The Wimbledon draw is out, the big interest was in which half would the “downgraded” No. 3 seed Rafael Nadal land and it turns out to be with Roger Federer.
But the bigger story at Wimbledon is Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s chase for Federer’s 20. The two have split this year’s two Slams and overall have won the last five.
Following his French win, Nadal is now just two behind Federer and Djokovic is only five off pace. If Federer doesn’t take this title, one of them probably will and narrow the gap further. After analyzing the draw, that’s how it looks.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC QUARTER
Djokovic begins his title defense against veteran Phil Kohlschreiber. The German can be a tough customer, especially on grass, so it should be a good test, but Phil’s best days are well behind him. Novak should cruise out to the fourth round where he could meet Canadian prodigy Felix Auger-Aliassime who I don’t think is ready yet to pull that level of an upset in a best-of-5. In the quarters it’s probably going to be Stefanos Tsitsipas. Grass might not be the Greek’s favorite surface and he’s in some danger with Ivo Karlovic in the second round, Kyle Edmund in the third and then David Goffin (or Daniil Medvedev in fourth). I think Tsitsipas’s moxie gets him out to the meeting with Novak, but the Serb is too good. The 18-year-old FAA is going to be fun to watch as he takes on countryman Vasek Pospisil and then Grigor Dimitrov, both of whom have had good results on the grass. And we’ll see if Andre Agassi can turn around the floundering Dimitrov – what’s happened to him since winning the ATP Finals?
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
KEVIN ANDERSON QUARTER
Back where he made the finals a year ago, Kevin Anderson continues his return from an elbow injury that forced him out of the clay season. In this Big Man Quarter, Anderson is joined by Alexander Zverev, Milos Raonic and Karen Khachanov as the top seeds. Stan Wawrinka, Benoit Pare and Roberto Bautista Agut also figure in this wide open section that has no true, consensus favorite. Anderson is a question mark with his lack of play, Zverev hasn’t impressed, Raonic has been injured, Khachanov has been up and down and Wawrinka doesn’t play his best on the grass. So could someone like the giant Reilly Opelka get hot? Maybe Queen’s champ Feliciano Lopez keeps his run going? Nicolas Jarry? This is hard to pick. I’ll say Anderson, because his draw is too good, plays his way back into form, gets out to the fourth round, beats Opelka then loses in the quarters to…Khachanov. I think the Russian takes down RBA then upsets Zverev to make the last eight. But in this section, any one of 10 could make it out.
The Pick: Karen Khachanov
RAFAEL NADAL QUARTER
I know Nadal moaned a bit about his seeding, but then he and Uncle Toni should have done the math and played a lead-up event like Federer did. He chose not to, not the end of the world. Nadal’s got a manageable section though there are some landmines, but are they activated? He’ll open with Yuichi Sugita, then perhaps Nick Kyrgios (who could very well lose to Jordan Thompson in the first round), followed by JW Tsonga or Denis Shapovalov with Marin Cilic or Dominic Thiem in the quarters. If Kyrgios plays his game, he could certainly give Nadal problems (again), but he’s got to beat Thompson first which is no given. Shapovalov doesn’t worry as much as a Tsonga, though JW is also well off his highs. Thiem shouldn’t be an issue but Cilic can be if he’s on song. The Croat, though, has been one of the biggest busts of the season. So on paper, yeah, it’s tough, but the reality is Krgios and Cilic are not in form and Thiem isn’t at home on God’s green earth. And with three weeks of rest after the French, Rafa should be fit and ready for a big Wimbledon run.
The Pick: Rafael Nadal
ROGER FEDERER QUARTER
Lucas Pouille? Borna Coric? John Isner? Those are Federer’s likely foes en route to the semifinals. Coric is the one guy Roger should worry about because the Croat has given him problems in the past. Though Borna hasn’t been playing his best of late. Isner is also returning off a foot fracture which makes him a big question mark. John opens with a good match against the young Casper Ruud. If Isner can avoid 5-set matches and the serve is pumping, he’s got a decent draw with the intriguing Matteo Berrettini in the third (Berrettini-Fritz could be a good second rounder), then maybe Nishikori in the fourth. Vets like Richard Gasquet, the retiring Marcos Baghdatis and the returning Tomas Berdych are also in there, but more for the story than the result. So other than Coric and maybe if Berrettini can get out there, I don’t think anyone can take down Federer.
The Pick: Roger Federer
Djokovic d Khachanov: Karen makes his first Slam semi while Djokovic returns to the final.
Nadal d Federer: If the roof is open and the weather is warm and dry, Rafa wins. If the roof is closed, Federer should win.
Djokovic d Nadal: The final we should have had in Paris, we get in London and Djokovic beats him again.
At some point, picking Federer, Djokovic and Nadal at every Grand Slam is going to stop. The timer on the clock – at least for Federer and Nadal – has to run out. And it will. It’s just so ridiculous that these same guys are still on top and still miles ahead of everyone.
Looking at the draw, it’s awfully difficult to pick against them. And with grass still being a specialized surface, I just think that makes it tougher for a young, less experienced player to make a big run.
Also, many guys like Anderson, Isner, Raonic, etc, who are more than capable of going far, come in this year with injury concerns. So it dilutes the true number of contenders and number of players that can pull off a big win.
In saying all that, if it does turn out the Big 3 make the semifinals, that will be historic because I think that will be the last time that happens in a Slam. So this is it!
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