The No1 seed drew the promoted seed Kevin Anderson as his scheduled semi-final opponent, after the South African was boosted from No8 to No4 on the back of an outstanding run to the final at Wimbledon last year.
The towering Anderson has played only four tournaments this season due to an elbow injury, bypassing the entire clay season, so comes to The Championships with just one win since his exit at the Miami Masters, a victory over Cameron Norrie at Queen’s last week. However, he impressed hugely in his run to the final last year. He beat Federer 13-11 in the fifth set after facing match point, then beating John Isner in a six and a half hour marathon in the semis, before facing Djokovic in the final—not a task any player wants to undertake after so many hours on court in the previous few days.
But the first Djokovic test here is an interesting one against Philipp Kohlschreiber, their fourth meeting this year, and the German scored a rare hit against the Serb in the third round at Indian Wells—though Djokovic won their two subsequent clay meetings.
Djokovic’s first seed should be fellow Serb, No32 Dusan Lajovic, and then potentially a very tricky fourth round match against either No16 seed Gael Monfils or Stuttgart finalist and Queen’s semi-finalist, the fast-rising Canadian teenager, Felix Auger-Aliassime. Should Djokovic reach the quarter-finals, he could meet another of the young stars who has surged the ranks this year, No7 seed Stefanos Tstisipas—who could be an early challenge for No30 seed, Briton Kyle Edmund.
But there are tough tests for the young Greek in this eighth, including Daniil Medvedev, David Goffin and the unseeded Fernando Verdasco and Ivo Karlovic.
Anderson faces some rigorous testing throughout his quarter, too, with the in-form Pierre-Hugues Herbert in his opener—the Frenchman is very comfortable on grass—and either Stan Wawrinka or Milos Raonic looming in the fourth round. For the quarters, it could be one of a batch of young threats, Alexander Zverev or Karen Khachanov, but the Queen’s champion Feliciano Lopez is unseeded here, and has always played better at Wimbledon than any other Major.
Into the third quarter topped by Nadal, and the path is a rough one for the French Open champion who, like Djokovic, has played no grass tournaments before Wimbledon, opting for exhibition events to get in some transitionary practice to the green stuff.
The two-time champion with a 48-11 record here could face the unseeded firebrand Nick Kyrgios in the second round, the player who, in his first Wimbledon appearance in 2014, beat Nadal to reach the quarter-finals.
And things get no easier: the third round could bring No29 seed Denis Shapovalov, former junior Wimbledon champion, or the unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. His chief fourth-round seed is former finalist Marin Cilic—in a segment packed by Brits—with Dominic Thiem, who pressed Nadal so hard at Roland Garros despite a fearsome schedule and weather, and a semi victory over Djokovic.
No5 seed Thiem may rue missing out on that No4 seeding, but that would not have protected him from Sam Querrey in the first round or Andrey Rublev and Cristian Garin in the second round.
But there are some unpredictable openers strewn through this quarter, such as Cilic against s-Hertogenbosch champion Adrian Mannarino and Fabio Fognini against Frances Tiafoe.
Federer, who arrives with a 10th Halle title in his pocket and hopes of winning a record ninth Wimbledon title, plays something of an unknown quantity in his opener, Lloyd Harris. The tall South African, ranked 87, has spent much of the season on the Challenger and qualifying circuit, but was ranked outside the top 200 a year ago: the 22-year-old is a man on the rise.
Then Federer could meet the up-and-coming British 20-year-old Jay Clarke with Lucas Pouille or old adversary Richard Gasquet in the third round.
A particular challenge lurks in the fourth round with 22-year-old Borna Coric, who beat Federer twice last year, including the final in Halle. However, the young Croat was forced to retire there this year with a back injury.
From there, Federer could meet either Kei Nishikori or Isner, before Nadal and finally Djokovic.
In truth, there are pitfalls for all three former champions, who each faces at one stage or another one of the big-serving big men who often thrives on Wimbledon’s grass, or one of the young pretenders who, sooner or later, is aiming to break the Wimbledon triumvirate.
Thus far, Thiem, Khachanov and Zverev have won Masters titles, Thiem has made two Major finals, and Tsitsipas has reached the Australian semis and two Masters finals. And all of them them have recorded wins over at least one of ‘the three’ in the last year or so: Tsitsipas and Thiem have beaten all three.
Can one of them make it all the way on a surface where each has reached the fourth round before but no further? Time, and the experience of the older generation, will tell.
· No30 seed Kyle Edmund plays Jaume Munar, ranked 88.
· Cameron Norrie play Denis Istomin, ranked 109 (then Nishikori in Round 2).
· Wild card teenager Paul Jubb makes his Wimbledon debut against No66 João Sousa.
· Wild card Jay Clarke takes on qualifier Noah Rubin (then Federer in Round 2).
· Dan Evans plays Federico Delbonis, ranked 76.
· James Ward is against No18 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.
· Evans and Ward play each other in Round 2 if they win their openers, and Jubb is in the same segment.
Champions Djokovic (defending) 4, Federer 8, Nadal 2
Finals (additional to titles) Djokovic 1, Federer 3, Nadal 3, Tomas Berdych 1, Raonic 1, Cilic 1, Anderson 1
Stuttgart, Matteo Berrettini
NB Eastbourne and Antalya TBD
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge