With Wimbledon fast-approaching, many are tipping Roger Federer to defend his title at the All England Club and claim a record-extending ninth trophy there.
He is likely to be seeded No. 1 at SW19, despite losing the top spot to Rafael Nadal after falling to Borna Coric in the Halle final last Sunday.
Wimbledon apply a special formula to the 32 seeds in the main draw, reshuffling them according to their recent results on grass.
The final seedings list will be published on Wednesday, and will probably see world No. 5 Marin Cilic get bumped up to the No. 3 seed spot, due to his two runner-up showings at Queens and Wimbledon last year, and his title triumph at Queens on Sunday.
But outside the seeds, there are several players who can create surprises on grass. Here are five unseeded direct entrants to watch at Wimbledon next week.
The 31-year-old Frenchman is enjoying a stunning grass court season in which he has won 12 matches on the surface out of 14 contested in the past three weeks. He won the Surbiton Challenger, made the finals at s-Hertogenbosch and reached the semi-finals at Queens, where he lost a tight two-setter to Novak Djokovic.
His best showing at Wimbledon is making the fourth round in 2014 and he’ll fancy his chances of going far next fortnight if his body holds up.
With a game tailored for grass, Lopez can probably spend his whole life playing on it. The 36-year-old Spaniard, currently down to No. 70 in the world, made back-to-back quarter-finals on the lawns of Stuttgart and Queens these past couple of weeks. He is a three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist and is a first round many would like to avoid.
The 19-year-old Greek has limited experience on the surface, having played a total of six tour-level main draw matches on grass in his young career. But he made the semis at Wimbledon juniors in 2016, and qualified for the men’s main draw last year before losing in the first round to Dusan Lajovic. He has a game that could work well on the surface and his build-up to this Wimbledon included a quarter-final run in s-Hertogenbosch. He is ranked No. 35 in the world, which makes him one of the highest-ranked non-seeds in the draw.
Here's the men's seeds for Wimbledon (barring withdrawals), which will be confirmed on Wednesday. Federer still top seed despite losing world No 1 ranking to Nadal today.
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) June 25, 2018
The 35-year-old from Luxembourg has slipped to No. 60 in the world but he is always a dangerman on grass. He eliminated Rafael Nadal twice from Wimbledon, including last year in an epic five-setter en route to the quarter-finals. With a big serve and a strong net game, Muller can find his footing again on the lawns at SW19.
While he hasn’t confirmed yet whether he will play Wimbledon or not, his opening round win over Stan Wawrinka in Eastbourne on Monday was definitely encouraging. If Murray does decide to play, he will be unseeded as the world No. 156. Sidelined with a hip injury that required surgery and kept him out of the game for nearly a year, Murray has played just two tournaments since losing in the Wimbledon quarter-finals to Sam Querrey last season. He is a two-time champion at the All England Club and owns a 57-10 win-loss record there. If he plays, it means he’s ready to compete and will be a tough floater in the draw.
Andy Murray refused to commit to competing at Wimbledon next week despite securing his first victory in almost a year when overcoming Stan Wawrinka at the Nature Valley International.
The former world number one, who returned from hip surgery only last week, convinced in defeating Wawrinka 6-1 6-3 in only one hour and 17 minutes, suggesting he remains capable of being competitive at the All England Club where in July 2017 he secured his previous win.
A Grand Slam would instead present him with the potential challenge of five sets at a time when he has so far lost to Nick Kyrgios over three and overcome his Swiss opponent in two, but having shown signs of progress he said: “My health and my body are my priority right now.
“I will make that decision when I’m ready. If I feel like I’m in good enough shape, I’ll do it. If I don’t, then obviously I won’t play. I’m coming back from a very serious injury which is not easy.
“I’m not putting any pressure on myself to make that decision after one match here or two matches, because I don’t need to. I can decide when I want.
“The match with Nick was two hours 45 minutes, and the slams, you have to be prepared for four hours. That (against Kyrgios) obviously could have gone another couple of sets potentially, and I didn’t feel great the following day.”
In the second round on Wednesday he will face Kyle Edmund.
Mohamed Safwat has a simple yet effective formula that is helping him make history for Egypt with every new milestone he hits on the tennis court: Keep your head down, stay hungry, don’t expect too much but always aim for more.
Barely a month after becoming the first Egyptian since 1996 to contest a Grand Slam main draw at Roland Garros, Safwat won his qualifying first round on Monday, 6-4, 6-4 over British wildcard Jack Draper, in an attempt to become the first player from his nation to play at Wimbledon since Ismail El Shafei in 1980.
Two years ago, on the same courts at Roehampton where the Wimbledon qualifying event is staged, Safwat came ever so close to qualifying for the All England Club showpiece but fell in the final round.
“It was a good experience for me, it was the first time in my life ever to play grass,” the 163rd-ranked Safwat told Sport360, reflecting on his 2016 Wimbledon qualifying journey.
“I was kind of loose, I didn’t expect too much. I feel now it’s different because I had my best Grand Slam result on grass [at the time], I qualified for an ATP 250 event and I won a round [in Antalya 2017], so if I look at it, my best results are on grass.
“It was a surprise to me but I’m trying not to be in the mindset where I’m taking everything for granted. If I don’t work for the things, they won’t come. If I said ‘yes, this is my best result, I made the final round in qualifying here before’ – and I was really aware of this before I came here and that was my challenge, to be in the right mindset all the time because if I go like ‘I feel good on grass, I play well here’…
“I’m not a grass specialist, okay I play well on it but I’m no specialist. But I try to fight. I try to make it hard for the other guys. Qualifying is a real fight. And if I think ‘everything is under control, everything is fine, I will manage to get here’ I won’t fight. I think for me this is my strength, fighting and accepting what’s happening and keeping on.”
At the same time as Egypt were losing to Saudi Arabia to exit the World Cup with three defeats from as many games in Russia, Safwat was battling Draper on court to set up a Wimbledon qualifying second round against American Michael Mmoh (taking place on Tuesday).
While Egypt’s first World Cup appearance since 1990 ended in heartbreak, Safwat has an opportunity to give his country reason to celebrate.
But if his achievements are causing a stir back home, the 27-year-old insists he is not really aware of it, as he tries to block any external distractions and not give too much weight to his historic feats.
“I wasn’t trying to get involved in anything,” he said when asked if had an idea of how Egypt reacted to his Roland Garros debut last month.
“It’s a fact, that whatever I do, everything is new and if I get this feeling that, ‘okay, I’ll be satisfied with what I achieved’, then I don’t think I will be willing to work and I will be willing to progress more. So I’m just trying to look at where I want to go.”
He feels Egypt’s World Cup woes stemmed from the immense pressure the team were under, especially with Liverpool star Mohamed Salah spearheading the squad.
“My thought is that people were expecting too much from them, there was too much pressure on them. I heard there were scores of celebrities going to their hotel the night before the matches, that’s too much pressure for a player, especially that they qualified for the first time in 28 years and everyone was expecting them to do well because they have Salah, one of the best players in the world,” said Salah of Egypt’s failings in Russia.
“We had a good group as well so the expectations were pretty high. The players were under too much stress and this is a culture thing. This is the mentality of many Arabs. Too much expectation, too much stress, the ‘Pharaohs’, this and that… just let them play, and when they win let’s celebrate. I think that’s what is stopping Arabs in many sports to go big.”
Despite having no grass-court matches under his belt heading into Roehampton, Safwat was pleased with his opening win over Draper.
“It’s always the first round that has a different feeling. He is young, motivated to play to justify his wildcard. I didn’t know much about him,” confessed the Mansoura-native.
“I was just trying to look for him on the internet, trying to find any videos of him playing and finally found one match. So I didn’t have much info about him. I believe he’s used to play on grass more than I do. I just needed to be aware at the beginning, be focused, give him a message that it’s going to be tough, that it wasn’t going to be easy for him.”
He added: “I always feel good on grass. I have the experience and I adapt quickly on it so it wasn’t a big problem to switch from clay to grass. The first practice, it was tough for me to move, and I was struggling a bit with the movement but I did some exercises, I have my coach with me here, so I adapted quickly.”