The R1 Wimbledon matches you cannot miss! 😯

The draw for Wimbledon is out! The draw gods have thrown up some matches you cannot miss on the first opening days.

Borna Coric v Daniil Medvedev

Borna Coric’ resurgence has been a joy to watch this season and I will link to a piece I did on it below!

Even at such a young age the fact he has done and learned so much and before his appearance in Halle won 2 career tour matches on grass and then went and defeated Roger Federer in the final!

Daniil is a player who has achieved over the last year but has fallen under the radar since he won the title in Sydney at the beginning of the year.

He poses a big serve and a big forehand which saw him upset Stan at Wimbledon last year but I was expecting more throughout the season so far.

Borna will be tough to break down for Daniil who is a good mover but I expect the Croats stubbornness at the back will be a big factor!

Sloane Stephens v Donna Vekic

I said in my preview no one will want to play Donna Vekic and Sloane Stephens has pulled that straw!

Donna is a solid grass court player, she knows what it takes and is very comfortable on the surface likewise is Sloane but there will be more pressure on the American who has been a major star in less than 12 months making two major finals and winning last years US Open.

Grigor Dimitrov v Stan Wawrinka

All eyes on this one!

On paper you’d say ‘what does Stan have to do to get a good draw’ however matches aren’t won on paper.

Stan needs fitness and game time and he isn’t getting that consistently at the moment and Grigor is one of the fittest players on tour but his tennis is not great right now and with Grigor winning ugly is not something he does.

I spoke in a piece about his serve and this is affecting him big time. Why change direction after last year when he was so dominating??

 

Caroline Garcia v Belinda Bencic

Caroline is a player full of talent as we all know and has began to show that in singles over the past year or so.

I’d sometimes say she can be erratic in rallies which lets her down.

Belinda on the other hand has had a torrid time with injury over the last couple of years and everyone would love to see her do well again she has an infectious personality!

She has built herself back up to 61 in the world but has struggled for consistency and a run on surface she likes will be a great benefit but CarGar will provide tough challenge.

Gael Monfils v Richard Gasquet

A battle of the Frenchman! Both produce stunning tennis on their day.

The athleticism of Gael and the brilliance in the backhand of Richard makes him a big threat!

Gael has had injury problems lately and has split with his coach but we all hope for a entertaining match!

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Dissecting the Draw’s – Queens Club & Birmingham

Well, the draw gods have treated us to some stunning round one match ups at the ATP 500 event in Queens Club and the WTA Premier event in Birmingham where I will be next week. So let’s have a look?

Queens Club

Marin Cilic v Fernando Verdasco

Top seed Marin Cilic takes on an unpredictable Fernando Verdasco. Fernando’s game is very much at it’s best when he is able to sit on the baseline with time. He adapts well to all surfaces and recently secured his 500th career win on the tour. Fernando will provide a challenge and I think he could cause an upset here. Marin has been in good form this year with his Roland Garros ending at the quarter finals against Juan Martin Del Potro.

Stan Wawrinka v Cameron Norrie

I suppose the questions will follow for Stan. Stan is set to play here at Queens and then Wimbledon before making the switch to hard court. Stan has just pulled out of some clay events due to take part in July due to quick surface change and if things don’t go to plan here surely Wimbledon becomes a question mark? 

Cam Norrie was good on the clay so it will be good to see him play at this big tournament against Stan who has no match rhythm this year something he is hoping to find as he teams up with Novak Djokovic in the doubles.

David Goffin v Feliciano Lopez

David Goffin never seems to get the luck, The Belgian’s year which has been good has been halted a few times by injury failing to pick up momentum where we expected him to be a major part of the clay court season and a first round match up against Feliciano Lopez who is of course the defending champion after a stunning run to win here last year having come here throughout his career.

Nick Kyrgios v Andy Murray

Stay tuned 😉

Other matches

Jack Sock is in action against a tricky Daniil Medvedev who always provides a tricky test on grass. Milos Raonic is back in action after making the final in Stuttgart against Bhambri and could play Goffin/Lopez in R2.

Novak Djokovic is also at Queens Club and will open up against John Millman in R1 and round two match with second seed Grigor Dimitrov is possible!

Birmingham

Elina Svitolina v Donna Vekic

Well, I am hoping that this one doesn’t take to court until Wednesday but that’s unlikely! I’m so pleased Elina is here in Birmingham and I do hope to see her this week, likewise for Donna Vekic who is another player who becomes so dangerous on the grass courts.

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Petra Kvitova v Johanna Konta

After an explosive end for Johanna Konta in her final loss against Ashleigh Barty in Nottingham and it won’t get any easier against the defending champion Petra Kvitova who has been quite sensational this year. Despite being in front of a home crowd I do expect a 50/50 atmosphere as Petra’s story and win here last year really connected with the crowd.

Daria Gavrilova v Dominika Cibulkova

Two players I love watching. On their day they are unstoppable but unfortunately for Dominika more her day hasn’t come too often. It’s easy to forget she is a former Grand Slam finalist and under two years ago was stunning at the WTA Finals in Singapore, I would love to see her reach those heights again.

Daria is good to watch. She’s lively from the baseline and when it all comes together she does perform well however when she doesn’t perform the wheels come off, frustration is visible and it becomes a bit of a circus.

Other matches

Garbine Muguruza is the top seed and will open her week up against Pavlyuchenkova. British pair Heather Watson and Katie Boulter are also here and will open up against Tsurenko and Osaka respectively.

Pliskova, Mladenovic, Kasatkina and Nottingham champion Barty are also in action in Birmingham.

 

Sharapova + Nadal withdraw, Novak’s wildcard, Roger’s return and Stan’s sensible schedule change!

The second major of 2018 is over. Now the attentions turn to Wimbledon and with a quick turn around the big guns have been busy these last few days.

Sharapova’s two year deal…

Just over a year ago Maria Sharapova signed a deal with the LTA to play WTA Birmingham for two years. The LTA came under criticism for this having rewarded the former world number one with two scheduled wildcard so close to her return from a drugs ban.

How did Sharapova repay them? Well, she hasn’t turned up to either event.

Sharapova withdrew last year at the last minute and rumours started circling yesterday morning that the Russian would not be taking part in this year’s tournament and that has since been confirmed!

LTA have been made to look a little silly. I wouldn’t even ask if she was coming back next year.

Novak’s wildcard

Following that explosive press conference following the loss to Marco Cecchinato at Roland Garros the press hounded Djokovic about the grass court and were unfair to him. I said in my piece it was a blip and his explosive press conference shows he cares and expects better.

On his quest to find better tennis ahead of Wimbledon for the first time since 2009 he will be at Queens Club in London having taken a wildcard there!

Stan’s sensible withdrawal

When Stan withdrew from Madrid during the clay court season it was announced he’d go to play two clay court tournaments at the end of July and I asked ‘why’ and called the decision ‘bizarre’ especially for a man who has struggled this last year or so with surface changes and he didn’t look too sharp at Roland Garros but has been practicing on site at Queens Club.

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Nadal’s expected withdrawal

Some things in life you can predict.

Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from Queens Club is one of them. The world number one is resting once again following a long clay court season and the question is how can Rafa follow up a successful clay court season with a successful grass court season?

Changing surfaces is tough and he does not want to do that knee any damage however history has shown he needs warm up tournaments on grass to do well at SW19. He hasn’t made it to the second week at Wimbledon since made the final in 2011 and with no warm-up event I don’t think that run will be ended this year.

Roger’s back!

Clay season is over which means Roger is back!

Roger’s schedule on grass is like clockwork. He will begin in Stuttgart before travelling to Halle; a tournament he has won 9 times and then he will make his move to Wimbledon.

Federer faced Mischa Zverev in round one of Stuttgart a player he once defeated 6-0 6-0 but had to come from a set down to navigate to the next round.

 

Should Stan skip Wimbledon?

Stan Wawrinka is down to play at Queens Club and Wimbledon during the grass court season which begins post Roland Garros but after a first round exit in the French capital should he skip grass and beginning training on hard courts?

For me it would make total sense for Stan to skip the grass court season. He’s never done too well on grass and picked up this injury last year at Queens and was an early exit at Wimbledon as well against Daniil Medvedev so the ranking won’t take a bigger hit than it already has as with his round one exit at Roland Garros and being a finalist last year he’s lost 1200 points and has fallen out of the worlds top 250.

It will be an interesting few months to see what Stan does, the logical thing in my opinion would be to think about New York and get some wildcards in for tournaments which is what he will need now as he cannot use his protected ranking anymore and will have to rely on wildcards.

Stan is down to play Queens but I think it will be touch and go until very close to the tournament.

Watching Stan play against Garcia-Lopez in his loss at Roland Garros he did hit the ball well at times producing some great groundstrokes but his fitness wasn’t there and of course big concern over the knee.

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We will have to see what happens but having a medical time out during the first set for an injury that has kept you from playing your best tennis for almost a year is a big problem!

The grass won’t help with Stan finding comfort as we saw last year and if he wants to try and be fit for New York and give that ranking a big improvement before the end of the year it does seem like the best option.

La Undecima in Paris?

It all comes down to a fortnight in Paris…

A year ago saw Rafael Nadal clinch La Decima as he picked up his 10th Roland Garros title and now all eyes turn to No.11

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Over the last 6 weeks or so we have learnt a lot on the clay courts across Europe.

Rafael Nadal’s blip in Madrid against Dominic Thiem raised questions over the Spaniard’s performance but also raised expectations on Dominic Thiem who is off to Lyon surprisingly this week.

During this period we have seen the improvements of Nishikori and Djokovic with the latter looking the sharper where as I think Kei needs more time.

Time is the key and for Stan Wawrinka I don’t think this will be his time. A first round exit in Rome and a week in Geneva have come a little too late for the former champion.

The challenge is Nadal over 5 sets. These last few weeks he has had players come close to him but over a best of 5 sets is a totally different challenge.

Djokovic and Fognini did well in Rome but over 5?

That is the challenge. I’ve narrowed it down to two players. Dominic Thiem (who beat Rafa in Madrid) and Alex Zverev. Thiem knows what he needs to do against Rafa on clay but five sets provides a big challenge!

Zverev has the most tour wins this season and his form of late has been exceptional! He slides around and covers the court well playing attacking tennis from behind the baseline, opening up the court with his forehand and going for shots with the backhand.

There will be challenges but will there be a consistent challenge over 5 sets? I don’t see it, I see this happening again!

Novak and Stan put the band back together!

It’s been a rough 12 months for Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic. Stan has been injured since Queens last year with his knee causing many problems in his matches halting his comeback to the ATP tour which has been very stop start.

For Novak Djokovic it all started just over a year ago when he made a big decision and split with his entire coaching team.

However they have put the band back together!

In Monte Carlo former coach of Novak Djokovic, Marian Vajda was spotted and it was confirmed he was working with Novak again for the clay court season at least. Gebhard Gritsch was another member of the coaching team (fitness) who also left but has now returned to the team which is a smart move as in Novak’s matches this year he has looked less than sharp.

Stan Wawrinka made a big decision by splitting with his coach Magnus Norma last year having he has also re-united the band.

Pictures appeared on social media of what was believed Magnus Norman on a practice court with Stan which was then confirmed a few days later with a selfie on Twitter.

Both split from their teams but have now brought them back in… the bands are back together with the second major of the year on the horizon.

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Serena and Stan out of Madrid but what next?

The Caja Magica is almost ready. Over the last week or so players have been arriving one by one as preparations for Roland Garros edge closer.

The Madrid Open has only been running since 2002 for men and 2009 for women but has become a staple on the tour but it will be without former finalist Stan Wawrinka and former champion Serena Williams but what next for these two?

Stan Wawrinka

The former finalist has not played a tournament in almost three months as this knee injury has been an on-going issue since Queens last year and has failed to get fit and find any rhythm over the last year. It is completely unknown what happens next.

This isn’t an injury or recovery where you can play yourself into form and fitness if you aren’t feeling right. Next up is Rome which Stan skipped last year but has points to defend at Geneva the week before Roland Garros where he won the tournament and of course 1200 points to defend at Roland Garros.

There is a possibility that if Stan doesn’t play over the next 3 weeks and potentially miss Roland Garros he will fall out of the top 150 in the world and is currently at 25.

Good news seems to be that Stan posted a photo on social media of some clay court training which did seem to involve former coach Magnus Norman so rumour has it he is back in his corner…

Stan has announced to be playing in Bastaad for the first time in 5 years which is a clay tournament at the end of July which is bizarre!

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Serena Williams

Slight surprise Serena withdrawing however she did say after withdrawing from Melbourne at the beginning of the season if she isn’t feeling like she can compete to a level she is happy with she won’t be there and I get that, that is her champions mentality.

However the owner of the Madrid Open Ion Tiriac did make comments about Serena’s weight the other day. He said ‘with all due respect, at 36 years old and 90 kilograms’ he said he wished woman’s tennis had better options.

Serena responded with “Clearly there is more to woman’s tennis than just me. There’s a lot more, but I’ll have words with him, believe me, I’ll have words with him. It’s an ignorant comment and it’s a sexist comment and maybe’s he’s an ignorant man.

Serena had arrived at the Mouratoglou Academy in Nice recently to work with her coach Patrick on the clay courts there but aren’t near where they want to be at.

The former world number one is now down to play Rome ahead of Roland Garros and this week it was rumoured that Wimbledon may give her a seeding for the championships.