Wimbledon is now under 24 hours away. The gentleman’s singles draw is out, and much like in Paris, it is unbalanced. There is one big name with a great draw, and I believe he needed just that to make a deep run here.
Top half- Djokovic catches a break
The disappointment felt by world number 1 and defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic after being denied his career Grand Slam in Paris was obvious to everyone watching. By his own admission, Djokovic did not leave his apartment for a week after his loss in the final. I had been expecting the disappointment to carry over into Wimbledon, but after seeing the draw, I think the Serbian ironman will be fine. His 3 chief rivals (2) Roger Federer, (3) Andy Murray, and (10) Rafael Nadal are all in the other half, meaning he cannot face them until the final.
There are a few dangerous players in this half that the top ranked Serb may have to deal with. Most notable is the man who shocked him in the finals of the French Open (4) Stan Wawrinka. However, the powerful Swiss has never been that comfortable on grass, and would not oppose Djokovic until the semis. The most realistic threat is (15) seed Kevin Anderson in the 4th round. The big serving South African is capable of hitting 30+ aces in a match, which makes it tough for any opponent. If the racquet is taken out of your hands, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Speaking of big serves, (7) Milos Raonic is back after missing the French Open due to minor foot surgery. He reached the semis here last year, and is well-positioned to do so again. Despite the injury, he is confident and reportedly practicing well. All of his massive shots are made more massive by the grass courts.
Another story here is the Wimbledon farewell of former world number 1 and 2 time major champion Lleyton Hewitt. The likable Aussie was a winner here in 2002. The 34-year-old step away from the game in early 2016. He is one of the most beloved players worldwide, but will need to turn back the clock to get beyond a possible 2nd round meeting with Djokovic. I think everyone is hoping for Hewitt to catch lightning in a bottle, but it isn’t likely. His backwards hat and trademark “come on!” after winning big point will be missed. There is also (5) Kei Nishikori in this half. The Japanese counterpuncher is talented, but battling a litany of injuries.
Americans here with a chance to make noise- Steve Johnson, Donald Young, and (17) John Isner.
Semifinal prediction: Djokovic d. Raonic
Bottom half- The legend and the homegrown favorite on a collision course
If form holds in this half, it will be (3) Andy Murray vs. (2) Roger Federer in the semis. At 33, even Federer would admit that Wimbledon is his best chance to his record 17 majors. His aggressive net game and precise serve are perfect for this surface. He was a few shots away from notching an 8th title here last year. Murray grew up on the grass and ended 70+ years of British futility of Wimbledon with his victory here in 2013. Murray is healthy and married now, 2 big changes from this time last year. He has handled the pressure of playing at home remarkably well in the past, I expect this year to be no different. His return game and movement are his big weapons.
I mention (10) Rafael Nadal here more out of respect than reality. He has been dethroned in Paris and despite winning a grass court tune up in Germany is clearly still searching for answers. The left hander’s groundstrokes are landing alarmingly short in the court right now. His draw is really kind, and was made kinder by the withdraw of (8) David Ferrer due to an elbow injury. I think he can reach the quarters here, but no further.
I think the biggest threat to the Federer/Murray showdown is (6) Thomas Berdych. The former Wimbledon finalist has a really solid year and could await Federer in the quarters. They have had great battles in the past. If Berdych gets hot, he can blast Federer off the court, but I don’t see it. T.V. coverage begins tomorrow at 7 a.m. on ESPN, which is the ONLY place for LIVE coverage of the event. Enjoy it folks.
Possible sleeper in bottom half- Unseeded American Sam Querrey
Semifinal prediction- Murray d. Federer
Final- Murray d. Djokovic