Predicting the men's division at Wimbledon 2019
The men’s singles tournament provides ecstasy and heartaches for millions of followers of tennis. Among all grand slams Wimbledon takes the crown.
In the first week it was heartening to witness men in white against green grass, the sight was majestic and soothing. All schools and clubs have synthetic art and all kids learn to play tennis on turf so adapting to grass is not an easy task.
On grass, the ball keeps low and skids so power hitters find it tough. Slice becomes a weapon to control rallies, whereas on other surfaces, it sits up asking to be hit. Serves become more effective so even 120mph server is equivalent to a 130mph server if directed well. Serve and volley returns as on skidding ball powerful passing shots are a rarity.
Wimbledon 2019 has corroborated my analysis. Half the top seeded players who are hard hitters have already bitten dust. Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dusan Lajovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Gael Monfils and Denis Shapovalov were ousted in the first round. So, the fifth, sixth and seventh seeds lost in the first round. I have not seen such a bevy of upsets for a long time
Now we have reached the fourth round or the 2nd week or the pre-quarters. The field is depleted further but favorites are still there to slug it out to win coveted Wimbledon Trophy.
Can you believe it, it is a dry Wimbledon. On Sunday, 8th July, no matches were played. The courts are not lush green any more with many dry patches. The rallies have become longer and use of slice is so common. The last dry Wimbledon was in 2008 when only during finals it rained so Nadal was able to defeat Federer in five sets. One of the greatest matches of all time.
Let us decode all the 15 matches which are due to take place.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs Ugo Humbert
Humbert scalped 19th seed Felix Auger in straight sets and created a flutter. Humbert is a baseliner and plays percentage game of which Djokovic is the prime exponent, so I virtually see no contest.
Verdict: Djokovic winning in straight sets.
David Goffin (21) vs Fernando Verdasco
Verdasco’s an inspiration/ He is a fighter and he outran local hope Kyle Edmund (30) in five sets. The Spaniard is 36 and fit as a gazelle. On the other hand, Goffin is also playing wonderful tennis. He defeated Daniil Medvedev (11) in five sets.
Verdict: An excellent match with long rallies. I expect Goffin to win in four.
Guido Pella (26) vs Milos Raonic (15)
Milos Raonic is my fourth seed for Wimbledon so I expect him to sail past Pella. The match will be boring as impregnable serves of Raonic will cause a lot of damage. Pella ousted fourth seed Kevin Anderson but he took five sets to defeat Andreas Seppi. Raonic is one player who still has not lost a set.
Verdict: Raonic to win in three sets, probably in tiebreakers.
Roberto Batista Augut (28) vs Benoit Paire (23)
My favorite match. This will go to the wire. On one hand is the steady Augut and on the other side is irrepressible Frenchman, Paire. He plays with a lazy elegance and likes to create angles. Paire, however, is also prone to committing unforced errors.
Verdict: I expect Paire to win in four to five sets.
Djokovic vs Goffin
Baseline rallies will be the feature. Djokovic is not as fluent as he was but is still good enough for Goffin. The match will be an engaging battle but Djokovic will trap Goffin in box-to-box rallies and ultimately triumphing. Head to head, Djokovic leads Goffin 5-1.
Verdict: Djokovic to win three-four sets
Raonic vs Paire
Raonic’s serve is a fortress and he is serving beautifully. His backhand is suspect and he gets fatigued if long rallies are there. I do not visualize Paire doing the same. The only encounter between them was won by Paire in 2013 on hard court ,but grass is different.
Verdict: I expect Raonic to win in 4 sets.
Djokovic vs Raonic
Head to head, Djokovic leads Raonic 9-0. An outstanding record. On one side is the best server left in the fray and on the other is the best ever returner in tennis history. Djokovic is chasing his fifth Wimbledon and 16th grand slam. The Serb, however, did look troubled in the match against Hubert Hurkacz, losing a set. Watching that match, you could say that the Serb is not at full fitness.
The match will be an absorbing one till the second set. After that Raonic will get tired of long rallies. He may win a set in a tiebreaker.
Verdict: I expect Djokovic to win in four sets.
Sam Querrey vs Tennys Sandgren
The two Americans are fighting for a place in the quarterfinals. Who can forget the defeat of Djokovic against Querrey? Sandgren on the other hand is coming after a five-set marathon against 20th seed Gilles Simon and then he disposed of 12th seed Fognini. So, he cannot be treated lightly.
Must see match for competitiveness. Querrey’s serves vs Sandgren’s returns will be an exciting matchup.
Verdict- I expect Querrey to win in four sets.
Joao Sousa vs Rafael Nadal (3)
Sousa is having the best Wimbledon of his life. He ousted Marin Cilic in straight sets and Dan Evans in five sets to reach the fourth round. His journey, however, will end at the hands of Rafael Nadal. Rafa is playing flawless tennis and he will make mincemeat of Sousa.
Base line rallies will be the hall mark and Nadal will out duel Pella.
Verdict: Nadal to win in straight sets.
Kei Nishikori (8) vs Mikhail Kukushkin
Nishikori is playing solid tennis and he will not be troubled by the percentage play of Kukushkin. The way Nishikori changes the direction of ball with his wrists is too much for the likes of Kukushkin. The Kazakh, however, is on a roll by defeating John Isner and Jan-Lennard Struff, two seeded players. The match will be worth watching and I hope to see long rallies.
Verdict: Nishikori to win in four sets.
Roger Federer (2) vs Matteo Berrettini (17)
At the age of 38, Federer is still playing flawless tennis. He is teaching new players the court angles and his strokes are smooth like silk. I feel sad for Berrettini, who is played the game of his life in the win over Diego Schwartzmann.
The match will be worth watching and I expect Berrettini to trouble Federer by his retrieving capabilities and powerful strokes. A loss for Federer, however, is not expected.
Verdict: Federer to win in four sets.
Nadal vs Querrey
Querrey will have no answers for lasso whip of Nadal. He may hold his services but Nadal will definitely inflict breaks. Match will be boring as Querrey does not have ground strokes to combat Nadal.
Verdict: Nadal to win in three sets.
Nishikori vs Federer
Nishikori has not been tested. He runs down every ball and this may tire 38 year old Federer. People may say Federer is the king of grass but Nishikori will trouble him. I will not be surprised if there is an upset on the card. Match will be worth viewing. Long drawn rallies, angles and precision ground strokes will make each set a contest.
Verdict: Federer to win in four-five sets.
Nadal vs Federer
What a match. 18 slams vs 20 slams. It is a rivalry which has eclipsed all other duels between legends of the past. Head to head Nadal leads the battle 24-15. In most grand slam finals Nadal has had his way. Last year Nadal was outlasted by Djokovic in five hours. This time it is Nadal’s time. Sad for Federer or Nishikori as they will be bowing down to Nadal.
The Dream Final
The golden era of Tennis is dominated by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. These three are pushing each other to win as many Grand Slams. Nadal is only two behind Federer and Djokovic is three behind Nadal. Djokovic ihas a better H2H against Nadal, 28-26. The way Djokovic crushed Nadal in Australian open was a dream. In French open semi-final Djokovic lost to Thiem who was taken to cleaners by Nadal.
Who can forget the 2018 semi-finals? As grass court is slow in absence of rain, Nadal has an edge over Djokovic this year. In case it rains and Nadal is pushed by Federer in semi-finals the odds will go to Djokovic.
Verdict: I expect Nadal to win his 19th Grand Slam by winning in four sets.