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Wimbledon Men 2016 Preview


German Teen Wins Wimbledon!!


This far-fetched headline became a reality in 1985 when 17-year old Boris Becker shocked the tennis world.  Now, 19 year-old German, Alexander Zverev, beat Federer on grass last week in Halle.  Could history repeat? Federer had won Halle eight times.

The top four hegemony of Djokovic, Murray, Federer, and Nadal have ruled tennis like no other players in the open era, nailing down the top two spots for the last 11 years.  Their rule will not last forever.  But it certainly doesn’t appear that the current top two, Djokovic and Murray are not going away anytime soon; even if they are turning 30 next year.

But the knocks on the door from below are getting louder.  The heirs apparent are #28 Zverev, #21 Nick Kyrgios, and #8 Dominic Thiem.  There is no one younger ranked above them, at ages 19, 21 and 22, respectively.

Becker was ranked #20 when he won Wimbledon in 1985.  Now he is the coach of Novak Djokovic.  Meanwhile, one of Becker’s chief rivals, Ivan Lendl, is coaching Andy Murray.  The head to head between Becker and Lendl was 11-10 for Lendl, even though Lendl is 7.5 years older.  Not to be outdone, Canadian Milos Raonic has just hired John McEnroe to coach him through Wimbledon.  Lendl was 21-15 over McEnroe.

Becker would seem to be in the driver’s seat in the proxy battle of coaches, with Djokovic looking the strongest of the horses actually running the race.  But it was under Lendl that Murray achieved his greatest success winning the Olympic gold, the US Open, and Wimbledon in one glorious 12-month stretch.  Can the Murray-Lendl tandem do it again?

Or can McEnroe add enough creativity to the fierce work ethic of Raonic for him to carry away the trophy?  And let’s not forget that Stan Wawrinka has hired Richard Krajicek (Wimbledon champ 1996) to help him to victory.  Or maybe this is the year of the break-through?  Will the young finally storm the bastille and take it?

First Quarter

Up and coming Brit, Kyle Edmund, wily old Philipp Kohlschreiber, or grass-o-phile Nicolas Mahut (victim in the longest match of all time), will probably not cause Djokovic to break much sweat as he sails to the quarter-finals. 

The other half of this section should favour Raonic (seeded 6) over Jack Sock (27), Kevin Anderson (20), and David Goffin (11).  Goffin is having a career year (so far) and Anderson is a massive 6’8” and no grass court slouch.  But Raonic has been to the semis before and seems to be in the best form of his life.  He could cause a lot of troubles with his serve for Djokovic, but even with McEnroe in his corner, taking down the wall of pure tennis awesomeness the Serb presents will be nearly impossible.
Djokovic d. Raonic

Second Quarter

On the one hand, Federer just lost on grass to two of the Next Gen stars (as branded by the ATP), Thiem and Zverev.  This is no mean feat considering Fed’s grass court greatest-of-all-time rep and may indicate that the glory days are past.  But on the other hand, given the extensive layoffs of Roger’s year so far, the fact that he won five matches on grass could show him rounding nicely into form.  Is Fed done?  Does he still have a realistic shot at this year’s title?

Let’s not forget he’s been in the final the last two years.  But at age 34, his days are numbered.  A Federer-esque talent could string together another slam title run.  But I think the grass losses this year mean more than just being part of the comeback trail.  I think Federer’s last best shot at slam #18 was last year.  Watch him prove me wrong.

I’ll still pick Fed for a run to the quarters over Monfils (17) or Simon (16).  But then I’ll expect he’ll be running into Marin Cilic (9) who I’m picking over Nishikori (5).
Cilic d. Federer

Third Quarter

Dominic Thiem (8) and Florian Mayer have had the extreme bad luck to run into each other in the first round at this year’s Wimbledon.  No one was taking Thiem seriously on grass until he beat Federer and took the title in Stuttgart this year.  But the very next week, Mayer took out Thiem in the semis of Halle and won the title over Zverev.  All three have the potential to go deep at Wimbledon.  Mayer has been to the quarters twice before.  So the Mayer/Thiem clash will be THE first-rounder to watch.

The winner of that match could face Zverev (24) in the fourth round... although there is the looming figure of Tomas Berdych (10), 2010 finalist, for Zverev to encounter first.  It’s a dense little section and all four could be favoured about equally, but I’ll take Zverev, the German teen.

Across the way, Wawrinka is seeded four, and slated in the first to face another revelation of 2016, Taylor Fritz (no he is not a female country singer).  The 18 year-old Fritz has shot up from #174 at the beginning of the year to an astonishing #63.  He managed to win a match on grass in Stuttgart before pushing Federer through three very tight sets.  I’ll expect Wawrinka to make it through, but an upset would not be a shock.

Wawrinka could then run into a returning Juan Martin Del Potro, 2009 US Open champion, former world #4, and one-time Wimbledon semi-finalist.  The fourth round could bring up talented but under-achieving Bernard Tomic (19), former quarter-finalist.  If Wawrinka can pass all these tests, he should be able to handle the survivor of the Thiem-Mayer-Zverev-Berdych cage fight.
Wawrinka d. Zverev

 Fourth Quarter

Andy Murray (2) is in stupendous form this year and might be halfway to a grand slam himself, were it not for Djokovic.  The facts that he made the French final on his least successful surface, and has just re-united with Lendl in time for his most successful surface, should make everyone else afraid. 

He could run into Feliciano Lopez (22), a three-time quarter-finalist, in the fourth round, or Nick Kyrgios (15).  Kyrgios took Nadal out of Wimbledon two years ago, making the quarters, and has just reached a career-high ranking.  Watching his powerful game, fast feet, and amazing hands has prompted many to deem him a future slam champion.  He hasn’t realized that yet, but at age 21 still has lots of time.  He’s dangerous.  He’s also lost four times to Murray without a win.

The other top two seeds in this quarter are Frenchmen Richard Gasquet (7) and the mercurial Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12).  John Isner (18) has a tricky opening against Marcos Baghdatis and could run into Tsonga in the third.  Last year’s quarter-finalist, Canadian Vasek Pospisil, could meet Gasquet in the third.  Gasquet and Tsonga have both been to the semis twice before, but Gasquet more recently, so I’ll pick him as Murray’s victim in the quarter.  Murray leads the head to head 8-3.
Murray d. Gasquet

Semis

Djokovic and Cilic have played at Wimbledon twice before with Novak taking both encounters. Cilic pushed him to five sets in the 2014 quarters, but at the end of the day, Djokovic sports a perfect 14-0 record over Marin, and I don’t see that changing in Novak’s present form.
Djokovic d. Cilic

Wawrinka has not been to the Wimbledon semis before, making quarters the last two years.  His long swings are not well-suited for grass, so I’m counting on the relationship with coach Krajicek to assist in getting him through a tough draw.  It could very well be Thiem, Zverev, or Berdych in this slot, but I doubt the outcome will be much different.
Murray d. Wawrinka.

Final

Can Andy actually beat Novak when it counts?  For both of Murray’s slam titles he faced Djokovic in the final.  But Murray hasn’t beaten him on the slam stage since then, three years ago.  During that time, the head to head has gone from 11-8 for Djokovic to 24-10.  That’s 13 wins in the last 15 matches.

But if there is ever a chance, this is it.  Murray is on his best surface.  He has Lendl in his corner.  Djokovic has just completed the career slam (at Roland Garros) so may be ripe for a let down.  Pressure to win the calendar year Grand Slam could weigh on Djokovic, and the still living form of Rod Laver has already been invoked by the press.  We saw what happened to Serena at last year’s US Open, and what happened to Navratilova in the 1984 Australian – faltering just short of the finish.

Djokovic d. Murray
He’s just too good.


If he wins, Djokovic will become only the second man to win five slams in a row, with the following caveats.  Several men from the old days won five or more slams in a row, in slams that they entered – that is non-consecutive slams – since travel was not easy in those days and the status of the majors was not well-established.  These include Tilden, Wilding, Sears, WRenshaw, and Larned.  If we include the pro-slams of the professional era (1927-1967), and the ILTF majors (1912-1924) the list looks like this:
Consecutive titles from majors entered
Tilden
9
W1920 - U1925
Budge
9
W1937 - USPro1940
Rosewall
9
FrPro1960 - Wem1963
Wilding
8
A1909 - WHCC1914
Sears
7
U1881 - U1887
WRenshaw
6
W1881 - W1886
Larned
5
U1907 - U1911
Vines
5
Wem1934 - USPro1939
Kramer
5
U1946 - Wem1949
Djokovic
4
W2015 - F2016
Laver
4
A1969 - U1969
Laver
4
Wem1966 - Wem1967
Laver
4
A1962 - U1962
Nusslein
4
FPro1937 - Wem1938
RFDoherty
4
W1897 - W1900

(On the women’s side, Helen Wills won 14 consecutive majors that she entered.)

Of the men’s list, only Don Budge in 1937-38 won the same four slams that are contested today, consecutively, winning six in a row.  The only other person to win at least four of these same slams in a row was Rod Laver, twice, in 1962 and 1969.  Budge did not face the best players of his day in 1938 since most had turned pro and played on another circuit (whose players were not eligible to play the slam tournaments).  Four of the top five that year would have included Perry, Vines, and Nusslein (all of whom had turned pro), and Von Cramm who was banned from play by the Nazis.  So Budge’s slam comes with a major asterisk, as does his run of six major titles from 1937 Wim to 1938 US.  Similarly, Laver’s 1962 slam also occurred in the absence of the four best professionals of his day, namely Rosewall, Hoad, Gimeno, and Gonzales.  So both the 1938 and 1962 slams are somewhere between Edberg’s junior slam of 1983 and the modern Open Era Grand Slam, in my estimation. 

But Laver’s 1969 slam requires no asterisks.  It was legitimate because tennis was open at that time and all the best players of the day were allowed to play the slams.  It remains a unique achievement, equalled only by the three Grand Slams achieved in the women’s game (Connolly 1953, Court 1970, Graf 1988).  Given the greater depth in the sport today, I would say Djokovic’s accomplishment of holding all four slam titles simultaneously already surpasses Laver’s 1969 slam, but that is just my opinion.

If Djokovic should win this Wimbledon it will be his 4th title here, and his 13th slam singles title, making him eighth on the all-time list, 4th in the Open Era (since 1968).

Major Singles Titles
Rosewall
23
Laver
19
Federer
17
Tilden
15
Gonzales
14
Sampras
14
Nadal
14
Emerson
12
Djokovic
12
Borg
11
Cochet
11
Perry
10
Budge
10

Those unaccustomed to seeing the professional slams of the 1927-1967 era and the ILTF majors (1912-1924) included, may be surprised at this list. But this is a more complete list than is often presented of slam winners, and it more accurately represents the history of the men’s game.  That said, it is not a good proxy, in my opinion, for a greatest of all time list.  That requires other metrics, I believe.  I happily refer anyone interested to the excellent site thetennisbase.com

If Djokovic wins this Wimbledon he will join John McEnroe at 8th on the list of matches won at Wimbledon, with 59 wins (providing he gets no walkovers).
Matches won at Wimbledon:
Wins
Losses
Ratio
Connors
84
18
0.8235
Federer
79
10
0.8876
Becker
71
12
0.8554
AWGore
64
26
0.7111
Sampras
63
7
0.9000
Ritchie
62
24
0.7209
Emerson
60
14
0.8108
McEnroe
59
11
0.8429
Austin
56
13
0.8116
Borotra
55
10
0.8462
Djokovic
52
8
0.8667
Borg
51
4
0.9273
Laver
50
7
0.8772
Drobny
50
16
0.7576
Edberg
49
12
0.8033
Ivanisevic
49
14
0.7778

Federer could possibly catch Connors for top spot this year, if he makes the semis.  Andy Murray is the next highest active player after Djokovic, with 46 wins.

Looking at total matches won in the majors (as described above), we get:

Wins
Losses
Ratio
Federer
302
50
0.858
Rosewall
242
46
0.840
Connors
233
49
0.826
Agassi
224
53
0.809
Lendl
222
49
0.819
Djokovic
221
34
0.867
Emerson
210
48
0.814
Sampras
203
38
0.842
Nadal
200
30
0.870
Laver
179
36
0.833

Djokovic is currently 7th in the list of consecutive matches won in majors entered, but will likely move up to 3rd if he wins 7 in a row to take Wimbledon.

Consecutive match wins in majors entered
57           Tilden (1920 W – 1926 US)
47           Budge (1937 W – 1941 USPro)
34           Rosewall (1960 Wem – 1964 USPro)
31           Kramer (1946 US – 1950 USPro)
29           Wilding (1909 A – 1914 W)
29           Laver (1969 A – 1970 W)
28           Djokovic (2015 W – 2016 F)

Here are the decimal odds for this Wimbledon from bet365.com on Jun 17, 2016:
1
Djokovic
1.72
2
Murray
4
3
Federer
9
4
Raonic
17
5
Wawrinka
19
6
Kyrgios
23
7
Nishikori
29
8
Dimitrov
51
9
Tsonga
51
10
Berdych
51
11
Del Potro
51
12
Thiem
51
13
Cilic
67
14
Gasquet
81
15
Isner
81
16
AZverev
81
17
Tomic
126
18
KAnderson
126
19
FLopez
151
20
Ferrer
151
21
Kohlschreiber
151
22
Karlovic
151
23
Monfils
151
24
Coric
201
25
Sock
201
26
Goffin
201
27
Janowicz
201
28
Muller
201
29
Dolgopolov
201
30
Gulbis
201
31
Pospisil
201
32
Bautista-Agut
201



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