The Cathedral Of Tennis Has Reopened Its Doors
The wait is finally over as tennis returns to the All England Club with first-round action commencing on June 28th. Unfortunately, several big names will not be competing at Wimbledon including Rafa Nadal, #5 Dominic Thiem, former world #3 Stan Wawrinka, #2 Naomi Osaka, and the defending champion, Simona Halep.
Three standout first-round men’s matches:
Daniil Medvedev, currently at a career-high of #2, seeks revenge against the hard-hitting German, Jan-Lennard Struff. Struff dispatched the twenty-five-year-old Russian in straights last week on the grass in Halle. The thirty-one-year-old is 17-15 this season having reached the final in Munich and the 4th round at the French Open and is still seeking his first career title. Interestingly, both reached the third round at the Championships the past two years. Medvedev, looking to claim his first grand slam title, leads the head-to-head 3-1 and this will be their second meeting on grass.
Andy Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion (2013, 2016), takes on Nikoloz Basilashvili, a two-time winner this season (Doha, Munich). The thirty-four-year-old Brit is currently ranked #119 as he is still coming back from a hip resurfacing surgery in 2019. This will be Murray’s 6th match of the season and his first at Wimbledon since reaching the quarters in 2017 (l. to Querrey).
Basilashvili is 19-16 on the season and is currently ranked #28 having reached a career-high of #16 in 2019. His best result at Wimbledon was in 2015 when he reached the 3rd round. This will be their first tour-level meeting and while Murray will benefit from playing on home soil, his body may falter should they go the distance.
Nick Kyrgios, the always-dangerous showman, takes on Ugo Humbert, last week’s winner in Halle. The twenty-six-year-old Aussie made headlines seven years ago when he dispatched Nadal in four in the fourth round. Just one year after turning pro, Kyrgios reached the quarters on his Wimbledon debut. No one wants to meet the former world #13 in any round of a grand slam. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and strict quarantine rules at home, Kyrgios has not played since the Australian Open and consequently, has fallen to #61 in the rankings.
Humbert, the twenty-three-year-old lefty from France has quite the resume, having just won his third career title. Based on his consistency and recent form, Humbert is seeded at a major for just the second time (AO 2021) at #21. This will be their third tour-level meeting and first on grass. Earlier this season at the Australian Open, they went five and Kyrgios prevailed.
Three first-round women’s matches worth watching:
Bianca Andreescu, the 5th seed takes on an in-form Alize Cornet. Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion is just 21 years old but has been plagued with injuries throughout her burgeoning career. Playing in just her second Championships (2017), the Canadian has not had the most promising results on grass this season including a straight-set loss to Cornet in the fourth round in Berlin.
Cornet has had an impressive run on the lawns of Germany reaching the 4th round in Bad Homburg where she lost 6-7 in the third to Victoria Azarenka and the week prior, defeated the 2017 Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza in the quarters before losing to Belinda Bencic in the semis.
The thirty-one-year-old from France may be ranked #60 but lately has competed like a top-15 player. In 2009 she reached a career-high ranking of #11 and in 2014, reached the 4th round at Wimbledon, her best showing to date. Andreescu will be looking for revenge in their second tour-level meeting in less than two weeks.
Coco Gauff, the 17-year-old American with two career titles, is seeded for the first time at the Championships at #20. At just 15 years of age, she came thru qualies and reached the round of 16, defeating 5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the first round.
Her opponent, Francesca Jones of Great Britain, is just twenty years of age and playing in her first Championships, having received a wild card from the All England Club. As a result of a rare genetic condition, Jones was born with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, three toes on one foot, and four on the other.
This will be their second tour-level meeting having met earlier this season in Adelaide where Gauff won in straights. The atmosphere should be electric given Coco’s rapid ascent up the rankings and Jones being the local favorite.
Serena Williams, the thirty-nine-year-old, seven-time Wimbledon champion and #6 seed, will face Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus. The twenty-seven-year-old achieved a career-high ranking of #30 in 2018 and is currently ranked #103. Though she has yet to win a title, she has five wins over top ten players (Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens, Daria Kasatkina, Petra Kvitova).
Serena lost in the 2019 final in straight sets to Simona Halep. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Championships were not played last year. The former world #1 and 23-time grand slam champion has not performed at an exceedingly high level this season having lost in the semis down under and the round of 16 in Paris. Surprisingly, this will be their first tour-level meeting. It is always difficult playing someone for the first time and for Serena, clearly lacking in confidence and match play on grass, this match-up will present a myriad of challenges.