2022 Wimbledon Men's Singles Section-by-Section Preview
Wimbledon starts tomorrow and, as is always the case at these Grand Slam events on the Men’s side, we have two main storylines. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic continue to chase history, while a whole slew of “contenders” seek their first Major breakthrough. This year’s Wimbledon also added some controversial subplots as Russian and Belarusian players are banned from participating (wrong, in my opinion), which caused the ATP and WTA to not reward ranking points for the tournament (also wrong, in my opinion). Regardless, another Major means it’s time for another full preview of the men’s draw from me.
Seeds: 1) Novak Djokovic, 15) Reilly Opelka, 22) Nikoloz Basilashvili, 25) Miomir Kecmanović
Tim van Rijthoven - The 25-year-old made a name for himself at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships early this month. van Rijthoven entered the tournament without a win in his ATP career, and left with victories on the grass over players such as Taylor Fritz, Félix Auger-Aliassime, and Daniil Medvedev. He won the title in his home country of the Netherlands, and enters Wimbledon as a well-deserved Wild Card.
Benoît Paire - The mercurial 33-year-old from France comes to Wimbledon with a disastrous 3-16 record so far in 2022. To make matters even worse, two of the three wins came back in January at the Australian Open.
Reilly Opelka - At nearly seven-feet tall with an all-time great serve, Opelka should be one of the tour’s top grass court players. On the surface in 2022, he has lost all four sets that he played.
Biggest Storyline - Novak Djokovic Seeking a Four-Peat
At this year’s Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic is seeking to join Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, and Björn Borg as the only men in the Open Era to win four straight titles at one Grand Slam. Djokovic, who hasn’t lost here since 2017, is trying to win his 21st career Grand Slam (would put him one behind Nadal for the most all-time), and 7th Wimbledon (would tie Sampras, and move him one behind Federer for the most all-time). With Djokovic’s unvaccinated status continuing to put his US Open status in doubt, this may be the last chance in 2022 for the Serbian to add to his Grand Slam total. The pressure will be on throughout the tournament, but luckily for the 35-year-old, he lands in a very manageable section that will allow him to find his footing on the grass.
Best Round One Matchup: Miomir Kecmanović vs. John Millman - There really aren’t many options here, so I’ll go with the 25-seeded Kecmanović, who could be on upset alert against the veteran Millman.
Best Potential Matchup: Novak Djokovic vs. Reilly Opelka (Round Four) - There is nothing better in tennis, to me at least, than a matchup between an elite server and an elite returner. That is exactly what we’d have here in Round Four, but Djokovic, the greatest returner of all time, would still be the heavy favorite.
Player to Watch: Reilly Opelka - Once again, I’ll highlight Opelka’s greatest weapon. As arguably the tour’s best server, the 24-year-old, regardless of recent form, should be considered a dark horse on the grass. With that being said, he has just a 2-6 ATP record on the surface (although he did win the 2015 Junior Wimbledon title), and has a ceiling at this tournament of maybe pushing Novak Djokovic to four sets.
Section Winner: Novak Djokovic - The living legend is motivated, fit, and chasing history. That makes him a lock to get out of this easy section, and a very worthy favorite to lift the Wimbledon trophy once again.
Seeds: 5) Carlos Alcaraz, 10) Jannik Sinner, 20) John Isner, 32) Oscar Otte
Andy Murray - The 35-year-old with a metal hip had one of his best tournaments in recent years earlier this month in Stuttgart. He picked up wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios before falling in a tough three-set Final to Matteo Berrettini. He had to withdraw from Queen’s Club due to an abdominal injury, but he still enters The Championships in good form.
Oscar Otte - In two tournaments on the grass in his home country of Germany, Otte made back-to-back Semifinal appearances with wins over Denis Shapovalov, Nikoloz Basilashvili, and Karen Khachanov along the way. His two losses came against Daniil Medvedev (6-7, 3-6), and Matteo Berrettini (6-7, 6-7), so there is no shame in that at all.
Fabio Fognini - There really aren’t many true “nots” in this section, so I’ll go with Fognini who has just a 13-11 record this season and zero matches played on grass.
Biggest Storyline - Andy Murray’s Breakthrough Chance
If Andy Murray is ever going to return to the top of men’s tennis, it feels like it has to be right here and right now. The 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon champion will certainly have the home crowd behind him, and his aforementioned run in Stuttgart has inspired some legitimate confidence that he can actually contend. His path (potentially John Isner, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz in this section alone) is tough, but the crowd and his experience, plus his 114-24 career record (82.6% win rate) on grass makes him a true threat. An honorable mention in this section has to be Carlos Alcaraz playing on the grass for the first time since his breakout into (future) superstardom. The 19-year-old played his only two career ATP matches on grass last year at Wimbledon (1-1 record, obviously).
Best Round One Matchup: Stan Wawrinka vs. Jannik Sinner - Wild Card and three-time Grand Slam champion (seeking the Career Grand Slam here at Wimbledon) Stan Wawrinka must have been disappointed when he drew 10-seed Jannik Sinner in Round One. However, the same can be said for Sinner who will have to deal with the experienced (despite now being 37-years-old) Wawrinka. This jumps off the page as, on paper, arguably the best matchup of the first round.
Best Potential Matchup: Carlos Alcaraz vs. Andy Murray (Round Four) - If Alcaraz gets to Round Four, that means that he is playing good tennis and adapting to the grass courts on the fly. If Murray gets to Round Four, that means he’ll already have a few big wins under his belt and will be in full Cinderella mode for the British crowd. The future superstar Alcaraz against the future Hall of Famer Murray on Centre Court would be one of the most anticipated pre-Quarterfinal Grand Slam matches in recent memory.
Player to Watch: John Isner - Just as I harped on in the previous section with Reilly Opelka, always keep an eye on (although maybe don’t literally watch them at all times, because their matches can be quite boring) the big servers. Isner, now 37-years-old, is one of the greatest servers of all-time and came so close to making the 2018 Wimbledon Final (losing 26-24 in the fifth set to Kevin Anderson). He hasn’t played a match since the French Open, but is always a threat to make a deep run on the grass.
Section Winner: Andy Murray - Call me crazy, but in a section filled with potential quarterfinalists, I’m buying the Andy Murray dream-run storyline. I think that Murray will be the top story of the first week of the fortnight, pull off four dramatic victories in front of a raucous crowd, and reach his first Grand Slam Quarterfinal since 2017.
Seeds: 3) Casper Ruud, 16) Pablo Carreño Busta, 23) Frances Tiafoe, 31) Sebastián Báez
Casper Ruud - There are truly no “hot” players in this section, so I’ll go with Ruud even though he lost his only grass court lead-up match. I’ll just assume that some of the momentum he picked up on his run to the French Open final earlier this month will carry over.
Ugo Humbert - The 23-year-old’s nightmare season (5-15 overall record) continued on the grass as he won just one match in his three pre-Wimbledon grass court tournaments.
Biggest Storyline - A Wide Open Section
First of all, I feel like I use this same title once in every preview because there always seems to be one completely open section. It is incredibly fitting here, because the top two seeds in the section (Casper Ruud and Pablo Carreño Busta) have a combined 0-8 record at Wimbledon. Additionally, only three of the sixteen players in the section (Ugo Humbert, David Goffin, Márton Fucsovics) have even reached the second week in their Wimbledon careers. This opens the door for somebody to make a potentially career-changing deep run into the Quarterfinals (Oh wait, they can’t because the ATP isn’t awarding points).
Best Round One Matchup: Alexander Bublik vs. Márton Fucsovics - Bublik’s style and attitude always makes for must-watch tennis, and he’ll have a tough matchup in Round One against Márton Fucsovics, who made the Quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year.
Best Potential Matchup: Frances Tiafoe vs. Alexander Bublik (Round Three) - I just mentioned how entertaining Bublik’s tennis is, and I feel the same way about Tiafoe (minus the attitude drama that his potential third round opponent brings). This would be a really fun first-week match, and it’d be a rematch of their June 20th encounter in Eastbourne (Bublik won 5-7, 7-6, 6-0).
Player to Watch: Pablo Carreño Busta - The 30-year-old Spainaird is the most accomplished player in terms of Grand Slam success (2x Semifinalist, 2x Quarterfinalist, 8x in the second week) in this section. However, he is somehow 0-6 all-time at Wimbledon. In his career on grass, he is just 6-12. Two of those wins did come earlier this month in Halle, so maybe the experienced veteran can finally break his losing streak at Wimbledon and put together another solid Grand Slam run.
Section Winner: Frances Tiafoe - I feel like I always pick Tiafoe, admittedly one of my favorite players, to make a deep run at these Grand Slams, and then he flames out in the first week. My feeling is true because, since his 2019 breakthrough to the Australian Open Quarterfinals, the American has only made the second week at a major twice (both at the US Open). Regardless, in this incredibly weak section, I’m giving Tiafoe one more chance to make me look smart.
Seeds: 7) Hubert Hurkacz, 9) Cameron Norrie, 18) Grigor Dimitrov, 30) Tommy Paul
Hubert Hurkacz - The 2021 Wimbledon Semifinalist reintroduced himself last week in Halle as one of the game’s best grass court players. He won the ATP 500 title with wins over Maxime Cressy, Ugo Humbert, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Nick Kyrgios, and Daniil Medvedev.
Steve Johnson - The American’s ranking has fallen to the point where he is having to get into even ATP 250 events via qualifying. He has zero official ATP matches on the grass this year as he lost in the second round of qualifying both at Queen’s Club and in Eastbourne. In ATP matches this year, the 32-year-old is just 8-8.
Biggest Storyline - Red Hot Hubert Hurkacz
“Red Hot” is a bit of a stretch, but Hurkacz’s run to the Halle Open title was very impressive (and I like the alliteration). Although he lost his first match in Stuttgart the week before Halle (5-7, 7-6, 3-6 to Márton Fucsovics), the Halle run also impressed the oddsmakers. Hurkacz (+1400 on FanDuel) is booked as the fourth-favorite to win the tournament. Along with the good form, the oddsmakers must have also noticed the very easy section and quarter that Hurkacz was drawn into. Regardless, for the first time in his career, there are serious expectations for the 25-year-old to make a deep Grand Slam run.
Best Round One Matchup: Tommy Paul vs. Fernando Verdasco - There isn’t a true standout Round One match in this section, so I’ll go with the always-entertaining Tommy Paul (wins over Jannik Sinner, Stan Wawrink and Denis Shapovalov on grass this year) against 38-year-old Fernando Verdasco (2013 Wimbledon Quarterfinalist).
Best Potential Matchup: Hubert Hurkacz vs. Grigor Dimitrov (Round Four) - As previously mentioned, Hurkacz is the one in this section with all of the expectations, but Grigor Dimitrov (three-time Grand Slam Semifinalist, including 2014 at Wimbledon) is in desperate need of another deep run at a major. A fourth round showdown between these two would be a very big match in their respective careers (25-year-old Hurkacz meeting expectations and 31-year-old Dimitrov rejuvenating his career). They have played each other twice before, including earlier this year in Monte-Carlo, with Dimitrov winning both meetings.
Player to Watch: Cameron Norrie - The British number one has flown pretty under-the-radar this year (27-15 record) after a massive 2021 season (52 wins). He comes to London as the number-nine seed, and will be heavily favored in his first two matches. In Round Three he will likely face Grigor Dimitrov, the man who beat him on June 13 at Queen’s Club. If he can get revenge on Dimitrov, Norrie will set up a likely matchup with Hubert Hurkacz in Round Four with a chance to make his first Grand Slam Quarterfinal (in fact, just making it to Round Four would mark the first time he made it to the second week at a major).
Section Winner: Hubert Hurkacz - I don’t feel great about it, but with a very manageable draw, I’ll go chalk and take Hurkacz to make another deep run at Wimbledon.
Seeds: 8) Matteo Berrettini, 12) Diego Schwartzman, 19) Alex de Minaur, 29) Jenson Brooksby
Matteo Berrettini - In 2021, the Italian showed off his grass court prowess by winning the ATP 500 event at Queen’s Club. He carried that momentum into Wimbledon as he made his first career Grand Slam Final (losing to Novak Djokovic in four sets). So far in this grass court season, Berrettini has been the story as he repeated as the Queen’s Club champion and won the ATP 250 in Stuttgart. He is a perfect 9-0 on the grass in 2022, and 33-6 in his young career.
Cristian Garín - With just a 12-15 record, Garín has been one of the most disappointing players on tour in 2022. His poor season has continued so far on the grass, losing in straight-sets of his first match in both Halle and Eastbourne.
Diego Schwartzman - Grass is definitely the 29-year-old’s worst surface, but Schwartzman was winless (in both matches and sets) at both Queen’s Club and Eastbourne this year.
Biggest Storyline - Pressure on Matteo Berrettini
I don’t agree with it, but Matteo Berrettini (+600 on FanDuel) is the second-favorite to win Wimbledon this year. I wouldn’t put him above Nadal, but Berrettini definitely deserves to be in the top three. He has established himself as one of the sport’s best grass court players and already has the experience from last year’s run to the Final, so the pressure will be on Berrettini to succeed more than ever before. Luckily for him, even with the pressure, he should be able to ease his way into the second week with a very manageable section.
Best Round One Matchup: Matteo Berrettini vs. Cristian Garín - I originally had Diego Schwartzman vs. Borna Ćorić here, but Ćorić withdrew yesterday with a shoulder injury. Therefore, I will go with my second choice of Berrettini vs. Garín. I noted Garín’s struggles earlier, but, still, as one of the more talented players in this section he could be an interesting test for Berrettini if the pressure and expectations start to get to him.
Best Potential Matchup: Matteo Berrettini vs. Jenson Brooksby (Round Three) - If anybody in this section is going to “beat” Matteo Berrettini (meaning others could win, but it’d require Berrettini “beating” himself), it is Jenson Brooksby. The young American went just 1-2 in his pre-Wimbledon grass matches, but he has the strong return game needed to combat Berrettini’s big serve.
Player to Watch: Alex de Minaur - Last year I foolishly picked de Minaur to make the Semifinals at Wimbledon, and I’m definitely not doing that again (he lost in Round One). However, I do think that he is a strong candidate to make the second week out of the bottom half of this section. On grass so far this year, de Minaur picked up wins over Tommy Paul, Lorenzo Sonego, and Reilly Opelka.
Section Winner: Matteo Berrettini - In all honesty, I think this crowning of Berrettini as some kind of dominant grass court player is a little premature. Yes, he’s obviously great on the surface and it totally suits his game, but, as he’s stacked up wins on the grass over the last two years, zero of them came against top ten players. He’s great at beating up on inferior competition, which is why I’ll pick him to get out of this section for sure, but when I think of Berrettini on grass I still can’t get past him wilting after winning the first set over Novak Djokovic in last year’s Final, or him winning just four total games against Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2019.
Seeds: 4) Stefanos Tsitsipas, 13) Denis Shapovalov, 17) Roberto Bautista Agut, 26) Filip Krajinović
Nick Kyrgios - The 27-year-old (yes, he’s 27 now) didn’t even make a Final in the pre-Wimbledon grass tournaments, but he was definitely one of the top storylines. He made the Semifinals in Stuttgart and Halle and then withdrew from Mallorca with abdominal pain after winning his first match. He also claimed that he is a “top five or ten” player on grass courts. Honestly, it’s kind of tough to argue with him 1) because the tour overall is pretty weak on grass and 2) when he’s engaged, the fast, low-bouncing grass is perfect for his style of play. Then again, he’s still seeking his first career title on the surface.
Stefanos Tsitsipas - The world number six had a rocky start to his grass court season (just 2-2 with loses to Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray), but he turned it around this past week in Mallorca. He won his first career grass court title and defeated the veteran Roberto Bautista Agut (also in this section) in the Final.
Denis Shapovalov - On May 12, Shapovalov had one of the biggest wins of his career at the Italian Open beating Rafael Nadal (an injured version, but still Nadal on clay). Since then, however, the Canadian has lost six consecutive matches, including three on grass.
Biggest Storyline - The Wild Card Nick Kyrgios
With Nick Kyrgios, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Queen’s Club Finalist Filip Krajinović on the bottom half, and Roberto Bautista Agut and Denis Shapovalov (losing streak aside) on the top half, this may be the best section in the draw. Still, the most intriguing storyline from the section has to be if this is where Nick Kyrgios finally takes tennis seriously. All signs point to no, and Kyrgios’ fitness struggles are highlighted at the majors (his last Grand Slam Quarterfinal was in 2015), but he still has the highest ceiling of anyone in the section. As always, he could lose in Round One, or be a dark horse contender, but this year feels different for some reason. He seems to be in a really positive state-of-mind, and showed signs of high-level tennis so far on the grass, so there is at least a sliver of hope that Kyrgios could make a serious run here. He’ll likely have to go through Stefanos Tsitsipas in Round Three, but he holds a 3-1 record in their head-to-head (with the loss coming at the Laver Cup, so really 3-0). Honestly, the key for Kyrgios won’t be getting up for a big match like Tsitsipas, we know he’s a solid bet to do that, it’ll be whether or not he can keep his composure and play high-quality tennis against “lesser” opponents.
Best Round One Matchup: Nick Kyrgios vs. Paul Jubb - Flaws and all, Kyrgios remains one of the most “watchable” players on the tour, and he takes on British Wild Card Paul Jubb in Round One. It will be interesting to see who the crowd sides with here, and Jubb is seeking his first career ATP match win (0-3 so far).
Best Potential Matchup: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Nick Kyrgios (Round Three) - As mentioned before, Kyrgios holds the edge in the head-to-head between these two. Before the draw was released, Kyrgios was considered arguably the biggest floater that all of the top seeds hoped to avoid. Tsitsipas will be happy that it isn’t his first round match, but he definitely wasn’t hoping to see Kyrgios in the first week. If this happens, it will be the most anticipated match of the third round.
Player to Watch: Denis Shapovalov - The 23-year-old is trying to break out of his brutal, aforementioned six-match losing streak, but he still has to be considered a player to watch. He made it to the Semifinals at Wimbledon last year (his best result ever at a Grand Slam), and really tested eventual champion Novak Djokovic (Djokovic just played the big points better in his 7-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory). Don’t expect another Semifinal run, but don’t be surprised if Shapovalov breaks his losing streak and wins a few matches.
Section Winner: Roberto Bautista Agut - With all of my talk in this section about Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nick Kyrgios, and Denis Shapovalov, I’m going with the under-the-radar Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the Quarterfinals. He has made the second week in four of the last five Wimbledons he played in, and made the Semifinals in 2019. Bautista Agut is also coming off of a tight three-set (4-6, 6-3, 6-7) loss in the Mallorca Open Final to Stefanos Tsitsipas. I don’t think we’ll see a rematch of the Mallorca Final at Wimbledon though, as I have Nick Kyrgios beating Tsitsipas in Round Three. I think the public will then lean towards Kyrgios winning the section, but Bautista Agut’s solid, steady game is exactly the type of tennis that often troubles the Australian. It may not be the sexiest pick, but I feel comfortable taking the veteran to come out of, arguably, the draw’s toughest section.
Seeds: 6) Félix Auger-Aliassime, 11) Taylor Fritz, 24) Holger Rune, 28) Dan Evans
Taylor Fritz - The 24-year-old’s season fell into a bit of a tailspin after winning a career-best title at Indian Wells in March. However, with four wins this past week at the Eastbourne International, Fritz is back in the winner’s circle. It was his second title on grass (both at Eastbourne), and now he comes to Wimbledon with some momentum.
Jack Sock - The lone qualifier to make the “hot” list, Sock got into the main draw without dropping a set in his three qualifying matches. Earlier in June, before qualifying for Wimbledon, he made a Semifinal and a Final in a pair of grass court Challenger events.
Holger Rune - After a breakthrough run to the French Open Quarterfinals, it seemed like the 19-year-old had a ton of momentum heading into the grass court season. However, that was not the case as Rune lost his first match in both Halle and Eastbourne (the first two ATP grass court matches of his career).
Biggest Storyline - Félix Auger-Aliassime as a True Contender
Félix Auger-Aliassime, just like the aforementioned Hubert Hurkacz and Matteo Berrettini, has never been this much of a “contender” at a Grand Slam. He has shaken off his early Grand Slam struggles (he’s made the second week at six of the last seven Majors), but is now primed to make an even bigger leap. He made his first Grand Slam Quarterfinal at Wimbledon last year, his first Semifinal at the 2021 US Open, and pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets in Round Four of this year’s French Open, so reaching a first career Grand Slam Final here at Wimbledon should be a realistic goal. With his big serve, Auger-Aliassime is very well suited for grass court tennis (22-8 career record on the surface). If he can limit the double faults that have plagued him in the past, the Canadian is a top-five candidate to win the tournament in my opinion. Unfortunately for Auger-Aliassime, his draw is pretty tough with a Round One matchup against Maxime Cressy (finalist this past week in Eastbourne), and then potentially Jack Sock, 28-seed Dan Evans, and Taylor Fritz before the Quarterfinals (where he’ll likely see Nadal again).
Best Round One Matchup: Félix Auger-Aliassime vs. Maxime Cressy - Auger-Aliassime’s status as a “true contender” will be tested right away as he takes on the American. Cressy plays a throwback serve-and-volley style (perfect for grass), and was within a few points of winning his first career title this past week in Eastbourne. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one goes five sets. Also, Taylor Fritz vs. 20-year-old Lorenzo Musetti is at least worth an honorable mention as it would take this spot in most of the other sections.
Best Potential Matchup: Félix Auger-Aliassime vs. Taylor Fritz (Round Four) - While both men will face early challenges, the best possible matchup in this section has to be the top two seeds, and two of the game’s rising stars, facing off for a spot in the Quarterfinals. The two have played each other just once so far, with Fritz winning 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 earlier this year at the ATP Cup.
Player to Watch: Taylor Fritz - If Fritz hadn’t gone 0-2 on the grass this year before his title in Eastbourne, I probably would have picked him to win this section. The American has the big serve required for success on grass, and, don’t forget, made it to Round Three last year at Wimbledon despite being just weeks removed from knee surgery. Fritz has a strong chance at making his first career Grand Slam Quarterfinal.
Section Winner: Félix Auger-Aliassime - Despite his Round Four loss at the French Open, the Canadian showed serious growth in his game by simply taking Rafael Nadal to five sets. That caused me (and many others) to project him as a serious contender on the grass. He has the game to do it (as long as his double fault troubles don’t return), but I definitely expected more than a 4-2 record in the pre-Wimbledon grass tournaments. I would have been much more confident in this pick if he had won a title (or even just made a Final) on the grass, but I still think, even with the tough draw, he is the man to beat in Section 7.
Seeds: 2) Rafael Nadal, 14) Marin Cilić, 21) Botic van de Zandschulp, 27) Lorenzo Sonego
Marin Cilić - The 33-year-old veteran shocked everybody earlier this month when he made it all the way to the French Open Semifinals. In his only tournament since then, he made the Semifinals at Queen’s Club. Both results should inspire a lot of confidence for Cilić. The French Open run showed that his body can still hold up deep into a Grand Slam (even on the most grueling surface). The Queen’s Club run showed that he is still one of the tour’s best grass court players (71.4% career win rate on the surface).
Rafael Nadal - The 22-time Grand Slam Champion has been, by far, the best player in men’s tennis this year. Even though he didn’t play on the grass before Wimbledon (outside of the Hurlingham Club exhibition), he is still unquestionably “hot.” Nadal is 30-3 so far in 2022 and, for the first time in his illustrious career, has won the year’s first two Grand Slams.
Sam Querrey - Heading towards the end of his career, the 34-year-old has continued to play a busy schedule. On the grass this year, Querrey is just 2-2 in ATP matches. He also lost his first match at the Surbiton Challenger and failed to qualify for the Eastbourne main draw.
Biggest Storyline - Rafael Nadal’s Tough Draw (& his foot)
After his French Open triumph, it seemed very unlikely that Rafael Nadal would play at Wimbledon (I’m still not 100% sure it’s happening honestly). However, his foot has seemingly recovered enough, or it’s at the point where the pain is manageable enough, and he looks primed to contend for Grand Slam number 23 and get three-fourths of the way to the Calendar Year Grand Slam. However, the 36-year-old got no favors from the drawmakers as he’ll likely have to play Sam Querrey in Round Two (despite being on the “not” list, he is still a big-serving veteran who has beaten Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray before at Wimbledon). He’ll most likely be tested again in Round Four by Marin Cilić, another veteran with a lot of success at Wimbledon. It’s not the hardest draw in the world but, compared to Novak Djokovic (because that’s all we do with the two of them), it’s pretty challenging.
Best Round One Matchup: Marin Cilić vs. Mackenzie McDonald - I touched on Cilić’s potential as a dark horse already, and he’ll start his tournament against American Mackenzie McDonald. McDonald is always a tough out in best-of-five, and has won at least one match at five of the last six Grand Slams.
Best Potential Matchup: Rafael Nadal vs. Marin Cilić (Round Four) - Assuming Nadal’s foot holds up and he gets to Round Four, he’ll be a solid favorite in the match. However, Cilić’s big serve makes him the exact type of player that has given Nadal trouble at Wimbledon in the past. He also has the experience (2014 US Open Champion, 2017 Wimbledon Finalist) that should help him on the biggest stage. Then again, Cilić won his first meeting with Nadal in 2009, but has lost seven of the other eight matches (with his one win coming via a Nadal retirement).
Player to Watch: Denis Kudla - It’s one of the strangest trends in men’s tennis, but the American is actually a “grass specialist.” He’s 26-25 in his career on grass, which obviously isn’t anything special, but he’s 5-16 on clay courts and 34-77 on hard courts. He did make Round Four at Wimbledon back in 2015, but hasn’t made the second week of any major since. He’s worth watching at the very least to see if he can keep his grass winning percentage above 50%. If he loses in Round One and falls to 26-26, we may have to remove the specialist tag.
Section Winner: Rafael Nadal - Call me biased (I’d say realistic), but I don’t see anybody outside of Novak Djokovic beating Rafael Nadal in best-of-five this year on any surface. Even with the foot concerns and the relatively tough draw, I see Nadal, who hasn’t lost before the Quarterfinals at a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2017, winning this section rather easily.
As always, I’ll go on-the-record with my full, official predictions for both the Men’s and Women’s draws on the website later today! Also, be sure to check back here for more articles, and to listen to The Inconclusive Evidence Podcast for updates and analysis throughout the tournament.