Friday, June 20, 2014

Defending Champ Murray lands on Djokovic's side; Nadal gets Federer

The 2014 gentlemen's singles draw ceremony has been completed, setting the stage for a great Wimbledon with a potential rematch of the 2013 final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will have to navigate a difficult bottom half of the draw.

Here's a quick overview of the draw:

Toughest Path: Rafael Nadal
Nadal opens against Martin Klizan, who is a dangerous and powerful left-hander, but that will be the easiest match for the Spaniard if he survives it. His second round will be against Lukas Rosol, who defeated him in the second round of the 2012 Wimbledon.

His third round is against Ivo Karlovic, which would have been the one person he was dreading facing in the third round. If he survives those three, he gets the winner of an all-French battle between Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet. His quarterfinal match could be against anyone really.

The most likely candidates are Raonic, Kohlschreiber, and Nishikori, who have all done well against Nadal before. Kohlschreiber would probably be the most dangerous, since he defeated Nadal in Halle 2012. In the semifinals, Nadal would face Federer, and his final opponent would be the winner of Murray and Djokovic.

Easiest Path: Grigor Dimitrov
Dimitrov opens with a fairly tough match for a first-rounder facing American qualifier Ryan Harrison. However, his draw opens up after that. In the third round, he should face Alexandr Dolgopolov, but the Ukranian has been vulnerable to upsets, and might not even get that far.

Because of Dimitrov's seeding, he has to face someone seeded between five and eight in the fourth round, and he will get David Ferrer, which is the most winnable of the four options. Dimitrov would have to hope for some upsets to open up his draw a little, because Murray, Djokovic, and either Federer or Nadal are his next three opponents. Still, a pretty easy path to the quarterfinals for a player outside the top 10 is a great draw.

Most exciting potential match ups per round
1st Round: Dustin Brown vs. Marcos Baghdatis
2nd Round: Rafael Nadal vs. Lukas Rosol
3rd Round: Rafael Nadal vs. Ivo Karlovic
4th Round: Lleyton Hewitt vs. Roger Federer
Quarterfinals: Rafael Nadal vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray
Final: Andy Murray vs. Roger Federer

Potential Upsets:
Feliciano Lopez vs. John Isner
Ernests Gulbis vs. Tomas Berdych
Ivo Karlovic vs. Rafael Nadal
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Kei Nishikori
Alex Kuznetsov vs. Fabio Fognini
Lleyton Hewitt vs. Jerzy Janowicz

Big Four: The last time all of the Big Four reached the semifinals of a major was the 2012 Australian Open. On that occasion, Nadal and Federer were on the bottom half, while Djokovic and Murray were on top. As a result, tennis fans got one of the most exciting ends to a major in recent memory.

Djokovic enters this tournament as the odds-makers favorite, but Federer has been the favorite to win the title for me since his victory in Halle, and the way the draw has turned out, only strengthens that. Nadal seemed like the only player that could make Federer feel uncomfortable on grass before the tournament. Even though the two are on the same side of the draw, a rematch seems very unlikely.

Murray got a decent draw, and shouldn't have any issue reaching the semifinals. However, it is hard to predict what he will do at that point. His victory at Wimbledon last year was the last time he reached a final of any kind or even beat an opponent ranked in the top 10. On the other hand, a new coaching setup, and a return to the grass of his home country could be just the thing to turn his season around. He has faced the pressure of being ending the British droubt his entire career. For the first time, he will get to play with that load off his back.

Big Takeaway: Nadal couldn't have hand-picked a tougher draw. After winning just two of his last six grass court matches, it will take a massive effort for Nadal just to reach the semifinals. And one of the requirements for Djokovic to overtake Nadal for the No. 1 ranking is that Nadal falls before the semifinals. That looks very likely now.

The other requirement is that Djokovic wins the title, which is still a big ask for the Serb on the heels of a disappointing loss in Paris. Also, his health is uncertain after he withdrew from his match against Robin Haase at the Boodles. Still, just like at Roland Garros, a title at Wimbledon will likely mean a return to the No. 1 ranking in the world.

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