• Hugh Clarke

Wimbledon Form Guide: Can Anyone Stop the Djoker?

Updated: Jul 4

After missing last year’s edition due to the Covid pandemic, tennis returns to the hallowed grounds of SW19. Djokovic is bidding to join Federer and Nadal in the 20-slam club (ridiculous numbers) as the heavy favourite fresh off his French Open triumph. Federer returns albeit not quite the Federer we all know, but we hope he hits his stride in the early rounds. Nadal has withdrawn and will focus his efforts on a US Open title run in September. The weather in the first week looks wet, so getting through matches quickly and with fresh legs will be important for a deep second week showing if matches must be played on a short turn around. A few younger players can make deep runs here, but it’s Djokovic’s title to lose, and Bandy has laid out the most comprehensive preview you’ll find out there.

The Favourite: Novak Djokovic - $1.71

Last 5 starts: W, 3R, QF, W, W

The Serb returns as the defending champion from the epic 2019 final against Federer, fresh off an historic French Open triumph where he grinded past young Greek, Stefanos Tsitsipas, from two sets to love down. He must be supremely confident returning to a tournament he excels at. Five triumphs from six finals and a 72-10 career record, the last time Djokovic lost here was 2017 when on the comeback from elbow surgery. The odds seem rather generous given Nadal’s withdrawal and Federer’s lack of matches mean no regular Big 3 foe is a real threat.

Path: His first few rounds feature no real threats. He takes on a talented young lefty Brit, Jack Draper, in the first round and then has a possible rematch with Kevin Anderson in the second round. The bulk of the seeds in his draw are clay courters: Schwartzman, Fognini, Garin. Rublev is the top-8 seed in his quarter but one player of interest who I think could trouble him in the quarterfinals if they were to meet is young Italian Jannik Sinner. His half also has Tsitsipas, RBA, Shapovalov and Opelka as possible semi-final opponents.

Prediction: The Serb loves best-of-five, and grass allows his low and flatter backhands to pin opponents deep and force them into errors. Confident, fit, and without usual rivals, it would take a major upset to oust him before the final. Will the motivation to join Federer and Nadal on 20 slams spur him on, or does history and the prospect of the calendar-year Grand Slam get the better of him? Hard to see him folding with this draw. Champion.

Daniil Medvedev - $6.50

Last 5 starts: 3RQ, 2R, 3R, 3R

After a disappointing Australian Open final against Djokovic, Medvedev made inroads on the Parisian clay for the first time in his career, reaching the quarterfinals before bowing out to Tsitsipas. The Russian’s game is far more suited to the grass, with his flat and penetrating groundstrokes, big serve, and strong return game. His previous Wimbledon campaigns have been a little underwhelming, although I should point out his last 3 losses have all been in five sets. I think Medvedev is one of the few players in the draw capable of beating Novak on grass this year, and as the second seed that wouldn’t be until the final. In a way Daniil is the Nextgen version of Djokovic; he plays deep and through the middle, forcing errors rather than hitting winners, but he has the Nextgen hallmark of a taller frame and bigger serve, but inferior intangibles that so often win crucial points. He needs to develop some forecourt prowess; an effective and well disguised drop shot, plus some improved approach shots and volleys would go a long way to helping him find that extra gear.

Path: A tough draw given his high seeding. Struff in the first round is one of the best non-seeded players (he beat Medvedev in their first grass tune up at Halle last week) and the in-form Cilic awaits in the third-round. Federer, Hurkacz and Dimitrov also rest in his quarter.

Prediction: Medvedev will be looking to improve his Wimbledon credentials just as he did in Paris last month. He has performed well in slams and comes in with good form as he sits in the final of the Mallorca ATP right now. The grass suits his game (he said so himself) and if he gets through the early rounds unscathed, he will be very hard to stop. However, the Australian Open final was a disaster, and I wonder if meeting Djokovic in a final again would be too much of a mental hill to climb. Finalist.

Stefanos Tsitsipas - $6.50

Last 5 starts: 1R, R16, 1R

Fresh off a Slam final that he was in control of, Tsitsipas should be feeling confident. There’s no shame losing to Djoker in a final, but time will tell if the loss was a good thing or not. Whilst I don’t think his game is as suited to the grass as he is to clay or hard courts, there’s no reason he can’t have a good showing. In my opinion Stef needs to continue to develop his slice and chip return if he wants to be a consistent threat at Wimbledon where big servers often make deep runs.

Path: A tough draw. Tiafoe first round is a tricky opponent who slices well and has a big baseline game. Attacking Canadian Vasek Pospisil is a likely second round opponent, and Khachanov or Mcdonald await in the third round. Tsitsipas skipped any grass lead up events, so an early upset is on the cards here.

Prediction: Tsitsipas has made the semi-finals or better in his last 3 slams. He looked very strong throughout the clay court season, and he brings a tour leading 39-9 match record into Wimbledon. Still, I think he is vulnerable to big hitters in the early rounds, and this draw may undo him in the first or third round. Improving his slice and chip return is key for him seeing off early round threats here. First Round.

Roger Federer $9.50

Last 5 starts: F, SF, W, QF, F

101 wins at SW19 across four decades. Is he still the GOAT? Is there a GOAT? He’s definitely one of a kind, and despite approaching 40-years of age, the Swiss genius will be confident he can make inroads this year. He came agonisingly close in 2019, and although his form has been a little shaky since coming back from knee surgery, his experience and ability to bring his best on the grass should make him a formidable threat to anyone. You sense he knows this is his last chance at a slam, and I can’t imagine he is the type of player keen to do a farewell tour as a non-contender next year. His game is perfectly suited to the grass, and if it is quick and skidding, he can beat them all. He needs to serve well and be moving freely and get through the early rounds unscathed. That’s a lot of ifs, but if the stars align, you can’t count him out.

Path: Mannarino is a tricky first round opponent who hits very flat and likes to take the ball early. It will be a good test for Roger and you would expect him to get through the early rounds if his body is cooperating. Norrie in the third round is in form and tough to put away, and Sonego, Querrey, or PCB in the fourth are kind draws on grass .

Prediction: Father time. Knee surgery. A French Open withdrawal. He won a few matches on the clay, and his grass court tune up was interrupted by rising young gun Felix Auger Aliassime, but Federer knows how to navigate early rounds, and he should still be there in the second week with a decent draw. Beyond that is hard to gauge with many young players coming into form this year. Quarterfinals.

Alexander Zverev $11

Last 5 starts: 2R, 3R, R16, 3R, 1R

Zverev has been a top player for some time, and many predict he is a certain future slam winner, but grand slam success has been hard to come by for the young German. Often caught in five-set battles against lesser foes, he seems to let the pressure get the better of him. There are several aspects that need attention for him to start dominating; his enormous first serve is undone by a shaky second serve liable to double fault at crucial moments; the trusty backhand is world class all the time, but in big moments the forehand is not trusted. When will Sascha find harmony? He is a tough player to beat, but to win a slam a player needs to have his game working for him every department.

Path: Griekspoor has the game and form to upset Zverev in the first round if he gets his teeth into the match. A host of Americans—Fritz, Nakashima (Q) Johnson, Sandgren—sit in his section for the early rounds and all can play big tennis and like the grass (Johnson especially). Beyond that Humbert, Kyrgios, and FAA all await and are top grass court exponents.

Prediction: Although I wouldn’t call him a natural grass court player, Zverev’s serve and groundstrokes are not to be underestimated on any surface. Two things I think he needs to improve: lowering his serve toss to become more consistent (especially the second serve) and playing further up the court to take time away. If he serves big and plays freely, he can beat anyone, Djokovic included. The problem is that he plays with the weight of the world on his shoulders from four metres behind the baseline; he needs to embrace youthful fearlessness whilst he is still youthful. Yet to see it. Early Exit.

Matteo Berrettini $17

Last 5 starts: 2R, R16

If there was one player this year who looks confident that he could unsettle Djokovic on a hot sunny day at SW19, it would be Matteo Berrettini. The Italian has found red hot form in recent months, winning a title in Serbia, then making a Masters 1000 final in Madrid, before pushing Djokovic in four very close sets at the French Open quarterfinals recently. That match was played at night on a clay court, the cooler and slower conditions certainly favouring the Serb. Although he grew up on Italian clay courts, his game is very well suited to the lawns with a huge serve complemented by a wicked heavy forehand that he takes inside-in better than anyone on tour. His topspin backhand is a weakness because his grip works against his swing path; he doesn’t drop the racquet head enough for an eastern right hand, and so he tends to hit inside the ball which makes it very flat and hard to control. This is at least masked on grass and can be somewhat effective if you make it in the court, but it won’t be a rock under pressure. His saving grace is that he has a very solid slice for a two-hander, and he loves to use it, as he displayed en route to the Queen’s Club title last week. Form and favourable conditions will make him very hard to stop, but slam success is hard to come by in this era if you have a chink in your groundstrokes.

Path: A decent draw but some big servers sit around him. Lucky Loser, Botic Van De Zandschulp is a possible second round opponent with a big serve who will be carrying a nothing-to-lose mentality should they meet. John Isner is a possible third-round match up that can derail the best of players on his day.

Prediction: Berrettini now has two grass court titles to his name, one of which coming last week. He has a big game, and although the backhand is a weakness, his slice can cover it slightly on grass. With a top 8 seeding, now is as good a time as any to make a deep run. However, I think Isner is a big hurdle in the third round and will decide the fate of his success. Third round or Semi-final.

Realistically, the winner probably will come from the above six names. Whilst the names I list next are unlikely to win Wimbledon, they certainly can cause an upset on their way.

Dark Horses

Andrey Rublev - $34

Last 5: 2RQ, 2RQ, 2R, 2R

The Russian went on a tear towards the end of last year and hasn’t let up. Still, his record against the top dogs is less than stellar: 0-5 v Medvedev, 4-4 v Tsitsipas, 0-4 v Zverev. While he has power to burn on the forehand, you get the feeling he hits himself tired with a game style that is too taxing considering the defence of today’s top players. Medvedev and Zverev have the reach and rock-solid backhands to absorb all his power and leave him with nowhere to go. One senses he wouldn’t fare any better against Djokovic. On his day he can hang with the best, but coming out on top after two weeks seems a bit of a stretch. He needs to develop some variety to compliment his fire power on the grass; a drop shot, some forecourt sneaking or drive volleys. His backhand is what lets him down, it’s flat and reliable, but not a strength against top players in terms of opening the court.

Path: A decent draw with clay courters mainly around him. Lloyd Harris is in form and would present a very tough test in the second round should they meet. Fourth Round

Jannik Sinner - $34

Last 5: 1RQ

The young Italian is the latest teen to bring hope of fresh blood at the top. He plays a big game and is technically very good from both wings. He has huge power off the ground and moves very well for his height. He should do well on grass in his career and I think this year he will be tough to beat. Made his first Masters 1000 in Miami earlier this year and brings a top 24 ranking into the event. Again, lacks that bit of variety and feel that grass can require in big moments. If he develops an ability to come forward it would really compliment his ability to step in on the baseline so often. In a way he reminds me of Agassi with his intent to drive every ball hard and early. Needs to improve his serve and add a drop shot to go to the next level.

Path: One of the toughest first rounds in the draw in Marton Fucsovics. I watched their match in Australia last year when the Hungarian got the better of him. If Sinner can get through that one a quarterfinal match with Djokovic is very possible and could be a career defining moment. Quarterfinals

Felix Auger Aliassime – $51

Last 5 starts: 3R

Has been watched by the tennis world since he was 16. Offensively he has the tools to do well on quicker surfaces: a big serve, strong forehand, and a willingness to come forward on every occasion. His backhand side is weaker, especially when wide or playing defence, and he needs to improve that to become a consistent top player. On his day he is going to be hard to beat, and he comes into Wimbledon with a final appearance in Stuttgart, followed by a semi-final showing in Halle (beating his idol, Federer, along the way) but I don’t think he has the consistency to win this year. He is 0-9 in finals now, but you’d have to think his first title is coming soon.

Path: Monteiro is an experienced first round opponent, but one FAA should see off. Humbert or Kyrgios in the third round is a tough test, but I think the young Canadian has the confidence and momentum to go deep this year. Quarterfinals

Denis Shapovalov - $51

Last 5 starts: 1R, 2R, 1R

Another young Canadian with huge fire power off both wings, he is also a former junior Wimbledon champion. The form has not translated to the main event—yet—but it very well could do this year. He has a long and loose one-handed backhand that is a joy to watch, but he has very little variety to compliment all that power. He has worked on a chip return more with his coach, former Russian pro Mikhail Youzhny, but he doesn’t naturally have the slice, volley, or intangibles yet, and it is often his undoing. If the game is off slightly, he doesn’t really have a consistent back up game to grind out the wins. He looks to have shortened his swings a little which should help, but a title run is probably still out of reach until he tidies up the inconsistencies in his game.

Path: German veteran Kohlschreiber is a stern first round test, but one he should ultimately come through. French doubles star Hubert is a possible second round opponent who I think could undo Shapo with his attacking variety should they meet. Second Round.

Karen Khachanov - $51

Last 5 starts: 1RQ, 3RQ, 3R, R16, 3R

Another young Russian with a big game. He does well on the faster courts as you expect with Russians, and he has been relatively consistent in the first rounds here, with his last 3 losses coming at the hands of Roberto Bautista Agut, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. No shame there. Still, he has struggled in recent years to make an impact at the majors after a maiden Masters 1000 in Paris several years ago (defeating Djokovic in the final). His forehand grip and take back gets him into trouble if he is rushed out wide, and I don’t think he carries the form or confidence to make a deep run here this year.

Path: Mcdonald is a first-round qualifier who made the fourth round of the Australian Open. His flat groundstrokes will be a tough first round test and I think there is a good chance of an upset here. First round.

Kevin Anderson - $51

Last 5 starts: R16, 1R, R16, F, 3R

The big serving South African is on the wrong side of 30 and coming back from injury this year. Is always dangerous on grass but lacks the form or fitness to make a deep run. Still, top seeds will not want him in their section early on.

Path: A second-round match with Djokovic pretty much seals his fate. Second Round.

Nick Kyrgios - $51

Last 5 starts: R16, R16, 1R, 3R, 2R

Kyrgios has sat out much of the tour since Covid, making an appearance at his home slam in January and taking Thiem to five sets in an entertaining third-round encounter. It was a reminder that Kyrgios can turn it on with little prep if motivated to do so. His game is perfectly suited to the grass where he famously took out Rafael Nadal on debut as a teenager, but a lack of commitment to the game has left him struggling to live up to expectations in recent years. If mind and body are ready, he can win a few rounds, but Kyrgios has not made a slam quarterfinal since 2015 and going deep in a slam requires fitness. A draw card, a wild card, but ultimately, the undercard to other second week hopefuls.

Path: Humbert first round is a rematch of the five-set thriller they played in Australia. The hardest first round match in the draw and one to watch. I think Kyrgios will struggle to come through this initial test. First round.

Aslan Karatsev - $61

Last 5 starts: 1RQ, 2RQ

Karatsev burst onto the scene at the Australian Open this year, reaching the semi-finals as an unknown qualifier. He benefitted from a lot of matches and training in lockdown last year and carried that confidence all the way through the first half of the season, winning in Dubai and reaching the final in Belgrade (which included an epic win over Djokovic in the semi-finals). His game is very powerful, and a quick court can complement his power, but he is streaky and can miss quite a lot with his high-risk strategy. Will be a threat this year, but not a title contender.

Chardy is a tough first round test but beyond that is a little kinder. Ruud in the third round is not a grass exponent exactly. The Russian could depart early or hang around for quite a while. Third round

Others to Watch

Roberto Bautista Agut - $81

Last 5 starts: R32, R16, R32, R16, SF

A pro’s pro with the consistent results to prove it. ‘RBA’ is flat hitting consistent baseliner who thrives on the faster surfaces with his conservative grips. He lacks a major weapon which has limited his ability to win Masters 1000’s or a slam final visit, but stopping him usually takes a very form player. I can see him winning his quarter but not much more as his game currently stands.

Path: Tough Aussie Millman in the first round will be a real test of where his game is at. If he gets through that one, a possible third round encounter with the giant American, Reilly Opelka, awaits. Third round.

Ugo Humbert - $67

Last 5 starts: R16

A young French lefty with flat groundstrokes and a lot of fight. He won Halle last week and enters this year’s championships with a career-high ranking of 25. He is well suited to the grass and made the fourth round in his maiden appearance here in 2019, bowing out to Djokovic. A few years older and stronger, he will pose a challenge to any top seed he meets. Doesn’t quite have a major weapon to be a title contender, but a deep run is not out of the question.

Path: Kyrgios first round is brutal. It doesn’t get any better after that, with FAA a possible third round opponent. If he gets through this section, he will be playing very good ball. Third Round.

Hubert Hurkacz - $101

Last 5 starts: 1R, 3R

Hurkacz won his maiden Masters 1000 in Miami earlier in the year, defeating Jannik Sinner in the final. He has a big and powerful game that is well suited to the grass. Took a set off Djokovic in their closely fought third-round encounter in 2019, and he will be tough prospect for anyone this year. Lost his two grass tune-ups to Stricker (a young talented teen) and Auger Aliassime (in form) in close encounters.

Path: Another Italian teen sensation, Lorenzo Musetti, has been drawn in the first round. Musetti is fresh off a French Open run that nearly derailed Djokovic and plays fearlessly. Ruusuvori, Giron, Kukushkin, and Bublik are all in his section. A lot of tough fast court players here and it’s anyone’s guess who will come through. Third Round.

Alexander Bublik - $151

Last 5 starts: 1R, 2RQ, 1R

Bublik is an eastern-euro version of Kyrgios. Underarm serves, massive serves, tweeners, slap winners. Chaos and disruption are staples in his game.

Path: A tough section of the draw. Could lose first round to Kukushkin or could get through a few rounds if he serves well. It’s tough to predict when they are this erratic. Second Round.

John Isner - $151

Last 5 starts: R32, R32, 2R, SF, 2R

6’10’’ and with a cannon, Isner is a nightmare for any player on grass. All five of his losses in his last 5 campaigns have been in five sets, and he holds the record as the winner of the longest ever singles match at Wimbledon, at 11 hours and 5 minutes, against Nicolas Mahut in 2010. The score was 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. The last set alone would qualify as the longest match ever. If the serve is off it’s tough seeing him go deep, but he comes into Wimbledon off the back of a strong clay season and if conditions are fast, he will be hard to stop.

Path: A nice draw given his ranking. Should reach the third round against Berrettini and make things very interesting. Third Round.

Reilly Opelka - $151

Last 5 starts: 1RQ, 2RQ. 3R

Another giant American in the Isner mold, Opelka is a former Wimbledon junior champion. At 6’11’ that should come as no surprise. If he serves well, there’s no telling how deep he might go. Worth a shot to win his quarter. He lost to Millman with match points at Queen’s last week in the first round, but he will be feeling confident on this surface.

Path: Koepfer first round is a lefty clay courter but a tough player who will be a good test. Kwon second round is also a likely tough test should they meet. Quarterfinals.

British Hopes

Dan Evans - $201

Last 5 starts: 1R, 3RQ, 3R, 2RQ, 3R

Evans plays old school tennis that is well suited to grass. After a few tumultuous years the feisty Brit seems to have turned a corner and become a consummate professional, winning his first ATP title in Melbourne earlier this year. As a relatively small player with no major firepower, Evans carves out his wins with a very tricky slice backhand that is rock solid on defence, a great counter-punching forehand that he can take early, and very good net skills. He will be a tough ask for most players.

Path: A tough first round against Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez. If anyone is interested in watching a classic old school match, tune in to this one. There will be plenty of chip-and-charge, serve-and-volley, slice backhands, beautiful one-handed passing shots. All court attacking tennis awaits. Do yourself a favour and tune in. I think Evans should come through, and I’m picking the Brit as my unseeded dark horse to reach a maiden slam quarterfinal. Quarterfinal.

Cameron Norrie - $201

Last 5 starts: 1R, 1R, 2R

Norrie has hit a rich vein of form recently, with a Queen’s Club final appearance last week he has now amassed 29 wins for the season and sits in 12th for the race to Turin. His backhand is flat and rock solid and he does the little things consistently well. Confidence should be very high, and he will be a tough ask in the early rounds.

Path: Former top 10 Frenchman Lucas Pouille first round is a bit of an unknown. If he gets through he will likely be stopped in the third round by Federer. Third Round.

Andy Murray - $81

Last 5 starts: W, QF, SF, W, QF

Murray’s Wimbledon resume is amazing, but he hasn’t played here since 2017 before his injury troubles really sidelined him. If he can move and play pain-free he is a tough ask, but his best days are behind him, and a deep run is probably too much to ask given his form and fitness. I will be hoping he can put in a good performance, and the crowd will be right behind their most recent homegrown champion

Path: Basilashvili first round is a stern test. The Georgian hits a huge ball but can be quite erratic. If Andy comes through that he could make a little run here. Third Round

First Round Matches to Watch

Evans v Lopez: this will be an exhibition for the purists. Although Lopez has a strong serve, off the ground this will be a feast of touch, finesse, and tactics. Evans in 4.

Sinner v Fucsovic: Two strong fast court players. Sinner should come through in 3 or 4 sets.

Humbert v Kyrgios: Discipline v Talent. Precision v Power. Humbert in 4 sets.

Tsitsipas v Tiafoe: Bandy’s first round upset pick, ‘Big Foe’ is on the come up, and I think Tsitsipas’ lack of a tune up might hurt him here. Tiafoe in 5.

Popyrin v Nishikori: The young Aussie has had a breakout year as Nishikori looks to build momentum after several injury setbacks. The Aussie’s serve will be tough but Nishikori in 4 or 5 sets.

McDonald v Khachanov: Although Khachanov has a bit more power, McDonald has come through qualifying and reached the semi-finals of the Eastbourne challenger. McDonald in 5.

Korda v De Minaur: Power takes on speed in this Nextgen clash. Demon is hard to put away here. 4 sets to the Aussie.

Verdasco v Dimitrov: Two former top 10 players with plenty of power and athleticism. Dimitrov should get by on the grass but neither have been having a great season. Dimitrov in 4.

Medvedev v Struff: Can the quiet German make it two wins on the grass v Medvedev this season? Meddy will be wary and coming off a final in Mallorca. Medvedev in 3 sets.

Major Upset picks in Round 1

  • Tiafoe to defeat Tsitsipas - $6

  • Griekspoor to defeat Zverev - $10

Bandy's Best Bets to follow when all match markets are posted.

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