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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, June 24, 2022

 
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Top-seeded Novak Djokovic and rival Rafael Nadal can meet in the Wimbledon final. We spotlight our Top 5 takeaways from the Wimbledon men's draw.

Photo credit: Getty

Novak Djokovic hurdled history at the 2021 Wimbledon.

Rafael Nadal has raised the bar considerably as rivals ready for relaunch at SW19.

McEnroe: Coaching Issue is BS Anyway

A year ago, the top-seeded Serbian defeated Italian Matteo Berrettini 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final capturing a 20th career Grand Slam championship with his 21st consecutive major and Wimbledon win that put him three-quarters of the way to the calendar Grand Slam.

Next week, 22-time Grand Slam king Nadal returns to The Championships for the first time since 2019 continuing his quest for the calendar Grand Slam—and aiming to widen the gap over Djokovic in the Grand Slam race.

The Wimbledon gentlemen’s draw was conducted today—check it out:

Wimbledon draw

Wimbledon draw

Here are our Top 5 takeaways from the men’s draw.

Djokovic: First-Rate Draw

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic enjoys a first-rate view from the top of the field.

Playing for his fourth consecutive Wimbledon crown, Djokovic should be pleased with the draw that shapes up like this if seeds hold true to form:

First round: Soonwoo Kwon (KOR)
Second round: Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)
Third round: (25) Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB)
Fourth round: (15) Reilly Opelka (USA)
Quarterfinals: (5) Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)
Semifinals: (3) Casper Ruud (NOR)
Final: (2) Rafael Nadal (ESP)

The big-serving Opelka can be dangerous, but owns just two Wimbledon wins. The seventh-ranked Alcaraz has been a break-out star on the tour, posting a 32-4 record, and owns the skills and athleticism to compete on any surface. But the Spanish teenage phenom hasn’t played since losing to Alexander Zverev in the Roland Garros quarterfinals has contested just two Tour-level grass-court matches.

Djokovic rides a 21-match Wimbledon win streak into his defense and should keep it rolling.

Though he didn’t play a Wimbledon warm-up, that hasn’t slowed the Serbian in the past. Djokovic has won five of his six Wimbledon titles without the benefit of a tune-up tournament on grass.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Since there are no ranking points at Wimbledon this year, Djokovic is set to fall from the Top 5 after The Championships, but it’s all about he Slams now and he will be highly motivated to win his 21st major to move closer to Nadal.

Nadal's Challenging Trek

It’s been 12 years since Rafael Nadal won Wimbledon, but he should arrive sky-high after capturing the first two major titles of the season for the first time.

The two-time champion always brings energy and urgency to major matches and could be challenged early in his first SW19 appearance since a semifinal run in 2019.

If seeds hold true, here’s how the second-seeded Spaniard’s draw shakes out:

First round: Francisco Cerundolo (ARG)
Second round: Sam Querrey (USA)
Third round: (27) Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)
Fourth round: (14) Marin Cilic (CRO)
Quarterfinals: (6) Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
Semifinals: (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
Final: (1) Novak Djokovic (SER)

Sam Querrey, a 2017 semifinalist, owns Wimbledon wins over former champions Djokovic and Andy Murray. Querrey can crack the first serve and hammer the forehand, but at age 34 his legs are not what they once were making running rallies with Nadal problematic.

World No. 32 Sonego owns a grass-court title (2019 Antalya) and is coming off a career-best fourth-round Wimbledon appearance.

A fourth-round clash vs. Marin Cilic could prove challenging for Nadal, who is 7-2 lifetime vs. the 17th-ranked Croatian. Cilic upset Nadal in the 2018 Australian Open quarterfinals, beat Djokovic to win the 2018 Queen’s Club crown on grass and knocked off a pair of Top 10 players—Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev—en route to the Roland Garros semifinals earlier this month. If Cilic is smacking his first serve with command, he can pose problems for anyone on grass.

The fourth-ranked Nadal defeated Auger-Aliassime, who is coached by Toni Nadal, in five sets in the Roland Garros round of 16 this spring. Auger-Aliassime is coming off a career-best Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance and held a match point over Medvedev before bowing in the Australian Open quarters in January.

Though the 36-year-old Nadal has been vulnerable in opening weeks at Wimbledon in the past—he’s suffered first-week losses to Gilles Muller, Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis and Dustin Brown—he wrapped up his 14th Roland Garros crown playing phenomenal tennis and will be pumped to pursue the calendar Grand Slam. Coach Carlos Moya calls Nadal’s quest to become the third man in history to win the calendar Slam “a realistic goal.”

Bottom line: Nadal’s draw is more demanding than Djokovic—on paper anyway—but based on his dynamic level of play and the fact he’s imposed his all-court skills and volley in recent major wins, you have to believe he will get stronger as the tournament progresses.

Demolition Men

The sight of Big 3 icons Djokovic and Nadal planted as seeds in the opposite ends of the field sets up the prospect of a record-extending 60th clash between the pair in the final.

But there’s a long road to reach that superstar showdown.

Here’s our choices for dangerous contenders who can blow up the prospect of a Djokovic vs Nadal climactic clash.

(8) Matteo Berrettini (Italy)

Sidelined for 12 weeks after undergoing hand surgery in March, Berrettini has been lord lawn posting a 9-0 grass-court record in his return this month.

The 2021 Wimbledon finalist warmed up for The Championships capturing his second straight Queen’s Club title. Berrettini is the eighth man in history to capture consecutive Queen’s Club crowns, joining seven former world No. 1 players: John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray achieving the feat.

The combination of ferocious serve-forehand and his ability to use the short slice backhand make Berrettini a real threat though his backhand wing is vulnerable vs. the elite.



(18) Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria)


The world No. 21 has just two Wimbledon wins in his last three appearances, but if Dimitrov is serving with confidence he has the athleticism and all-court acumen that can play well on grass.

The 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist opens against American Steve Johnson and could potentially face British No. 1 Cameron Norrie in round three. Dimitrov defeated Norrie at Queen’s Club last week.

Nick Kyrgios (Australia)

The volatile Kyrgios is a danger to all others on grass—and himself.

Yes, Kyrgios can go crazy over real or perceived slights, but his wrecking ball serve and sculptor’s feel giving him a fighting chance on grass against all comers. Holding serve is key to grass success: Kyrgios leads the ATP Tour in service games held this season securing serve at a 94 percent clip.

It’s been eight years since Kyrgios shocked Nadal to reach the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals. Kyrgios, who opens against British wild card Paul Jubb, could face fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in round three, but would likely need to get through Filip Krajinovic, who is coming off the Queen’s Club final, first.



(7) Hubert Hurkacz (Poland)

Tough to name a Top 10 player who flies under the radar more comfortably than Hurkacz.

Coming off his maiden major semifinal at Wimbledon, Hurkacz has a hard opener against 38th-ranked Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who knocked the Pole out of the 2020 US Open and won the 2017 Wimbledon boys’ championship.

Hurkacz and Davidovich Fokina have split four career meetings, so he’ll have to deliver right out of the box. If Hurkacz prevails, his big serve, net skills honed from doubles success and his flat strokes, particularly his two-handed backhand down the line, make him a threat. Hurkacz is fourth on ATP leaders holding serve this season (90 pecent) behind only Kyrgios, John Isner and Reilly Opelka.

Stress Tests

Three of the world’s Top 10 ranked men are out of Wimbledon.

World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev and eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev are ruled out due to Wimbledon’s ban on Russians and Belarusians in condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Second-ranked Alexander Zverev is missing as he recovers from foot surgery.

So there’s more opportunity, which can pose stress tests on some seeds.

When you watch 2021 Roland Garros runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas play, he has all the all-court skills, scalding serve and ferocious forehand to do well on grass. So far, Tsitsipas, who is playing the Mallorca semifinals today, hasn’t quite found his footing on SW19 lawns losing in the opening round in three of four appearances.

Left-hander Denis Shapovalov made his maiden major semifinal at Wimbledon last year and was up a break in the opening set before falling to Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 7-5. Like Tsitsipas, Shapovalov, has the game for grass and like the Greek his backhand return can be vulnerable on the low-bouncing lawn.

Shapovalov arrives at SW19 mired in a five-match losing streak, including a straight-sets loss to Benjamin Bonzi in Mallorca this week, and will be eager to stop the spiral.

The 13th-seeded Shapovalov meets Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in his opener with his first possible seeded opponent 17th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, a former Wimbledon semifinalist.



Third-seeded Casper Ruud is coming off a historic run to the Roland Garros final and faces a hard reality on the grass.

Ruud generally prefers a bit more time to run around his backhand and set up his ferocious forehand. Ruud could be rushed in opening week as he faces Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his opener.

Wimbledon Without Ranking Points—Who is Impacted Most?

No cliffs on Wimbledon’s grass, but several seeds could take a ranking fall.

This is a strange Wimbledon without ranking points—the ATP and WTA Tours stripped all ranking points in response to The Championships ban of Russians and Belarusians—but who does it most impact most?
Both reigning champion Djokovic, who will lose 2,000 ranking points and fall from the Top 5, and runner-up Berrettini, set to drop 1,200-ranking points, are most effected.

Berrettini calls the decision "unfair" and said he opposes the ATP's decision.

"It's a very difficult situation for everyone to handle," Berrettini told the media at Queen's Club. "First of all, people are suffering in Ukraine.

"In my case it is also complicated because I played very well on grass and it does not matter how well I play this year. My ranking will fall, and I think that's unfair. If the ranking works normally, the more and better you play, the better your ranking will be. I think they took this away, and I don't agree with it.”

Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka, who withdrew with an Achilles injury, suggested the tournament may have more of an “exhibition” feel without ranking points.

Hall of Famers John McEnroe and Chrissie Evert both oppose the Tours eliminating Wimbledon's ranking points.

“I don't believe it's going to affect too many players at the tournament. It is Wimbledon, after all,” McEnroe told the media in a Zoom call to promote ESPN's Wimbledon coverage starting Monday. “It's just a damn shame that it's come to this, especially when you notice that Medvedev is ranked No. 1 right now, of all things. You have another player, Andrey Rublev, who is 7 or 8 in the world.

"You have a third guy who reached the quarters last year, Khachanov…I don't know what's going to happen as far as what they're going to do with the points. I don't know how they're going to figure that out, I really don't.”



Chrissie Evert suggests a pointless Wimbledon hurts all players.

“I agree with the points. I think it takes away a lot from the tournament, the lure, the importance of it,” Evert said. “You win Wimbledon, you win Wimbledon.

"But, boy, taking away the points I think hurts a lot more people rather than helps a lot of people.”


ESPN Wimbledon TV Schedule Highlights: All Day, Daily Coverage (All Times ET)

June 26: ESPN2, 12 p.m., the official Wimbledon 2021 review film

June 27 – July 10: Press Conferences from Media Centre available on ESPN+ and ESPN3 starting at 6 a.m. (5 a.m. on June 27). Also, ESPN+ and ESPN3 will carry the daily, all-day Wimbledon Uncovered from AELTC.

June 27-July 1: ESPN, first three rounds, 6 a.m.

July 2-3 the “middle weekend:”
ESPN, 7 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon

Round Three: ESPN, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., ABC, 1 – 4 p.m.

Round of 16: ESPN, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., ABC, 1 – 4 p.m.

July 4-6 “Cross Court Coverage”
July 4: Round of 16 (Centre Court), ESPN, 8 a.m.; Round of 16 (No. 1 Court & Outer Courts), ESPN2, 6 a.m.

July 5: Quarterfinals (Centre Court), ESPN, 8 a.m.; Quarterfinals (No. 1 Court), ESPN2, 8 a.m.

July 6: Quarterfinals (Centre Court), ESPN, 8 a.m.; Quarterfinals (No. 1 Court), ESPN2, 8 a.m.

July 7-10:
All ESPN

Breakfast at Wimbledon begins each day

July 7: Ladies’ Semifinals 8 a.m.; Mixed Doubles Championship,1 p.m.

July 8: Gentlemen’s Semifinals, 8 a.m.

July 9: Ladies’ Championship 9 a.m.; Gentlemen’s Doubles Championship, 11:30 a.m. Encore of Ladies’ Championship on ABC at 3 p.m.

July 10: Gentlemen’s Championship, 9 a.m.; Ladies’ Doubles Championship, 12:00 p.m. Encore of Gentlemen’s Championship on ABC at 3 p.m.


 

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