Ready for another vintage clash between old rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at Wimbledon? Do you mind that this time it will likely be in the quarterfinals and not in the final?
That was the result of David Ferrer’s ascension to No. 4 in the rankings with his appearance in the Roland Garros final and Nadal consequently falling to No. 5. The left-hander landed in defending champion Federer’s quarter and No. 2 Andy Murray’s half. No. 1 Novak Djokovic has the pleasure of not having to face any the member of the Big 4 until at least the final. Nadal and Federer might have to beat every other member to win the crown. Murray may have to best two and Ferrer once again leads a very wide open quarter as grass is not his surface.
MEN, TOP HALF, FIRST QUARTER
Even though 2011 champ Djokovic is the favorite to reach another final, that doesn’t mean his draw is simple. He begins against the capable Florian Mayer, could face the on-rushing Steve Johnson in the second round, possibly Jeremy Chardy or Ryan Harrison in the R3 and then the very good grass court player Tommy Haas in R4, who could certainly upset the Serbian on a great day. But Haas might have to face Feliciano Lopez or Gilles Simon, who are not only contesting the final of Eastbourne but are paired against each other the first round of the Big W. That rarely occurs. The quarterfinals could bring Tomas Berdych or Richard Gasquet, or perhaps Kevin Anderson or Sam Querrey. The thought here is that it will be former finalist Berdych who will give Djokovic a bit more than he can handle.
SEMIFINAL PICK: Berdych
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: The unassuming Querrey vs. the talented yet troubled Bernard Tomic.
MEN, TOP HALF, 2nd QUARTER
Ferrer could have a much more difficult draw, but he’s still no lock to get the quarters, depending on some seeded questions marks. The first seeded man who might give his trouble is Alex Dolgopolov in the R3, and he can mix it up on the surface, but he’s been very inconsistent. The fourth round could bring the service bomber Milos Raonic, but he’s been off his game too, or possibly Philip Kohlschreiber, who like Dolgopolov is up and down. So really, Ferrer should be able to reach the quarters and that’s where he could meet his maker in the form of Juan Martin del Potro, and that’s if the Argentine is healthy enough to be able to do damage over the long haul in three out of five set matches coming off the long illness that he had. Perhaps Grigor Dimitrov will finally shine at a Slam and upset Del Potro in R3 and then go on to best Ferrer. Or maybe Kei Nishikori will do the same. Imagine this: there could actually be an unseeded semifinalist, something that’s been nearly unheard of since the Slams went to 32 seeds. Michael Llodra, anyone?
SEMIFINAL PICK: Del Potro
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: Raonic versus the big hitting Argentine Carlos Berlocq, as it will be interesting to see if Raonic’s new coach Ivan Ljubicic can help calm the Canadian’s first round Slam jitters.
MEN, BOTTOM HALF, 3rd QUARTER
Federer will open his campaign against Victor Hanescu, a foe he should easily be able to handle. The same goes for the rest of his draw until the quarters: Fabio Fognini is the first seed he’d play in R3 and there are few circumstances in which the Italian can hang with the great Swiss on grass. Maybe 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz can serve bombs and hurt him, but Federer has faced plenty of huge servers before at Wimbledon and has a lot of success, so that upset is unlikely to happen, too.
Nadal’s draw is a bit more funky; he begins against Steve Darcis, which should be a walk in the park, but then he could face the talented Benoit Paire in R3 and possibly John Isner, Lleyton Hewitt or Stan Wawrinka in the R4. Of the three, Isner is really the only one who might have the weapons to upend Nadal, meaning a huge untouchable serve, but the American has to get there first and he still isn’t very comfortable on grass. Federer and Nadal should meet again and the result will likely be the same from the last time they met here: a win for the Spaniard.
SEMIFINAL PICK: Nadal
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: The combustible Janowicz versus British teen hopeful Kyle Edmund. Royal ears may get chaffed.
MEN, BOTTOM HALF, 4th QUARTER
After reaching last year’s final, winning Olympic gold at the All England Club and then his first Slam at the US Open, No. 2 Murray will be expected to win the crown this year. He has quite a nice draw up until the quarters, beginning against Benjamin Becker, maybe having to face fellow Briton James Ward in the second round, Tommy Robredo in R3 and then either Mikhail Youzhny or Janko Tipsarevic in R4. It sounds like pretty easy pickings until the quarters, when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga might await and he certainly has the grass court weapons to down Murray. But the Frenchman might have to get past Marin Cilic in the fourth round, no easy task.
SEMIFINAL PICK: Murray
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: Janko Tipsarevic meeting his Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki.
NOTE: TENNISREPORTERS.NET’S MATT CRONIN WILL BE LIVE FROM WIMBLEDON BEGINNING ON SUNDAY