As wide open as the recent Grand Slams have been for the women, the story has been much the opposite for the men. Wimbledon is no different. Federer, Nadal and Murray are on the tips of everyone’s tongue when it comes to possible champions. Despite a title win this week, Novak Djokovic is a riskier bet. Here are a few noteworthy first round matches.
(23) John Isner vs. Taylor Fritz- Seven years removed from the longest match ever, Isner still has not figured out how to break serve often enough to be a factor at Grand Slams. Fritz is a talented youngster on the comeback trail from injury. Like all of Isner’s matches, it will come down to a handful of points.
(31) Fernando Verdasco vs. Kevin Anderson- The big serving South African has caused problems for Djokovic here in the past. The veteran Spaniard has played well enough to earn a seed here in recent weeks. However, this may simply be a bad matchup.
(7) Marin Čilić vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber- Some folks are pegging Čilić to do big things here, and rightly so. However, Kohlschreiber has been one of the most solid players on tour for the better part of a decade and is an easy out for no one.
(3) Roger Federer vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov- The greatest player of all time cannot be too thrilled with drawing a former top 20 player in the first round. At the very least, the pony tailed Ukrainian will make this fun to watch.
Top seed Andy Murray returns to home soil as defending champion for the second time. Other than the defending champion wrinkle, his pre-event situation is identical to Paris. He is not playing all that well and dealing with minor injuries.
He was around at the business end in Paris and I expect the same here. There just are not that many players capable of beating him in a best of five set match. Also, playing on home soil seems to inspire Murray, not terrify him.
The other high seeds in this half are Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal and Marin Čilić. According to Wawrinka’s career pattern, he should win this event. However, that is simply a statistical oddity worth Googling.
Nadal is coming off a tenth French Open title, but the quick turnaround to London has not been kind to the Spanish lefty in recent years. His physical style tends to catch up with him this time of year.
Čilić is your guy if you are looking for a dark horse winner. The former U.S. Open champ is fresh off a runner up at Queens Club and will cause problems for anyone over the next two weeks.
His fellow Croat Ivo Karlović is seeded 21st. With over 10,000 career aces to his name, he is always dangerous on any surface, but particularly this one.
Semifinal Prediction: Murray d. Čilić
With high seeds like Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev in less than inspiring form. Most will make this half about two names, Federer and Djokovic.
After passing on the entire clay court season, Federer is clearly placing high priority on an eighth Wimbledon title. He is primed to get just that after picking up a title last week. Despite a tricky opener, there really is not anyone that can make Federer really sweat in the early rounds.
It is a different story for Djokovic. The Serb has been in search of his best form for a year now. It will not take long to find out if yesterday’s tournament win in Eastbourne did the trick.
He could have to deal with Juan Martin del Potro and Feliciano Lopez in the third and fourth rounds respectively. Del Potro and Djokovic have played more than one memorable match at this venue.
As far as Lopez, the big serving lefty was the winner in Queens Club last week. Despite a really solid career, Lopez lacks a signature victory. Toppling Djokovic in the fourth round to spark a run to the business end of Wimbledon would certainly fit the bill. At the risk of looking really foolish, I will take the hot hand to oppose Federer in the semis.
Semifinal Prediction: Federer d. Lopez
Championship Match: Federer d. Murray
Wimbledon begins Monday at 6 AM ET. The ESPN family of networks has exclusive television rights in America. I will tweet out my complete picks for both singles draws before the start of play. You can follow me on Twitter below.