The Wimbledon men’s draw won’t be released until tomorrow. Already, though, we can identify the players that will provide serious challenges in the early rounds.
Low seeds: Three of those are seeds outside of the top 16: Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raonic, and Richard Gasquet. Gasquet might be the oddest inclusion here, as the tournament dropped him from #13 (his current ATP ranking) to the #17 seed. In many case, a drop of four spots wouldn’t matter, but for Gasquet, it means facing a top 16 seed in the third round. If that’s, say, Nicolas Almagro, it’s no big deal; if it’s Rafael Nadal, it’s a premature threat for both players.
Both Delpo and Raonic are very much mysteries at this point. At Queen’s Club, Del Potro lost a match in two tiebreaks to Adrian Mannarino–hardly the statement he wanted to make upon returning to grass. Raonic, playing his first ATP grass-court season, lost a tight contest to Phillipp Petzschner–again, not the kind of result that scares the big boys. Yet it’s easy to imagine Milos playing into the second week, and Delpo is a legitimate title contender.
Just missed: Regardless of his first-round draw, John Isner will be the man to watch. His ranking has fallen all the way to #46, meaning that his next record-setting first-round match might be against a seed. Isner showed how dangerous he can be, pushing Nadal to the brink at Roland Garros, so he’s the man that will make seeds cross their fingers during the draw ceremony. For all that, my hard-court rankings put Isner behind guys like Janko Tipsarevic and Juan Monaco, so maybe he isn’t so dangerous after all.
Back from the dead: It’s remarkable how many once-great players are back in action for Wimbledon. Juan Carlos Ferrero had to withdraw, but consider the former top-tenners who are still set to play:
- David Nalbandian
- Ivo Karlovic
- Fernando Gonzalez
- Lleyton Hewitt
- Tommy Haas
- James Blake
As we’ve seen this year, a glorious past doesn’t guarantee a high level of play–Blake and Gonzo have lost matches on the challenger level this year. But they’ve all been itching to get back to a slam for a long time, and former champions all bring something to the table that, say, Florian Mayer does not.
Young guns: My algorithm has loved Kei Nishikori for months now; he’s up to #24 in my hard-court rankings. A much bigger surprise is Bernard Tomic, who has climbed into the top 50 (!) on my list. He has to win one more qualifying match just to reach the main draw, so perhaps he won’t be a factor after all.
A couple more are constant breakthrough candidate Grigor Dimitrov and the first man out of qualifying, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Stebe has played very little on hard courts of any kind, but he’s up two sets on Ryan Harrison in the final round of qualifying (the remainder of the match is delayed until tomorrow). The German has won an amazing number of matches on the Futures and Challenger levels this season, so perhaps he doesn’t know that he supposed to start losing now that he’s facing even better players.
Check back tomorrow for some draw analysis and a full forecast for the 128 men.