ATP Tour: Wimbledon Selected First Round Matches Preview

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We take a look at selected first round men's fixtures taking place at Wimbledon this week. 

Francois Tiafoe 21/20 | Fernando Verdasco 15/20
This encounter represents a classic clash between young and old. 34-year-old Spanish journeyman Fernando Verdasco has been a consummate professional for some time now. A multiple winner on the tour, the arch-baseliner hasn’t had a great grass-court season. He lost three consecutive matches, including his opening matches at Queens and Antalya. Verdasco reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2013 and the Nottingham final in 2008. He clearly has shown an aptitude for grass-court play. This year has been a struggle, however, with a final in Rio the closest he has come to tasting success. However, a run to the final 16 at Roland Garros does indicate how proficient he is on the biggest stage.

20-year-old Tiafoe has just the game to succeed on grass. At well over 6 feet tall and the owner of a booming serve, Tiafoe is a player with the ability to succeed on this surface. He reached the quarterfinals of Queens and has had an extremely promising season thus far. Tiafoe reached the final at Estoril and also captured the title at Delray. That Delray success was notable in that he beat the likes of Shapovalov, Del Potro and Chung. He also reached the quarterfinals at New York and Round of 16 in Miami. Tiafoe is an exciting talent and truly represents the future of the sport.

This will be the first time these two have met, and I have to admit I have a feeling that Tiafoe could represent great value this week. Verdasco’s grass-court season has been dreadful and it would seem that time may be starting to catch up on the durable baseliner. I could actually envisage a five-set thriller here, with Verdasco refusing obstinately to go into the ether. Perhaps a bold bet on Tiafoe to win in five at 47/10 could be an option here. 

Jeremy Chardy 13/20 | Denis Shapovalov 23/20
French veteran Jeremy Chardy has been enjoying something of a renaissance this year. Chardy reached the 2014 Wimbledon Fourth Round and will be going into this event with a considerable injection of confidence. It really started with surprising success at the ‘Sunshine Double’, where two consecutive Round of 16 finishes perhaps surprised even him. He also managed a semi-final finish at the Istanbul Open. The grass-court season has brought even more success. He won the admittedly low-key Surbiton Trophy before losing in the Rosmalen Final. He then went on to reach the semi-final at Queens, losing to Djokovic. Chardy clearly is a player to take seriously on this surface.

19-year-old sensation Shapovalov burst onto the scene with that semi-final run at last year’s Rogers Cup. He has blown a bit hold and cold this year, with Round of 16 runs at both Miami and Rome highlighting his ability to mix it in talented draws. His best performance of the season surprisingly came on the clay, with a terrific run to the semi-finals in Madrid. Shapovalov has had a reasonable grass-court preparation, making the quarterfinals at Eastbourne last week. But Shapovalov is a player who cannot be underestimated this week. He won the junior crown at Wimbledon in 2016 and can beat anyone should with his booming serve.

This will be the first time that Shapovalov and Chardy will have met. Chardy’s form coming into this event sees him actually emerging as the favourite despite Shapovalov’s seeding. But I have the feeling that his form could be slightly misleading, especially considering the quality of the Surbiton and Rosmalen events. Shapovalov has the personality for the big stage and has all the firepower to succeed. He just has to keep that unforced errors count down. 

Damir Dzumhur 15/20 | Maximillian Marterer 21/20
Bosnia and Herzegovina Number One Damir Dzumhur hasn’t exactly had the most riveting season. He actually enjoyed an awful run after Dubai, losing six consecutive matches stretching towards Madrid. But there have been some sporadic highlights. He had a Quarterfinal run in the Open 13 while his run in the French Open almost ended in glory. He lost in the Third Round in a titanic tussle with Alex Zverev. Perhaps more pertinently, Dzumhur is entering this event with grass-court success under his belt. He beat top seem Adrian Mannarino in the Antalya Open final. So he should be feeling highly confident of a decent performance here.

23-year-old German Maximillian Marterer has had a breakthrough season on a number of levels. In Melbourne, he broke a string of 14 consecutive ATP Tour defeats and managed to reach the Round of 32. Since then the German has gone from strength to strength. He won a Challenger event in Cherbourg and managed to reach the semi-finals of the Bavarian International. He has supplemented those results with a quarter-final showing at the Sofia Open and an excellent Round of 16 display at Roland Garros. He lost to clay-court maestro in straight sets but showed enough to suggest that he could emerge as a real contender in the latter stages of events.

Marterer looks like decent value at 21/20, especially considering he has won the pair’s only ever encounter. He won on the Sydney hardcourts in 2016 and has an effervescent quality to his play at present. I think that German could have the game to make a surprising run at this year’s event.

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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