Wimbledon men’s draw – analysis and predictions

WIMBLEDON – In recent years, the major suspense before a Grand Slam draw often was about whether Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would end up in the same half. Actually, in recent months, it's been more about whether they'd end up in the same quarter.

But for this Wimbledon, given the location and given British superstar (at least in this part of the world) Andy Murray will walk onto Centre Court promptly at 1 pm. Monday as the defending champion, it was somehow a lot more about him.

And after the chips were pulled out of the bucket at 10 a.m. at the All-England Club Friday, the home-country hero did just fine.

Two-time champion Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, has some work to do.

Here are the projected third-r0und, round of 16 and quarter-final matchups - if all goes according to form, and factoring in a few possible surface-specific upsets.

Third-round predictions:

[1] Novak Djokovic vs. [31] Vasek Pospisil
[14] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. [17] Mikhail Youzhny
[12] Ernests Gulbis vs. [18] Fernando Verdasco
[6] Tomas Berdych vs. [26] Marin Cilic

[3] Andy Murray vs. [27] Roberto Bautista-Agut
[16] Fabio Fognini vs. [20] Kevin Anderson
[11] Grigor Dimitrov vs. [21] Alexandr Dolgopolov
[7] David Ferrer vs. [25] Andreas Seppi

[5] Stan Wawrinka vs. [32] Dmitry Tursunov
[9] John Isner vs. [19] Feliciano Lopez
[15] Jerzy Janowicz vs. [23] Tommy Robredo
[4] Roger Federer vs. [30] Marcel Granollers

[8] Milos Raonic vs. [28] Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
[10] Kei Nishikori vs. [22] Philipp Kohlchreiber
[13] Richard Gasquet vs. [24] Gaël Monfils
[2] Rafael Nadal vs. [29] Ivo Karlovic

Round of 16 predictions:

[1] Novak Djokovic vs, [14] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
[6] Tomas Berdych vs. [12] Ernests Gulbis
[3] Andy Murray vs. [20] Kevin Anderson
[7] David Ferrer vs. [11] Grigor Dimitrov

[5] Stan Wawrinka vs. [19] Feliciano Lopez
[4] Roger Federer vs. [15] Jerzy Janowicz
[8] Milos Raonic vs. [10] Kei Nishikori
[2] Rafael Nadal vs. [13] Richard Gasquet

Quarter-final predictions:

[1] Novak Djokovic vs. [12] Ernests Gulbis
[3] Andy Murray vs. [11] Grigor Dimitrov
[4] Roger Federer vs [5] Stan Wawrinka
[2] Rafael Nadal vs. [10] Kei Nishikori

Here are the potential paths to the title for the top four seeds.

[1] Novak Djokovic: Andrey Golubev (KAZ), Radek Stepanek (CZE), [31] Vasek Pospisil (CAN), [14] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA), [6] Berdych or [12] Gulbis, [3] Murray, [2] Nadal or [4] Federer.

[2] Rafael Nadal: Martin Klizan (SVK), Lukas Rosol (CZE), [29] Ivo Karlovic (CRO), [13] Richard Gasquet or [24] Gaël Monfils (FRA), [8] Milos Raonic (CAN) or [10] Kei Nishikori (JPN), [4] Roger Federer (SUI), [1] Djokovic or [3] Murray.

[3] Andy Murray: David Goffin (BEL), Pablo Andujar (ESP), [27] Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP), [20] Kevin Anderson (RSA), [11] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL), [1] Novak Djokovic, [2] Nadal or [4] Federer.

[4] Roger Federer: Paolo Lorenzi (ITA), [Q] Gilles Muller (LUX), [30] Marcel Granollers (ESP), [15] Jerzy Janowicz (POL), [5] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) or [19] Feliciano Lopez (ESP), [2] Rafael Nadal, [1] Djokovic or [3] Murray.

Until he gets to the quarters, Djokovic can take care of all comers, even if players like Tsonga or Gulbis could have a crazy day and blow him off the court. Of concern with him is an ongoing wrist issue; the bad bounces, awkward hits and best-of-five set format aren't in his favour.

Murray couldn't really have asked for better. He could face big-serving Kevin Anderson early on (round of 16), and Dimitrov is coming off a grass-court title at Queen's Club. But in the grand scheme of things, he's sitting pretty.

As for Federer, he has some tricky customers in his way, beginning with the qualifier few want to face, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, in the second round. Muller has made his way back from injury (he dropped out of the top 400) by playing a massive amount of tennis at the Challenger level this season. He's match-tough, he's a lefty, and he'll pressure Federer at the net. But if Federer gets to someone like Wawrinka or Lopez in the quarterfinals, he's going to feel as though he has the psychological edge, for a host of reasons.

Which brings us to Nadal. A potential second-round match with Lukas Rosol, the Czech player who shocked him under the Centre Court roof two years ago, will be more a topic of discussion among fans than a real threat. This is a different Nadal from 2012 (remember how much time he missed after that tournament), the conditions will likely be different, and lightning striking twice isn't a high-probability thing.

But beyond Rosol, there are some terrific and varied talents: the big-serving Karlovic, the big-serving Raonic (who has yet to prove he's a threat on grass) and the quick Nishikori, who has already proved he can be a threat to Nadal on his own surface, clay. But write Nadal off at your own peril; he rather likes that sort of thing.

Potential spoilers, or guys you don't want to see in your section of the draw

If you've ever seen a Sam Groth serve live, you know that he's the kind of player no one wants to face early on, when the Wimbledon grass is slick and that 150-mph delivery comes skidding through.

The Aussie qualified on Thursday, and he gets No. 21 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov (who isn't 100 per cent) in the first round, and a winnable second round if he can keep the serve firing and doesn't get in his own way. He's in Dimitrov's section.

Another qualifier with similar upset potential is Muller. He gets Julien Benneteau in the first round and is a potential second-round opponent for Federer.

As well, Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios, a wild card, is raw but talented. Whether he could keep up the shotmaking for five sets is an unknown quantity, though. He was up two sets to none against Benoit Paire earlier this year at the Australian Open, and it all became a little too much for him. Kyrgios is in the "France" section with Gaël Monfils and Richard Gasquet and plays another Frenchman, Stéphane Robert, in the first round.

First round matches to watch

Dustin Brown vs. Marcos Baghdatis: The dredded serve-and-volleyer and crowd pleaser Brown is finally at Wimbledon on his own ranking (a career-best No. 78 this week). And he's meeting another crowd-pleaser in Baghdatis, albeit a faded one. The former Australian Open finalist is out of the top 100, and this is his 100th wild card of the season (exaggerating, it's only seven or eight. But that's a lot).

[14] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Jürgen Melzer: the Austrian was once a top-10 player (and has won Wimbledon - in doubles). He's on the comeback trail after shoulder surgery, and has been steadily putting together the wins since late March. And he's a lefty.

[11] Grigor Dimitrov vs. [Q] Ryan Harrison: It wasn't that long ago that Harrison was supposed to be the next big thing in tennis, after turning pro very, very young. Reality has hit him with a thud. But he did qualify and has the grass under his feet. And he's not really afraid of anybody.

[7] David Ferrer vs. Pablo Carreño-Busta: Veteran Spaniard meets next-big-thing Spaniard, on a surface neither one loves all that much.

[29] Ivo Karlovic vs. Frank Dancevic: Karlovic isn't in great form. And the shotmaking Canadian Dancevic (once called the "poor man's Federer") who's always entertaining, might have a big match in him after squeaking in as a lucky loser. At any rate, it won't be dull.

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