Round

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Danielle Collins: Kenin has to be one of the most vulnerable top seeds in either draw, but she seems to have a way of surprising me when I start to count her out. Plus, she's one of those players who only hit her stride in the two years since we last played Wimbledon, so we don't have a lot of evidence of what she can do here. Collins, though, can't be overlooked. She had a strong start to the year and seems well recovered from the surgery that cut her spring season short. And she has a 3-1 record against Kenin, just losing their most recent battle at last year's Roland Garros in three sets, so there's no reason to believe that if they meet up again she'll have many butterflies.

Victoria Azarenka (12) vs. Anett Kontaveit (24): Vika hasn't had as many headline worthy wins this year as she did last year, but she's done decently well this season even as she copes -- again -- with injury. She's not necessarily in the clear -- after a brutal three-hour battle with Alizé Cornet last week in Bad Homburg, she had to pull out of the quarters, so it's anyone's guess where she stands now. Kontaveit, meanwhile, whose only career title to date came on the gass of Den Bosch four years ago, is coming off a trip to the final in Eastbourne, where she beat Bianca Andreescu in the second round. She opens against 2019 French finalist Marketa Vondrousova, but I like her chances to set up this match and maybe even get the win.

Elise Mertens (13) vs. Madison Keys (23): I've said before and I'll say again that Elise Mertens is underrated. She's got a solid game and she's fun to watch, and she's really beeen delivering this year. And while she may have lost the only two matches she's played on grass this year, they were both whisper-thin losses and could easily have gone another way. Keys, meanwhile, has had some big successes on the lawn, reaching the quarters here back in 2015 and earlier this month stunning Aryna Sabalenka on the surface in Berlin. She's also won both of her prior meetings with Mertens, both at Slams and both in straight sets. It'll be fun to see if the on-paper favorite can channel her momentum to turn things around now.

Barbora Krejcikova (14) vs. Marta Kostyuk: It's always interesting to see how a newly-crowned Slam champion does on her very next outing -- it often doesn't work out well for them, and working against Krejcikova is the fact that she's never even played a singles main draw at Wimbledon before, hasn't even played qualies since 2017. She has, however, had plenty of success on the doubles court, winning the title in 2018 and reaching the semis again a year later. Eighteen-year-old Marta Kostyuk is also untested in the solo sport here, but the former Australian Open Juniors champ showed she was ready for the big leagues when she made the fourth round at Roland Garros this month. She opens against 2018 quarterfinalist Kiki Bertens, who's on her farewell tour, but if she can eke out a win might be able to secure a showdown against Krejcikova. And with two players so new to this, it's hard to tell which one would be the favorite.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (16) vs. Camila Giorgi: Pavs is also coming off the run of her careeer, having just made her first Major final in her record 52nd try. Can she keep her own momentum going? Well, she hasn't won a match at Wimbledon since her 2016 quarterfinal run, but if she can get in a couple here, she might set up a tough round against an unseeded Giorgi. The former top-thirty player, a quarterfinalist here in 2018, is coming off a solid run to the Eastbourne semis, where she beat Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka. She'd likely have to get past Aussie semifinalist Karolina Muchova first, but if there's any Major where she's going to pull off big upsets, this is likely it.

Fourth Round

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Elena Rybakina (18): The second seed at Wimbledon has a fourth round problem -- as strong as she is, and as many top players as she's beaten, she's never advanced past that level at a Major. And you'd think this would be the year she should do it -- running a hot streak into Melbourne, she lost in three to Serena Williams, excusable, but running and even hotter streak into Paris, she dropped in the third to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, less excusable, though in hindsight, fine. Can she break the curse now, at an event where she's only won one match before, and on a surface where she's been upset twice already this year? Well, Rybakina will certainly have something to say about that -- after a stunning win over Serena at the French, she beat Elina Svitolina on her way to the Eastbourne semis. While she's lost her only two matches against Sabalenka, they both went three sets and as she gets ready to make her main draw debut at the All England Club, you can be sure she'll try to make it a big one.

Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Karolina Muchova (20): Svitolina has been consistently at the top of this sport for years, but as one of only two players in the top ten without a Major title, we keep waiting for her to have her big success. She's come close, making the semis in her last outing here, where she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep, and then again in New York that year, where she lost to Serena. Muchova, meanwhile, is still climbing her way up the rankings, taking a big step higher after her own semi showing in Melbourne at the start of this season. But she first put herself on the radar on these very courts when she made the quarters with a win over then-#3 Karolina Pliskova in 2019. She lost her next match to, you guessed it, Svitolina, but if she can set up a rematch -- she might have to get through Camila Giorgi or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova first -- it could be a good one.

Serena Williams (6) vs. Coco Gauff (20): Now this is the one we've been waiting for. Serena had already won six Majors -- two Wimbledons -- by the time Gauff was born, but these days all eyes are on the 17-year-old phenom. She made her first Slam quarter earlier this month in Paris, showing her standout 2019 season was no fluke, and returns to the site of her first big breakthrough at a career-high ranking. She has two wins already against the elder Williams, but has yet to face Serena, who is still going for that record-breaking 24th Big Trophy. There is no guarantee this meeting will happen, of course -- while Serena has at least made the final at the All England Club on her four outings, she is slated for a third round match against Bad Homburg champ and 2018 vanquisher Angelique Kerber. And Gauff could face Berlin finalist Belinda Bencic first, too. Still, with a little luck, we might just get this clash between generations and get a real sense of whether the torch has truly passed.


Ashleigh Barty (1) vs. Daria Kasatkina (31): Admittedly there are a lot of questions hanging over Barty. While my initial skepticism over her place at #1 has been erased, injury hampered the back half of her clay court season, so we don't know what kind of shape she's in. Kasatikina, meanwhile, is coming off a run to the Birmingham final and a win over Iga Swiatek in Eastbourne. She also won her only previous meeting with Barty, right here on these courts on her way to the quarterfinals in 2018. She'd have to get past players like Jelena Ostapenko, who beat her last week in Eastbourne, and potentially Victoria Azarenka, but if she got a rematch with Barty, there's reason to believe she could pull off the win again.

Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Maria Sakkari (15): Swiatek may have won the Junior crown at Wimbledon way back when, but she hasn't yet claimed a main draw win here, so it'll be interesting to see how she fares. She fell early in her only grass court outing this season and she has a tough draw -- one-time finalist Vera Zvonareva could be her second round opponent while 2017 champ Garbiñe Muguruza looms in the fourth. If she is able to make good on her seeding, though, she might get a rematch against Sakkari, whose victory at the French Open earned her a first Major semi. But the Greek woman would need a little luck too -- her immediate section of the draw has unseeded threats like Shelby Rogers and Sam Stosur, but to mention Eastbourne semifinalist Elena Rybakina. And if she survives that, there's also the possibility of world #4 Aryna Sabalenka in the fourth round, a woman who's won their last four meetings. Still it'd be nice to see what these recent standouts have on grass.

Belinda Bencic (9) vs. Paula Badosa (30): Badosa was my secret pick to win the French Open, and given how crazy the draws worked out, I'm a little disappointed that she didn't do it. She's much less of a known quantity on grass, though, so hoping she'll make it all the way to the quarters -- especially with players like Elina Svitolina in her section of the draw -- is kind of a pipedream. It's not much more likely to see Bencic get through either -- though she's a much higher seed, she's slated to meet Coco Gauff in the third round and Serena Williams in the fourth. But she did pull off some nice wins on her way to the Berlin final and might be turning things around. That could work to her favor against Badosa, who's already beaten her twice this year. And if she wants to get revenge, this might be the best time to do it.


Serena Williams (6) vs. Jelena Ostapenko: Serena may be coming up short in her attempts to win that elusive 24th Major, but as mentioned above, she has made the final on her last four trips to the All England Club and come home with the title two of those times. And while there may be a few challenges in the first half of her draw, you have to believe she knows how to turn it on when it counts, here perhaps more than anywhere. If she makes it that far, she'll be a heavy favorite against whoever she meets, but don't count out Ostapenko immediately. The former French Open champion has made the semis here before, and she's coming off a stellar run in Eastbourne, where she beat five higher-ranked opponents on the way to her fourth career title. She did lose her only match against Serena last year in Fed Cup, but those were a tight two sets and she might be in a good place these days to turn things in her favor.

Petra Kvitova (10) vs. Garbiñe Muguruza (11): It may have been a while since these two were claiming victories here, but they're both due for another taste of big time glory. The Czech won her first Wimbledon crown with a stunning win over Maria Sharapova ten years ago and her second three years after that, but as mentioned above remains consistently strong, reaching the final at the 2019 Australian Open, the semis at last year's French, and making a deep run just this past week in Bad Homburg. Meanwhile the Spaniard picked up lone trophy at the All England Club in 2017, and while there have been ups and downs since then, her run to the Melbourne final and her stellar start to this season show she's still got the magic. She might have a little harder of a time making the finals -- Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, and Ons Jabeur are all in her quarter, but if she plays as well as she can, she has a decent shot at playing for the title.


Ashleigh Barty (1) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2): It's so rare that the top seeds make it to the final at a Major, especially on the women's side, but since both failed to do it at the French, where they were arguably more likely to find success, let's give them a shot here. It'll be tough, of course -- Barty's best run here has been the fourth round, while Sabalenka, of course, hasn't made it even to the third. But these draws are so wide open that it's entirely possible that their biggest threats get eliminated for them, and there's no shame in being the beneficiary of that.

Garbiñe Muguruza (11) vs. Coco Gauff (20): But, because the draws are so open, it's also possible someone else entirely walks away with the title. Muguruza is certainly the more likely of these two, having played in four Major finals, two at the All England Club. But Coco might be ready for prime time now. At 17, she's by far the youngest player in the top hundred -- the top three hundred, actually -- and she's coming off a trip to her first Major quarter, losing to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova at the French. She's a far different player than she was at her only other appearance at Wimbledon -- that breakthrough event two years ago where she stunned Venus Williams on her way to the fourth round -- and if she can get past tests from Serena and potentially Elina Svitolina, looking for her to make the final is not that long a shot.


First Round

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jack Draper (W): Okay, Djokovic is going to win this match, but let's take a moment to appreciate the accomplishments of the 19-year-old wildcard. Ranked outside the top three hundred at Queen's Club, Draper stunned fellow teen superstar Jannik Sinner in the first round and then took out Alexander Bublik in the second. This is his first ever Major main draw -- he failed in the first round of qualifying at Wimbledon his last two tries -- and it's bad luck that he has to open against the man who is so heavily favored to win it all. But, still, it'll be fun if he can put on a show for us.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe: Tiafoe has really gotten screwed in the first rounds of Majors over the years, drawing the likes of Roger Federer, Daniil Medvedev, Juan Martin del Potro, to name a few. But he always puts up a fight -- seven of his opening match losses have gone five sets. The French Open runner-up is no stranger to five-setters, of course, but there's reason for hope. Tsitsipas' worst surface by far is the grass, and he's only made it out of the first round at Wimbledon once. Tiafoe, meanwhile, just picked up a title on the lawn at a Challenger event in Nottingham, the first American to do that since Sam Querrey in 2010. And while it's been a while since his last win over a top ten player, this might be the best chance he's had to do it in quite some time.

Alex de Minaur (15) vs. Sebastian Korda: Speaking of unfortunate first rounds, it's going to be a shame to see either of these guys go home early. De Minaur will be at a career high ranking on Monday after a semi run at Queen's Club and a title this weekend in Eastbourne. Those solid grass results technically make this his best surface now, and he'll want to improve on that here. Meanwhile, we don't know a lot about what Korda can do on this surface. The 20-year-old hasn't even played qualifying rounds at Wimbledon before, and while he did notch an upset Roberto Bautista Agut, a former semifinalist here, in Halle, he was tested in his two rounds after that. Still, he's had some big wins this year, reaching the quarters in Miami and picking up his first title in Parma, so he's certainly not the kind of opponent anyone should take lightly.

Ugo Humbert (21) vs. Nick Kyrgios: The multi-talented Frenchman had a bit of a slow start to the year, even losing to Kyrgios in the second round of the Australian Open in a long five sets. But he's riding a nice win streak right now, fresh off a title in Halle where he beat both Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev, his first top-ten wins of the season. He's had nice results at Wimbledon, too, making the fourth round in his only previous outing with wins over Gael Monfils and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Of course Kyrgios has done well here too, stunning Nadal to make the quarters back in 2014. He may be a little out of practice, though -- we haven't seen him in action since Melbourne, and he responsibly laid low -- at least on court -- during most of last year too. We'll see if that serves as an advantage for the young Humbert as he tries for another deep run here.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (30) vs. Denis Kudla (Q): ADF is coming off a monster run to the Roland Garros quarters, during which he stunned Casper Ruud in a more than four and a half hour slugfest in the third round. The win earned him a career-high ranking and his first seeding at a Major. But we have literally no idea how he'll do on the grass -- he lost the only main draw match he's ever played on the surface, failing to qualify for Wimbledon or most other events. His first round opponent, meanwhile, may be well off his best, but he's at least had a chance to get his footing on the lawn -- a one-time fourth rounder at the All England Club, he made the final at a Nottingham Challenger earlier this month, and the next week beat former Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson in three sets. He hasn't dropped a set in qualifying, though, and might be in a place to notch an upset early.

Taylor Fritz (31) vs. Brandon Nakashima (Q): Fritz is a fighter, man. After tearing his miniscus at Roland Garros and undergoing knee surgery, he's been rehabbibng for hours a day to get back on court, and here he is, not even a month later. Bad ass. He opens his campaign against talented 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima, who beat veterans like Ernests Gulbis and Viktor Troicki in his qualifying rounds. It's a good opportunity for Fritz, who came OHSOCLOSE to beating Novak Djokovic in Melbourne, but also a chance to see what the future of American men's tennis could look like. And the winner will make a good case to take up the mantle.

Second Round

Denis Shapovalov (10) vs. Pablo Andujar: Veteran Pablo Andujar had two of the biggest wins of his career in the last few weeks, first stunning Roger Federer on the clay of Geneva and then ousting two-time French finalist in the first round in Paris. Does he have another upset in him? Well, it'll be much harder on grass, where he has a less-than-inspiring 2-15 record, but those two wins did come on these courts, in five sets each, so you never know. Shapovalov can't be discounted, of course -- he did make the semis at Queen's Club -- but he's certainly a less intimidating opponent than the Spaniard has faced in the past. If they get to this match -- no sure thing, as Andujar would have to get through former doubles champ Pierre-Hugues Herbert first -- it could be a good one.

Casper Ruud (12) vs. Kei Nishikori: Ruud has not disappointed in his follow-up to that breakout 2020 season, making his first Major first round in Melbourne and putting together a solid run on clay. He's never won a match at Wimbledon, though, losing his first round to John Isner in 2019 and in qualifying the year before. Fan favorite Nishikori, on the other hand, has made the quarters here on his last two outings and just reclaimed his spot as Japan's top player. He'll open against a very talented Alexei Popyrin, but if he's able to get that win he might be able to use his experience to his advantage over the rising star.

Lorenzo Musetti vs. Marcos Giron: The teen phenom has had a splashy introduction to the tour, and while he may not have scored that maiden title like some of his contemporaries, he has notched some nice wins and is slowly climbing his way up the rankings. He scored his first top ten victory over Diego Schwartzman in Acapulco and then took out David Goffin in his first round in Paris before a slightly ignominious meltdown in the fourth round against Novak Djokovic. He's never played at Wimbledon before, but opens against a recently struggling Hubert Hurkacz, who he beat in the first round in Rome. Meanwhile Giron who, at 27, is suddenly at his highest career ranking at #65 in the world. He hasn't won a main draw match at Wimbledon yet, but he is coming off a run to the quarters in Halle, and if he gets a shot, he might be able to get the better of Musetti too.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (16) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Here's another one you want to see just for senitmental reasons. Former world #5 and two-time Wimbledon semifinalist Tsonga has been dealing with a chronic back injury for the last several years and has only won one match since 2019. Though he has to get past a talented young Mikael Ymer first, the match I'll be watching is his next one against the young gun, who's put together a nice run on grass this year. FAA may still have trouble closing the deal, but he did make the final in Stuttgart and stunned Roger Federer in Halle a week ago. His 14-5 recod on lawn makes it by far his best surface. It'll be interesting to see what Tsonga can bring against the relative upstart, but it might be even more interesting to see what Felix can do with the opportunity.

Third Round

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Marin Cilic (32): Well this could be interesting. The second seed has done a lot to put distance between himself and current #3 (😢) Rafael Nadal, upending his prior record at the French to make the quarterfinals and this week winning his first title on grass in Mallorca. He also had one of his first big wins on these courts, beating then-#3 Stan Wawrinka in the first round in 2017. Cilic, meanwhile, a finalist at Wimbledon that year, has been up and down this season, but won his first title since 2018 on the grass in Stuttgart and kept his run going until the quarters at Queen's Club. Medvedev does have an early date with young Carlos Alcaraz, but the teen phenom is probably more of a threat on clay, and if the on-paper favorite plays his best he has the added advantage of the win in his only previous meeting with Cilic. Still, it'll be fun to see how they do when they're both riding such hot streaks.

Roger Federer (6) vs. Cameron Norrie (29): Roger has said the priority of his comeback was to do well at Wimbledon, and despite everything he's been through over the last year-plus, the eight-time champion (and four-time finalist) remains a favorite to win the whole thing. But it will be a slog -- he was, after all, stunned in the second round at Halle, an event he'd won ten times. Norrie, on the other hand, put up a nice fight in the final of Queen's Club, where he scored three upsets on his run. It's hard to know if he'll have the hometown crowd on his side against a legend like Federer, but for him to power through the pressure is certainly not out of the question.

Hubert Hurkacz (14) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (18): Hurkacz has been super quiet since that breakout run in Miami, where he stunned both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev on his way to the title. He's only won one match since, with two losses to players outside the top 150, and he opens here against Lorenzo Musetti, the man he retired to in Rome. All that to say it's no sure thing he makes it to the third round, but if the seeds play out as expected -- when does that ever happen? -- he could meet former semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov. The veteran Bulgarian may not be at his best right now, but he did make the quarters in Melbourne, stunning Dominic Thiem on the way. If he's recovered from the injury that forced him out of the French, he might be able to make another deep run here.

Lorenzo Sonego (23) vs. Sam Querrey: Here's another one where a recently struggling star seems to have found his footing again. Querrey, once a semifinalist here and twice a quarterfinalist, has beaten Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, and Andy Murray on these courts. And after a 2-6 start to the year, he reached the semis in Stuttgart and the final in Mallorca. Sonego, meanwhile, also made a final this week, coming up just short of his second grass title in Eastbourne with a three set loss to Alex de Minaur. Querrey will have to get past a tough Pablo Carreño Busta in the first round, so a meeting with Sonego is no sure thing, but if he can find the magic he's had here before, he might just be able to make a play for the second week.

Fourth Round

Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Jannik Sinner (19): The higher-ranked Russian has made the quarters of three different Majors over the last year and hopes to round out the pack doing at least that well here. He hasn't had a lot of experience at Wimbledon, though, but did make a trip to the final in Halle just a week ago. Sinner's even less experienced, losing his only qualifying match back in 2019, and getting stunned by fellow teen Jack Draper in his first round at Queen's Club. But both guys come to the All England Club at the top of their games and will be excited to test out these grounds. Sinner may have the harder road, opening against a very talented Marton Fucsovics and slated to meet Diego Schwartzman in the third, but those matches are both winnable for him, and if he gets to meet Rublev, he has the benefit of the only full match win in the pair's head-to-head.

Roberto Bautista Agut (8) vs. Andy Murray: It has been a long road back for Murray, but it sure is nice to see him back on the courts of his hometown Slam again. The two-time champion got a wildcard to play here and, while it's a lot to ask him to play multiple best-of-five matches, he's got a pretty nice draw to do it in. While he opens against Nikoloz Basilashvili and could face Denis Shapovalov, his biggest threat is RBA, the surprise semifinalist here back in 2019. The veteran Spaniard lost his opening round in Halle to Sebastian Korda, but he has scored wins over Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, and Andrey Rublev this season. If makes good on his seeding, he could arrange for another big blockbuster between the two.

Aslan Karatsev (20) vs. John Isner (28): This is another one that might be a little unlikely, but both these guys know how to surprise us. Isner may be best-known for that Wimbledon match against Nicolas Mahut eleven years ago, but he played another epic against Kevin Anderson in the 2018 semis, just barely missing what would have been his first Major final. Karatsev, meanwhile, is playing his first Wimbledon main draw and barely has any record to speak of on grass so far. But he came from out of nowhere with that semi run in Melbourne, picked up his first title at the age of 27 in Dubai, and scored wins on clay over Daniil Medvedev, Diego Schwartzman, and Novak Djokovic in the spring. In order for this match to happen he'll likely have to get past Casper Ruud, and Isner is slated to face Queen's Club champ Matteo Berrettini, but as we know, stranger things have happened here before.

Feliciano Lopez vs. Mackenzie McDonald (Q): Even more of a long shot would be this match up, but hear me out. Feli has made the quarters here three times before, and though his failure to defend the title at Queen's Club knocked him percipitously close to a triple-digit ranking, a win over Karen Khachanov in Mallorca earned him a milestone 500th career win. He opens against Dan Evans and may face Eastbourne champ Alex de Minaur too, but if he's in top shape, he might be able to do it. McDonald had to qualify for this main draw, but made the fourth round the last time he played here, so just maybe he can do it again. Sure that might be something of a pipe dream, but every tournament has to have a Cinderella, right? Why not one of these two?


Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) vs. Reilly Opelka (27): It'll be interesting to see how Tsitsipas picks himself up after that narrow loss in the French Open final, and while this has by far been his worst Major, nothing would prove his all-court potential -- not to mention his resilience -- better than a deep run right off the bat. As mentioned, he's got a tough first round, and he's in the same section as Eastbourne champ Alex de Minaur, so it won't be easy, though. Opelka, on the other hand, has a relatively easier draw, with his biggest threat being 2019 semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round. But the suddenly top-ranked American is looking to raise the mantle for the U.S., and though he pulled out of Eastbourne last week with a hip injury, he might just be able to do it.

Alexander Zverev (4) vs. Matteo Berrettini (7): Not that long ago, I would've been surprised if you'd told me Berrettini would still be in the top ten now. But the 24-year-old Italian who had his breakthrough on the New York hardcourts in 2019 has followed through with a clay court title in Belgrade and one on grass at Queen's Club. Zverev, meanwhile, has been frustratingly strong too, nearly pulling off a win in the Roland Garros semis, which would have earned him a second Major final. A meeting between these two would be a rematch of their Madrid Masters final, which Zverev won in three tight sets. But on a court where neiter has made it out of the fourth round, we might just see a different outcome.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Dan Evans (22): There are lots of big name threats in Nole's half of the draw, but there are also plenty of potential spoilers. And while it's hard to imagine anyone but him making it out of his quarter -- he's made the semis all but two times since 2010 -- maybe the hometown crowd will help lift Evans out of the bottom one. The world #26 lifted his first career title at the Murray River Open made the quarters at Queen's Club. He even dealt Djokovic one of his only three losses this year. It's a whole different animal at the Majors of course, but it'll be interesting to see if Evans can finally make a breakthrough there.

Roger Federer (6) vs. Casper Ruud (12): In the bottom half of the draw, Medvedev and Zverev may be the on-paper favorites, but Roger's eight titles here certainly carries some weight, and while he faces some threats early, he could very well make a play for his fourteenth semi here. Ruud, too, at 22 and at a career-high ranking, may be ready to break in to the second week of a Major for the first time in his career. He met Roger once, in the third round of Roland Garros back in 2019, but he hadn't yet truly found his game at that point. And the next meeting between the two, wherever and whenever it may come, will surely be much closer.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Daniil Medvedev (2): Okay, I usually try not to do this, but Nole is just so far and away the favorite for this title, that I have to put him in both my final picks. He truly has a real shot at winning the first three Slams of the year -- something that hasn't happened since Rod Laver won his Golden Slam in 1962. Of course saying that all but guarantees he'll lose early, but still. A showdown with the #2 seed would give us a rematch of that surprisingly one-sided Aussie final which Djokovic won while barely breaking a sweat. Still, Medvedev is running a nice win streak after that title in Mallorca, and we know that winning right before a Major worked for both French Open champs this year. And with a decent record against the world #1, he's one of the few players who could potentially stop him in the final.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Roger Federer (6): The other, of course, is Roger Federer, who's won more matches on these courts than anyone ever. A 51st meeting between these two GOAT 🐐 contenders no doubt favors the top seed, who currently has a 27-23 edge, head-to-head. But it really could go either way -- their nearly 5-hour marathon in the 2019 final is haled as one of the best matches ever, and if any players know how to bring the heat when the pressure is highest, it's these two. But of course, it's a long way to Championship Sunday, and who knows what could happen in the meantime.

Well there you have it, my very long lookahead to what could be a very strange, but super exciting Wimbledon fortnight. And as much as we think the last few weeks and months has informed us on what we can expect, the one thing we know for certain is that nothing is certain.

But since we've been waiting so long for this return, let's just hope we get a chance to see the very best, from the very best.

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

Well, Konta's forced withdrawal for being in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID makes Siniakova's opening round a little easier. She now faces lucky loser Yafan Wang. It still will be interesting to see what she does after her solid run in Bad Homburg.