Wimbledon 2015: Murray faces Nadal, Federer, then Djokovic in title bid
Britain's Andy Murray will begin his Wimbledon campaign against world No58 Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan
Whatever prayers the defending champion Novak Djokovic offered up to the Wimbledon gods ahead of Friday’s draw, they worked. The world No1 and top seed will not face any of his biggest rivals, the other members of the famed ‘big four’, before the final.
The reason things were able to unfold in this unusual way is simple: Rafael Nadal is at a lower ranking, No10, than he has been in more than a decade, indeed since he won his first Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2005.
Not since his first appearance at Wimbledon—at the age of just 17 and ranked 76—has he been ranked outside the top eight, leaving him vulnerable to a fourth-round contest against the very best. But he, Djokovic, No2 Roger Federer, and No3 Andy Murray were, as it turned out, lucky. It was No8 David Ferrer who drew the Nadal short straw.
However, Murray drew a pretty short straw, too: a possible quarter-final meeting against two-time former champion Nadal. Indeed Murray’s route to another title on his home turf is perhaps the toughest in the draw. His fourth-round seed is scheduled to be a Grand Slam finalist and Wimbledon semi-finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. And after Nadal in the quarters, it could be seven-time champion and the only active man on the tour with a better grass record than Murray, Federer.
And all that to reach another title bout against his nemesis. Born just a week apart, Djokovic has stacked up a 19-8 head-to-head since their first meeting nine years ago. In fact, since Murray denied Djokovic in the semis of the Olympics at the All England Club in 2012, Murray has beaten the Serb only twice. The first was little more than a month after Murray won Olympic gold, going on to claim his first Grand Slam in New York. The second was back here, two years ago, to win the Briton’s first Wimbledon title.
There is certainly reason for optimism in the Murray camp, then, as the start of the tournament approaches. He has, after all, won the same number of matches this year as Djokovic, 41, he is second to the Serb in the race, he has three titles and, particularly significant, one on grass at Queen’s.
It is also worth looking at the draw with the hindsight of last month’s French Open draw, when Djokvoic found himself in a similar position to Murray. He, it was, who drew Nadal in the quarters, then had to stretch every sinew in taking Murray to five sets in the semis, before taking on not Federer but another former Grand Slam champion, the on-fire Stan Wawrinka. After so many matches this season, even the mighty Djokovic could not survive that kind of draw.
In the end, though, there is no getting away from the fact that Djokovic leads the rankings by a mile, has won the Australian Open and four Masters titles, and has won two Wimbledon titles. He remains the man to beat.
Then there is Federer, ever dangerous on this surface, also fresh from victory on the grass of Halle, and asserting openly that Wimbledon has been the primary focus of his season—to such an extent that he has yet to reveal any more of his schedule this year.
Federer came within inches of winning his eighth title here in a classic five-set final against Djokovic last year. As he approaches his 34th birthday, can he go a step further in his most beloved tournament?
His first big hurdle in the quarters could be the man who halted his progress to the Wimbledon finals for the first time since 2002: Tomas Berdych beat Federer in four sets in the quarter-finals in 2010 on his way to his only Grand Slam final.
But to return to our beginning: Djokovic may know he can only meet one from Federer, Nadal and Murray in his title bid, but he will also be only too aware that he has some short-term threats to negotiate.
Former champion and one of the most successful grass-court players in the draw, Lleyton Hewitt, could meet Djokovic in the second round. A confident Kevin Anderson, fresh from a final run at Queen’s to reach his highest ranking, could loom in the fourth round—though there are dangerous youngsters here too, in Bernard Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Come the quarters, and it could be the two finalists at last year’s US Open, the eventual champion Marin Cilic or No5 seed Kei Nishikori—though both have had their injury problems.
As for the semis, No4 seed Wawrinka has been more of a thorn in Djokovic’s side than most. He it was who beat Djokovic to the French Open title. He took the Serb to five sets in the Australian quarter-finals, and last year beat him in five on his way to the Melbourne title. And the gauntlet was thrown down in 2013, when Wawrinka took Djokovic to five sets in both the Australian Open and US Open.
There are, then, a lot of fans who would pay good money to see them face off on the third surface, grass, for the first time—and all that before Nadal, Murray or Federer.
No1 seed Djokovic draw
R1, difficult opener vs 33-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber
R2, former champion Hewitt or Jarkko Nieminen
R3, first seed, Tomic
R4, Anderson or Leonardo Mayer: also here are Kokkinakis and 2013 semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz
QF, John Isner, Cilic, Nishikori vie for the honour
Matches to catch:
R1, Hewitt vs Nieminen, who both retire this year
R1, Nishikori vs Simone Bolelli: the former has an injury, the latter has 2015 form
R1 Teymurz Gabashvili vs Alexander Zverev: separated by 12 years, both expressive personalities
R3, Isner vs Cilic: expect fearsome serving
No4 seed Wawrinka draw
R1, Joao Sousa
R2, Victor Estrella Burgos or Benjamin Becker
R3, first seed Dominic Thiem, in battle of big one-handed backhands
R4, David Goffin or Tommy Robredo
QF, Grigor Dimitrov, semi-finalist last year, or Richard Gasquet, semi-finalist 2007, and Milos Raonic or Nick Kyrgios in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final (Raonic reached semis)
Matches to catch:
R1, Tommy Haas in only his fourth match in over a year, vs Dusan Lajovic
R1, Martin Klizan vs Fernando Verdasco
R3, Dimitrov vs Gasquet in battle of flair and single-handed backhands
R4, Kyrgios vs Raonic, both returned from injury setbacks
No3 seed Murray draw
R1, Mikhail Kukushkin
R2, Robin Haase
R3, first seed, Andreas Seppi, Halle finalist
R4, Tsonga, returning from injury, or Ivo Karlovic, who set ace record in beating Berdych in Halle (Dolgopolov also here)
QF, Nadal or fast improving Viktor Troicki (who he beat in Stuttgart final), David Ferrer or Fabio Fognini
Matches to catch:
R1, powerful in form Gilles Muller vs under-cooked Tsonga
R1, teenage Borna Coric, ranked 39 and playing first Wimbledon main draw, vs grass skills of Sergiy Stakhovsky, who beat Federer here two years ago
R2, Jiri Vesely vs Ferrer
No2 seed Federer draw
R1, Damir Dzumhur
R2, Sam Querrey or Igor Sijsling
R3, first seed, Jack Sock
R4, three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist Feliciano Lopez or Roberto Bautista Agut
QF, Gilles Simon or Gael Monfils, the in-form Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or former finalist Berdych
Matches to catch:
R1, No37-ranked Jeremy Chardy vs Berdych
R1, Sam Groth vs Jack Sock
R1, Benoit Paire vs Mikhail Youzhny
R1, Simon vs Nicolas Almagro
R1, Ernests Gulbis vs Lukas Rosol
British men’s R1 draws
Aljaz Bedene vs Radek Stepanek
Liam Broady vs Marinko Matosevic
Kyle Edmund vs Alexandr Dolgopolov
Brydan Klein vs Andreas Seppi
Andy Murray vs Mikhail Kukushkin
James Ward vs David Ferrer