Get ready to take a flying leap into the Championships, as the TTI crew convenes for its third straight major to talk all things ATP. The lawns of Wimbledon have been home to many a classic fortnight; how will the 2015 tournament unfold? Read through our picks and check them out in an easy-to-follow grid at the bottom! Stay tuned for the WTA preview tomorrow, but in the meantime…
Of the ATP, who is/has:
1. The Biggest Darkhorse?
I’ll go with Kevin Anderson here. The South African has been serving great for most of his run through Queen’s and is about as unheralded and under the radar as a Top 20 player could possibly be.
Plus Tomas Berdych is at the other end of the draw, so that bodes well for the 29 year old.
While the draw has been relatively kind to Novak Djokovic — tricky first round with Kohlschreiber aside — there is one man floating in his quarter who has the potential to do a lot of damage. Defending US Open champion Marin Cilic lands in a section that should see him through the early rounds, barring disaster. There will likely be a tough encounter with John Isner in the third round, but if Cilic is playing his best tennis he’ll definitely be a risky character to come up against — particularly if the serve starts firing. A Cilic/Djokovic quarterfinal would be a crowd-pleaser, and something of a nervous watch for Djokovic fans, who’ve surely not forgotten their encounter last year, which saw Djokovic pushed all the way to five sets before finally nabbing the win.
Though he professed his love of the terre battue on multiple occasions, I see Jack Sock‘s big game translating well to grass. The young American reached the semifinals of Newport last summer (upsetting John Isner en route) and after pushing Rafael Nadal in Paris, I believe he could challenge Roger Federer at the All-England Club. The Swiss stopped Sock’s run into the round of 16 in Indian Wells — the No. 31 seed’s first tournament back from hip surgery and the life-threatening illness of brother Eric — but Sock could well be the first and likely sternest test before the second week.
I haven’t been impressed with what Nick Kyrgios has been doing on the court and saying off the court lately, but he has a very nice opportunity to make a deep run this year at Wimbledon. I see him coasting through to the third round where he would play Milos Raonic, the man who took him out at Wimbledon last year. Raonic is just coming back from an injury layoff, so the charismatic Aussie will be in pole position to pull off that upset. From there, Grigor Dimitrov and Richard Gasquet stand between him and the quarterfinals. Stan Wawrinka is the top seed in his section and with his form always fluctuating; Kyrgios, who loves the big stages, could have a great run.
Big serves and big servers are a theme we’ll see throughout the Wimbledon fortnight. Think Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic, John Isner, Milos Raonic, Sam Groth, and Ivo Karlovic, who, this year, is seeded No. 23. Throw in a lefty to the mix and the outcome wiggles and sizzles. Only one man fits in those tennis shoes: Feliciano Lopez. He loves grass courts, serves and volleys with alacrity, and has 13 years of experience on Wimbledon’s hallowed lawns. He has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at SW19, yet it’s the farthest he’s ever gone in any major tournament. He’ll have to play big and smart to find his way through a quarter where Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych lurk.
But, at 33, he might as well swing out.
Benoit Paire. Just kidding.
Some players never warm to grass, partially because it exists in such opposition to many players’ beloved clay, and partially because the season lasts a mere month. Wimbledon’s darkhorse is someone who has delivered consistently during these brief few weeks on the slick lawns of both Germany and Great Britain: Viktor Troicki. The resurgent Serb has played ten matches on grass this season, reaching the final in Suttgart (losing to Nadal) and the semis in Queen’s (losing to Murray).
Not a bad set of results.
While he’s never been known for his grass court prowess, he’ll be motivated to get his name back out on the sports bigger stages — and what stage is bigger than Wimbledon?
Gilles Simon might not be a darkhorse in the truest sense of the word when you consider he doesn’t check many of the traditional boxes. Simon had a strong run at Queen’s, defeating David Goffin, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Milos Raonic en route to the semifinals, and he should like his section of the draw.
Although he’s never had much success at Wimbledon, he has a 5-1 winning head-to-head against his potential third round opponent, countryman Gael Monfils, and has split eight encounters with Tomas Berdych. The Frenchman looks as though he could make another charge towards the Top 10, and a quarterfinal showing here could help that cause.
2. The Early Exit?
Am I going there? Oh YES I am.
I’m picking Philipp Kohlschreiber to pull off the upset of the tournament and take out reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in the first round. Yes, the German has been terrible when it comes to exploiting his opportunities in the past few years, but this may be is the one time where he has a shot at pulling off something special. He played well enough in Halle but came up short on a few crucial points against Federer. When it comes to Djokovic, no one really knows where he is at — mentally speaking.
Honourable mention to Tomas Berdych who will meet Jeremy Chardy — particularly if the Czech gets out of bed on the wrong side.
I’m not convinced by Tomas Berdych at all in 2015 — and I think Wimbledon is another opportunity for lower ranked players to take a victory over the Czech. Just as he faced a tricky line-up at Roland Garros, Berdych finds himself up against Chardy, Simon, Monfils, Nicolas Mahut, Lukas Rosol, Ernests Gulbis, all floating nearby in his quarter. Berdych has a good history on grass and is certainly not an opponent you would choose to face on the surface, but of all the top players you have to think he looks vulnerable this time around.
Should Berdych come through the first four rounds, he’s likely to have Federer to contend with in the quarterfinal and that is the deepest I would expect him to go this year.
Many have picked Andy Murray to go all the way at the All-England Club, but I somehow see Robin Haase’s fourth crack at the Brit (on a big stage, at least) proving disastrous. Murray hasn’t had to deal with serious expectations at the majors in a while, and has taken the scenic route more than once against the Dutch veteran.
Besides, is there anything more British than peaking in Paris only to fall short at home? #timhenman2004
Djokovic has the toughest first round match of any seeded player with Kohlschreiber, but Berdych is most likely to suffer an early exit. His three rounds could be Chardy, Mahut, Gulbis/Rosol. On grass, that could prove to be very tough.
Injuries are part and parcel for all world-class players. Yet some seem to miss out more often than others. Although coming in to Wimbledon after his best year on the ATP World Tour, Kei Nishikori‘s longevity on the injured reserve list is well documented.
His retirement in the semifinals at Halle less than two weeks ago reignites questions of his ability to play at the highest level on a constant basis. His first round opponent, Simone Bolelli, gave a healthy Nishikori a run for his money in the round of 32 last year. The match ran two days due to darkness, and though he pulled it out in the fifth, he lost his next match to Milos Raonic. With a potentially lingering leg problem and slippery grass — as it so often is in the early rounds at the All England Club — Nishikori may be too hampered physically and mentally to see week two.
As with Roland Garros, most of the ATP’s top players don’t have exceptionally frightening first round matchups. While Djokovic plays grass court connoisseur Philipp Kohlschreiber, I can’t see the World No.1 losing the match – although a set isn’t outside the question, considering it’ll be his first match on grass this year. I’m going with Nadal. While he did manage to play some decent tennis to win Stuttgart a few weeks back, he lost plenty of sets in that run and then suffered a nervy exit to Dolgopolov at Queen’s. He plays Bellucci in the first round, the erratic yet occasionally brilliant Brazilian, who has the serve and explosive hitting to potentially pull off the upset.
I picked Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros, and he made me look like a total idiot — that’s good news for you, Milos Raonic! Raonic proclaims himself healthy after the foot surgery that kept him out of Roland Garros, but the Canadian is going to face a stern test in defending his semifinal points from a year ago. He has several dangerous (albeit, slumping) players in his section, but I actually have a strange feeling about the comeback-ing Tommy Haas at this tournament. The German’s made it clear that he’s not sure where this comeback will take him — or how long he’ll be back with us.
With both Lleyton Hewitt and Jarkko Nieminen bidding farewell to the All-England Club this year, Haas is the most likely to have one more serious run left in him.
3. The Toughest Draw?
While Djokovic has a tough as nails first round, I don’t see him struggling to make the second week should he survive it. Neither Nieminen nor Hewitt should pose too much danger and Bernard Tomic is Bernard Tomic.
So I’ll go with aforementioned Tomas Berdych. Chardy as an opener and Mahut in the second round? That can be a 1-2 punch. Shout out to Roger Federer; Jack Sock could be trouble in the third round.
I would pick Tomas Berdych for this honor if I believed he might reach the second week, but in terms of those who I expect to see competing in the quarterfinal and beyond, I can’t look much further than Roger Federer.
The Swiss has a decent opening round match but is likely to face the unseeded Sam Querrey in the second round, which in years gone by would be a match up to savor in at least the round of 16. Beyond Querrey, Federer could face the hard-hitting Jack Sock whose forehand and confidence are weapons to behold. Feliciano Lopez hasn’t looked great lately but he’s always somebody to watch on grass and could further challenge Federer in the fourth round — should they both make it through.
It won’t be an easy first week for Federer.
Countering René’s prediction, I’m thinking the first week of Wimbledon could be a difficult one for Novak Djokovic. The Serb returns to the site of last season’s greatest success after a definite low in failing to capture the Career Slam in Paris. Facing tricky opposition, the top seed will have to hit the ground running form his first match with quite a few dangerous floaters looming before he can even think of the second week.
I’d also go with Berdych here. While I expect him to reach the second week, I expect him to be challenged and face some extremely stern tests.
Again, big servers rise up in the discussion. Although Tomas Berdych doesn’t always carry the servebot mantle, he consistently pushes the limits. He faces Jeremy Chardy right out of the box, and though he has never lost to the Frenchman in four meetings, Chardy’s wins over David Goffin and John Isner at Roland Garros speak volumes about his current game.
Lukas Rosol or the unseeded (and looming) Ernests Gulbis await Berdych in the third round. Either could get on a serving roar — or not. We all remember Rosol’s second round triumph over Rafael Nadal in 2012; it could happen again, if he beats Gulbis. Berdych was knocked out of Wimbledon last year by Marin Cilic in the third round, and Cilic is a better player than any of the potential threats awaiting Berdych.
When comparing his path to his fellow top seeds, his road seems more precarious.
Raonic has quite a few flashy players in his section — Gasquet, Kyrgios, and Dimitrov — though the latter two have been slumping lately and the big serving Canadian pulled off a solid win over Gasquet just last week. Likewise, there’s some other big servers in Djokovic’s section, including that interesting first round against Kohlschreiber, although I can’t see him bowing out too early given his near-perfect 2015 form.
Roger Federer. I expect the former No. 1 to make it to the business end of this tournament, but it could be tricky. After facing Damir Dzumhur (again), he could face Sam Querrey, who’s coming off an unexpected run to the final in Nottingham; while I wouldn’t expect him to beat Federer, a confident Querrey’s serve and forehand could certainly keep things close for a little while.
Also lurking for the No. 2 seed in this section is Jack Sock, big serving Sam Groth and noted friend of Wimbledon, Feliciano Lopez. While Federer has had his way with big servers on the Wimbledon lawns before, this crop of players could certainly grab a set (or two?) from him along the way.
4. The Most Exciting 1R?
While Djokovic-Kohlschreiber might be an obvious pick, I really like Brown vs Lu — but even more than that I’m digging Gilles Muller vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. That could be ridiculously entertain provided that Tsonga’s abdomen issue has healed up properly. Herbert-Chung is another one I’m curious about.
Although Kohlschreiber might be able to cause drama if he catches Djokovic cold in their opening round encounter, the on-paper excitement may well be a red herring. I suspect the high quality competition might make Djokovic particularly sharp to start the tournament.
One match that should be drawing attention is No. 31 seed Jack Sock vs Sam Groth. Sock has been particularly impressive in 2015 and his ranking has only moved upwards, while Groth looks to have been inspired by the efforts of his younger Australian compatriots and is hitting the ball well himself. Expect a hard hitting affair, neither are players who are likely to hold back on power or aggression.
Rounding out the second section of the men’s draw is No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori, who takes on a wily Italian veteran in Simone Bolleli. While the former Top 40 singles player has seen his stock rise with compatriot Fabio Fognini, Bolleli can still hold his own on a singles court, having reached the third round of Wimbledon thrice in his career. Initially failing to qualify for last year’s main draw, he snuck in as a lucky loser and took out the oft-mentioned Kohlschreiber before pushing the future US Open finalist to five sets.
With a rematch guaranteed, it will be interesting to see how far Nishikori has come, and whether Bolleli can pull off an even bigger result.
Djokovic vs. Kohlschreiber is probably the easy choice here, but I think it’s the right one. Muller v. Tsonga comes in as a close second, but it could end up as a match that doesn’t see a lot of rallies over one or two shots. Djokovic and Kohlschreiber have had some entertaining matches with tons of exciting rallies in the past, and I expect this to be no different.
Pick one, any one. With so many heavy hitters lined up at the gate, tennis balls will fly fast on day one. We have Jack Sock, in his first ever seeding at a Grand Slam at No. 31, set to face the biggest of Australia’s servers, Sam Groth. Being a fine representative from Down Under, Groth likes to come in hit around a few volleys and upset the rhythm of opponents. Sock, a Nebraska boy raised on hard courts, could be unsettled by the Aussie’s force and varied tactics.
And although defending champion, Novak Djokovic, is on the ‘clean’ side of the draw (no Federer, Murray or Nadal), Philipp Kohlschreiber is no cake walk for a first-round start, either. The German came within a blade of grass width of tossing out Federer in their opening match at Halle. Kohlschreiber’s memory has to remain fresh from that positive encounter. Why not take his game to another level against the top seed? Let’s bet this match will be the one that makes the highlight reel.
Djokovic-Kohlschreiber, for sure. While Simon vs. Almagro is tempting, the Spaniard doesn’t warm to grass and the outcome seems like a straightforward win for an in-form Gilles Simon. On the other hand, Kohlschrieber is a two time quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and Djokovic has yet to play a match on grass. The No. 1’s potential struggle to adjust to the surface coupled with the German’s own prowess could make the match compelling in both quality and drama.
Benoit Paire vs. Mikhail Youzhny. If you like your tennis full of émotions and #men, this is the match for you. Both could use a win here for their own reasons; Paire’s hatred of grass is well-documented, while Youzhny brings a 6-14 record in 2015 into this match.
Somebody has to win and a meeting between these two on this surface could be explosive — in more ways than one.
5. The Unheralded Opposition?
I’ll go with my compatriot Dustin Brown to upset Rafael Nadal in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon (look at me backing up the Germans, eh?). He’s defeated the Spaniard before, naturally under different circumstances but if he keeps the right kind of crazy bottled up, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make a run into the second week.
This is a bit of a strange one, but I really feel like Dustin Brown could be somebody to watch at Wimbledon this year. He’s played well at Wimbledon in the past and he’s certainly an entertaining player — if not somebody we expect to see making great strides at the top of the game. Should Brown come through his first round encounter, he has the opportunity to play Rafael Nadal.
I’m not necessarily saying that Brown could beat Nadal, because I don’t see that happening. What I could see happening is Brown fully immersing himself into the encounter and frustrating a currently inconsistent Nadal — waking up the crowd, populating tennis twitter feeds with cries of “DUSTIN!” and “WHAAAAT!”
Among a myriad of talented Aussies, one was quickly becoming in danger of becoming best known for being the boyfriend of Daria Gavrilova, but Luke Saville has begun catching up to his other half in earnest at Wimbledon. Reaching the final of the Manchester Challenger to start the grass court season, Saville romped through his opening two rounds of qualifying in Roehampton before saving a match point against Luca Vanni to reach the main draw for the second straight year.
The former boy’s singles champion took out Dominic Thiem to reach the second round last year and could well do the same against No. 21 seed Gasquet. With Dimitrov anchoring his section, Saville might grab headlines (if not GIFs) back from Gavrilova before fortnight’s end.
Nicolas Mahut of 2010 Wimbledon fame could set himself for a deep run in this tournament if he can take out Berdych in the second round. Mahut is a grass court specialist and knows how to navigate himself around the lawns. His serve and volley skills are about as good as they get these days. He’ll be fun to track and monitor at SW19.
Picking winners and losers at majors stirs emotions, and few provoke more emotions than Nicolas Mahut. At 33, he’s an elder statesman who clings to old-fashioned tactics such as serve-and-volley. He’s good at that strategy, too, but has never found consistency against the powerful baseline hitters that dominant the game — although he’s chalked up wins over Wawrinka and Dimitrov. This grass season, Mahut has risen like a phoenix, winning s-Hertogenbosch as a qualifier. He defeated the No. 2 seed, David Goffin, in the final 7-6(1) 6-1 — a fine scoreline for the Frenchman to embrace.
Why not continue the trend? His first test will probably be Berdych in the second round.
There’s plenty of talented unseeded and looming players in the ATP draw, from a veteran (Lleyton Hewitt) to a former Halle finalist and almost-upsetterer of Federer (Alejandro Falla). But the man who won eight matches in a row to lift the s’-Hertogenbosch title a few weeks ago is my pick: Nicolas Mahut. One of the sports most legendary “losers” returns to the legendary scene on some exceptional grass court form and could do damage in his section of the draw, anchored by Tomas Berdych, who has been hit and miss on grass over the past few years.
Gilles Muller. The big-serving Luxembourg lefty certainly has the game to cause higher-ranked foes headaches on this surface, and he’s been drawn against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round. Tsonga, whose season started late due to injury, was hit by another setback after his semifinal run at Roland Garros, and lacks match play coming into the year’s third Grand Slam. Although the two-time Wimbledon semifinalist likes the grass, Muller’s game certainly won’t allow him to play himself into a rhythm.
Might we see the veteran face off against rising Swedish teenager Elias Ymer for a spot in the second week? Weirder things have happened.
6. The Semifinalists?
I’m struggling with the top half. I’ve made my Djokovic-free bed (that sounds way weirder than intended) and now I must lay in it, right? I’ll go with Nishikori from the top quarter and Raonic to replicate his semifinal success of 2014. In the bottom half I’ll be super straightforward/boring and pick Murray and Federer.
Novak Djokovic doesn’t have an easy draw but it’s not one he should fall in, either. Wawrinka’s path through to the quarterfinal should be solid unless he has a disastrous encounter, but a healthy Milos Raonic won’t be an easy opponent — nor would Nick Kyrgios, who is quietly waiting in the wings. When all is said and done, I’d have to go for Djokovic vs Raonic in this half.
I don’t think there’s going to be a massive upset on the cards in the men’s draw this year. Of the Top 4, Wawrinka is probably the most vulnerable as he may suffer a slight let down after his Roland Garros success. I see Andy Murray coming through his quarter despite the presence of Nadal — Murray looks the better of the two players by far in 2015. Federer, too, looks ready and so Murray vs Federer is basically a lock.
With the jury out on Djokovic, I see Wimbledon as a very important tournament for Kei Nishikori, who has yet to follow up his initial breakthrough at last year’s US Open. With a decent draw and an unsteady Serb, a fit Nishikori could wrest supremacy from the top seed as ruthlessly as he did in Flushing. Stan Wawrinka‘s softer section could similarly shape the Swiss into a killing machine by the second week, and should get past Raonic in the quarterfinals.
On the other half of the draw, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reminded the world that he was hardly a past number in Paris, and the fast courts of Wimbledon (should he arrive healthy) have more that suited his game in the past. He and Roger Federer have played just once on grass, when the Frenchman blitzed the Swiss from two sets down.
Their semifinal — a first since Tsonga squeaked past the Swiss in Toronto — would undoubtedly be one to watch.
I’ll be shocked if one of Djokovic, Federer, or Murray doesn’t win this tournament. With that said, Stan Wawrinka has a really soft quarter and I could easily see him making the semifinals. With that said, the second Swiss isn’t known for his consistency from tournament to tournament and I’ll be surprised if he makes another deep run at a major.
It would go against pretty much everything we’ve seen from him in the last 18 months.
To advance to the semifinals will take some fancy footwork and stellar mental compartmentalization. But the answers are pretty apparent. On the top side the picks are Djokovic and Wawrinka, a dastardly match-up that the Serb would probably like to avoid given their recent history. Predicting their meeting so far out with such heavy-hitters in their paths seems reckless, yet each is not done with their pursuit of fame. Fighting to see the other across the net will only spur all their efforts earlier in the fortnight.
Federer can clear his path in the bottom half, his draw seems that favorable although a few sticking points could present themselves: Gael Monfils or Tomas Berdych, or even Feliciano Lopez. Andy Murray is so strong at the moment he should take care of Nadal in the quarterfinals, if the No. 10 seed even makes it that far. Thus, bottom half semifinalists: Andy Murray and Roger Federer.
Although no one knows how Djokovic is going to play in the breadth of his crushing Roland Garros defeat, his pre-tournament press seems to suggest that he has refreshed his mind and body and is ready to defend his title — using his vintage grass court sliding defense. His draw is tricky, but is one he should be able to navigate into the semis. Raonic won a couple matches at the Queen’s Club before losing a tight match to Simon, and his play was notably fresh despite the layoff. His draw also does him a few favors, and I could see him serving his way past his prime opposition, like Wawrinka, who has never really shone on grass courts.
In the other half, Murray and Nadal are locked in a fairly tough quarter with Tsonga and Ferrer, but Murray’s form has been exceptional — with just Djokovic most often in his way — and has always performed best on grass in front of his adoring home (press) crowd. Federer‘s draw is probably the lightest of the Top 4 seeds, and little beyond perhaps an inspired Jack Sock should trouble him in the first week.
While Novak Djokovic has some mine fields to navigate to reach the final four, I think the Serb will come out motivated after falling short of Roland Garros and the career Grand Slam. All in all, I think the surprises of the tournament are going to be mostly confined to the second quarter, and Richard Gasquet will be the one to come out of the carnage. With qualifiers and Grigor Dimitrov — who’s ripe for an upset — in his path to the fourth round, the often-bewildering 2007 semifinalist coming out of a section of surprises might be fitting.
On the bottom half, I’ll take the two warm-up winners — Roger Federer and Andy Murray — to put on a rematch of the 2012 Wimbledon final.
7. The Champion?
He looked confident in Queens, has played good tennis and has had a great season so far. I’ve got Andy Murray defeating whoever makes it out of the top half into the finals — even Djokovic.
I fully believe that Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will be the finalists of this tournament. Before I saw the draw, I believed that Murray would be the Wimbledon champion this year. But now that I see the way things have worked for Djokovic, I have to feel that the Serb is going to repeat his victory from 2014 — gaining vengeance for his defeat to Murray in 2013. For the Brit to win Wimbledon defeating Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in succession would be extraordinary. Given the form of Federer and Djokovic, it might be a bridge too far.
It’s tight, but I’m going with Djokovic.
There comes a point where a player is too talented not to win a major, and the same goes for Tsonga. The Frenchman hasn’t reached a final since his 2008 breakthrough Down Under, but the draw could certainly break his way; his results in Paris proved he can still thrive under pressure and compete with the best in the game. Struggling with an abdominal injury, his presence in the draw appears in doubt, yet that presence could be a tremendous present for the British crowd.
Wimbledon has been a place where dreams come true, and though Tsonga’s has dimmed after years of injuries and inconsistencies, it still burns. On a dry lawn in London, look for Tsonga to truly catch fire.
Djokovic is the safest player to pick at majors. Last year at Wimbledon was one of the few times I picked against him — look where that got me! So, I’ll take the top seed for that reason, and because I don’t think he will face much resistance from the other eight seeds in his half (Nishikori, Raonic, Wawrinka).
Great Britain waited over 70 years for its second Wimbledon champion. They will get a second taste of country pride this year, too, courtesy of Andy Murray. Murray will take out sentimental favorite Federer in the semifinal as Djokovic avenges his Paris loss to beat Wawrinka in a glory-filled afternoon. In a repeat performance of 2013, Murray will face Djokovic, his married-with-child friend from junior tennis days.
Expect Murray to hand the Serb another slice of humble pie — perhaps pork? — when the last ball is struck.
I’m going with Murray. Djokovic’s track record in major finals is beginning to be a bit dubious, and has never enjoyed having the crowd against him. As mentioned, Murray has looked focused and in form on grass. If there’s any surface Djokovic, his chief rival in 2015, won’t be able to out grind him on, it’s grass.
This fortnight might very well be the day Great Britain won Wimbledon…again!
Roger Federer. Federer has had earlier than expected exits at the first two Grand Slams of the year, but he’s always going to like his chances at Wimbledon. Whatever opportunity he has of taking another major title rests here, and I think we underestimate just how close he came last year. This year, I predict a rematch of last year’s final against Djokovic — with the opposite result.
Who would you have chosen? Sound off in the comments!