Last year’s finalists Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were drawn in the same half and could potentially face off in the Wimbledon semi-finals while Andy Murray will take on a fellow Brit at the All England Club for the first time in his career.
Defending champion and tournament top seed, Djokovic, will on Monday play his first match since completing the career grand slam by winning the French Open three weeks ago.
The world No1 will be looking to capture a sixth consecutive major title this fortnight at SW19 and will commence his campaign against local wildcard James Ward, the draw revealed on Friday.
Another Brit, Kyle Edmund could be Djokovic’s second round opponent, while 28th-seeded Sam Querrey of the United States is the first seed in the Serb’s potential path.
Sixth-seeded Milos Raonic was drawn as a potential quarter-final foe for Djokovic in a match-up that would revive the John McEnroe-Boris Becker rivalry.
Raonic added McEnroe to his coaching staff this month, while Becker is into his third year helping Djokovic.
Cilic practicing with Raonic, with coaches McEnroe, Moya and Ivanisevic watching on pic.twitter.com/HkjSWQcTZI— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) June 24, 2016
The big-serving Raonic opens his campaign against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta and could play No11 seed David Goffin in the fourth round.
Federer, playing his first major since January’s Australian Open, having missed Roland Garros with a back injury, will start his assault on a record-extending eighth Wimbledon title against Argentina’s world No51 Guido Pella.
The Swiss world No3 could play 30th-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round, Gilles Simon (16) or Gael Monfils (17) – who is back from injury after missing the French Open – in the last-16, and Kei Nishikori (5) in the last-eight.
Tunisian Malek Jaziri, the only Arab in the field this fortnight, also lies in Federer’s quarter of the draw and faces American Steve Johnson in the first round.
In the other half, Murray commences his quest for a second Wimbledon title and third major trophy, against British wildcard Liam Broady.
In 10 previous appearances at SW19, Murray had never faced a compatriot, but that will change when he takes on world No234 Broady.
Murray’s first potential seeded opponent would be 26th-seeded Benoit Paire of France. Nick Kyrgios (15) or Feliciano Lopez (22) loom ahead in the fourth round while seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet or 12th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – who could face-off in an all-French last 16 clash – are possible quarter-final rivals for the Scot.
Fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka might await Murray in the semi-finals, but the Swiss must first tackle ATP NextGen teenager, American Taylor Fritz, with a mouth-watering second round against Juan Martin del Potro possibly in the cards.
Tomas Berdych (10) or Stuttgart champion Dominic Thiem lie ahead for Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.
Men’s first rounds to watch:
Dominic Thiem (AUT x8) v Florian Mayer (GER)
Bernard Tomic (AUS x19) v Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Stan Wawrinka (SUI x4) v Taylor Fritz (USA)
John Isner (USA x18) v Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)
Nick Kyrgios (AUS x15) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) v Jack Sock (USA x27)
Men’s projected quarter-finals (according to seeding):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) v Milos Raonic (CAN x6)
Roger Federer (SUI x3) v Kei Nishikori (JPN x5)
Stan Wawrinka (SUI x4) v Dominic Thiem (AUT x8)
Andy Murray (GBR x2) v Richard Gasquet (FRA x7)
Quarter by quarter look:
A section of the draw that has Sam Querrey (28), Philipp Kohlschreiber (21), David Ferrer (13), David Goffin (11) and Kevin Anderson (20), who almost beat Djokovic last year here. However, you feel none of them will be able to stop the highest two seeds – Djokovic and Milos Raonic (6) – from making it to the quarter-finals.
Sport360 quarter-final pick: Novak Djokovic v Milos Raonic
Federer is coming back from injury but has played seven grass court matches in the build up to SW19. Dolgopolov could be a tricky third round opponent but he’s never made it past the last 32 at Wimbledon, while Gilles Simon, another potential obstacle for Federer just lost to Kyle Edmund in Queens. Nishikori withdrew injured from Halle and hasn’t had much success on grass.
Sport360 quarter-final pick: Roger Federer v Ivo Karlovic
A stacked section with Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Tomas Berdych, Bernard Tomic, Juan Martin Del Potro and Stan Wawrinka. Call it the upset quarter.
Sport360 quarter-final pick: Alexander Zverev v Bernard Tomic
Another packed quarter with Nick Kyrgios, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner, Feliciano Lopez, Dustin Brown, Marcos Baghdatis, Benoit Paire, Viktor Troicki and Andy Murray.
Sport360 quarter-final pick: Andy Murray v John Isner
When Federer won his first title in Halle in 2003, a six-year old boy a few hundred kilometres away was busy putting up posters of tennis’ latest rising star in his Hamburg bedroom. Sascha Zverev adored everything about the would-be legend, “the way he plays, but also the way he conducts himself on court,” as he said earlier this week. He wanted to be just like him, from his measured, precise groundstrokes to his wavy hair and Nike bandana.
Another boy, about three years older, carried the same admiration for the Swiss phenomenon. He came from Austria, and put in hours and hours on the tennis court to make good his precocious talent. In fact, Dominic Thiem’s backhand may well have been forged in the TV room watching his idol play.
The pair maintained their love for tennis and a determination to turn it into a career well past their childhood. It was on the ATP Tour that they met, showcasing a talent that was obvious even to the most casual observers. The chatter doing the rounds was that Zverev and Thiem were truly a pair of exciting prospects who could make a real impact in the game.
Their paths never crossed with Federer until this year; they were striving to make their names on the tennis court, while Federer went about continuing where he left off in 2015. Federer eased past Thiem in their first encounter in Brisbane in January, and dispatched Zverev in their maiden meeting in Rome. Thiem’s victory in the following match in the Italian capital was put down to a back injury that has afflicted the 34-year old for much of this year, serious enough to force him to miss Roland Garros, the only Grand Slam Federer has been absent from in the 21st century.
As the grass season came around, however, all that was expected to be in the past. Federer has had blips before, but it was unthinkable they would afflict him on the lawns of Germany. As it was, Federer was good for large phases, both in Stuttgart and in Halle, but it turned out he missed big chances when it mattered most.
In the semis in Stuttgart, Thiem made him pay for a costly error at the net when the Swiss had match point, the youngster digging in to take the match to the decider, where he simply outlasted his hero. At the same stage the following week in Halle against Zverev, where – remember – Federer has won twice as many titles as Thiem and Zverev have in their combined careers, he found himself outmuscled and bullied around a court that has brought him more success than any other. By a gangly teenager who revered him, of all people.
It was Federer’s first defeat to a teenager in a decade. That teenager, Zverev would do well to remember the last, a certain Andy Murray.
Although the days of Federer’s domination of men’s tennis have long ended, his career has never screeched to a halt or form never plummeted; all that would be out of place for a man of Federer’s grace, which seems to extend to every facet of his life on and off of the court. He continues to play sublime tennis more often than not, his fans and the public at large content to remember his masterclasses and forget about the disappointments. He remains the biggest draw in the sport (a statement that holds true despite Novak Djokovic’s success), and by far the most popular player on the circuit. Because Roger Federer the brand always seems to be on the rise, it becomes tricky to extricate it from the tennis player.
Which is why, just as Wimbledon approaches, it is important to pick up on the significance of what preceded it. It is a shame the grass court season is as short as it is (the sport is no longer known as “lawn tennis” for a reason), but this year, it could not be more instructive. Zverev and Thiem’s defeats of their idol bring into focus a generation of rising tennis players who grew up admiring a Swiss maestro they now share a locker room and tennis court with. Belgium’s David Goffin has never been shy to express his admiration for Federer, while American teen Taylor Fritz doesn’t need to think too much to name his favourite player growing up either.
The experience of being on tour with the player who inspired you to pick-up a racket must be magical beyond description. In the prosaic, indifferent world of ranking points and results, one would be poorer not to stop and absorb the poignancy of what seems to have taken place over the past fortnight. When Federer walked up to Thiem in Stuttgart and Zverev in Halle after his losses, his racket looked a little like a baton, and in the moment he shook hands to congratulate his boyhood fans, it might just have passed over definitively.
If you were to walk into the bedrooms that Zverev, Thiem, Goffin or Fritz used to occupy as children, the posters may very well still be there, but one can’t help imagining them to be ever-so-slightly sepia-toned now. Federer could very well go on to win his eighth Wimbledon in just over a fortnight, but it might be time to look ahead past the man and to the boys he inspired, the boys whose rooms may soon have plenty of trophies to keep those aging posters company.
Teenager Alexander Zverev caused a major shock as he beat top seed Roger Federer in the Halle semi-finals Saturday.
The 19-year-old Zverev triumphed 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-3 to reach only his second ATP Tour final after being beaten by Dominic Thiem on clay in Nice last month.
Here are 10 facts about the rising German star.
1. Alexander’s father – Alexander – was also a professional tennis player. His father played in the Soviet Union before the family moved to Germany in 1991. His mother Irena is a tennis coach.
2. His older brother Mischa – now 28 – is also a pro and topped the rankings at No. 45 in 2009.
3. Between October 2013 and June 2014, Alexander occupied the World No1 spot in the Junior rankings.
4. Alexander first captured the imagination of tennis fans in 2014 by clinching the Braunschweig title at just 17, becoming the youngest player to secure an ATP Challenger Trophy since Bernard Tomic in 2009.
5. He is part of ATP’s Next Generation campaign, which includes 14 of the top young players on tour born in 1995 or later.
6. Now 19, Alexander is currently the youngest player in the top-50.
7. At 6ft 6, he could have even been a basketball star with his towering frame, and considers himself a Miami Heat fanatic.
8. He counts LeBron James and Roger Federer among his role models.
9. He is known for his powerful serving, with first-serves regularly going over 130 mph.
10. Alexander’s close friends on tour include Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Andrey Rublev.