Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wimbledon 2013 Men's Singles Round of 16 preview

Tommy Haas backhand
Tommy Haas backhand (Photo credit: Carine06)
Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (Photo credit: Carine06)
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Tommy Haas (13)

Djokovic and Haas met recently at the quarter-finals of the French Open, and even though the world number one won in straight sets, it was a high quality tennis match that featured high quality shots and entertaining rallies galore. In some respects, it's a pity that the two aren't playing a quarter-final again.

Djokovic has steamrolled past his opponents in the first three rounds. He seems to have had no issues transitioning between clay and grass, and all elements of his game are in fine fettle. Haas has belied his age, and if anything on grass he seems to be playing the game of someone at the age of 25 rather than 35. One of the games most aesthetically pleasing backhands still firing, Haas has also benefitted from his serve clicking throughout the tournament.

Haas is an excellent grass court player, and leads Djokovic 2-0 on head-to-heads on this surface, including a memorable quarterfinal victory at Wimbledon in 2009. Haas also seems to trouble Djokovic more than most, as his variety of shots doesn't allow Djokovic to constantly dictate points. However, Djokovic is a much improved player on grass, and with his motivation intact after the gut-wrenching loss at Roland Garros, the Djoker should come out on top in 4 high-quality sets.

Bernard Tomic vs. Tomas Berdych (7)

After a year dominated by all the wrong headlines off the court, Bernard Tomic has played some brilliant tennis at Wimbledon, reminding us of why he is considered to be a potential grand slam winner. His performance in beating Richard Gasquet in the third round, highlighted all the best facets of Tomic's game. Remarkable consistency with the first serve, excellent variety from the baseline including a crafty slice and raising the level of his game on the biggest points.

Berdych loves playing at Wimbledon, and the 2010 finalist looked relatively untroubled until his third round encounter against Kevin Anderson. Berdych's serve wasn't at its best, and in retrospect he was lucky to win in 4 sets after handing the South African 16 break points. Berdych has more experience, but if Tomic plays at the top of his game, he posses equal power and greater variety to cause an upset.

David Ferrer (4) vs. Ivan Dodig

Despite being his least favourite surface, Ferrer has played with the hunger and competitiveness that has been the hallmark of his rise in the ATP rankings. Now guaranteed to be number 3 at the end of Wimbledon, Ferrer continues to rely on his trademark consistency from the baseline, and has added more fizz to his serve. He was troubled by the unorthodoxy of Alexander Dolgopolov, but prevailed by winning the last two sets in dominant fashion.

Dodig has benefitted largely from the injuries that previous opponents Igor Sijsling and Phillip Kohlschreiber were carrying into matches against him. With his serve being his biggest ally, he could potentially be a tricky opponent on grass. However, Ferrer clearly has the better all round game and smartness to progress at the possible expense of a tie-break.

Andreas Seppi vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (8)

Del Potro celebrates
Del Potro celebrates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Anyone who bet Seppi reaching the round of 16 at Wimbledon, will have raked in some serious dough. At best a challenging opponent on clay, Seppi has none of the traditional weapons one would normally need to succeed on grass. Yet somehow, he has used his experience in seeing out players better suited to grass such as Kei Nishikori and Denis Istomin in tough five-setters.

Juan Martin Del Potro has played an exceptional tournament so far. Finally looking at home on grass, the Argentine will be looking to improve on round of 16 appearances that he managed in the last two years. Pending any doubts of a possible niggle in the knee after chasing down a drop shot in the third round, Del Potro should proceed in the draw with another commanding victory.

Lukasz Kubot vs. Adrian Mannarino

Am I previewing a match on the Challenger circuit or a fourth round match at a grand slam? The only thing I can say with certainty about this match, is that the winner will be the weakest player in the quarter-finals.

Both players possess fearsome serves and hit the ball really hard. In his match against Dustin Brown, Mannarino did display a good ability to retrieve the ball, and his greater spin might just tilt the balance against Kubot, who isn't necessarily one of the best movers on court.

Jerzy Janowicz (24) vs. Jurgen Melzer

Jerzy Janowicz announced his arrival as player to watch out for on grass, when he made it to the final of the Paris Indoors Masters on extremely fast courts. Possessing one of the biggest serves in the mens game,  and with a big wingspan of 2.04 metres, Janowicz has a game built for fast courts. He has already made the headlines this year, with some big scalps on clay, and is clearly the most dangerous player remaining in Andy Murray's half of the draw.

Jurgen Melzer is a crafty veteran with an entertaining serve and volley game, and it is great to see the Austrian in the second week of a grand slam again. Melzer's serve while not the fastest, can sometimes be very difficult to read. However, he doesn't have the return game to have an impact on Janowicz's serve, and he might also be fatigued after a marathon five-setter in doubles. Janowicz should go through in three tight sets.

Fernando Verdasco vs. Kenny De Schepper

A battle between two left-handers with big serves. Verdasco has fallen down the rankings since his Annus Mirabilis of 2009, and in many respects its a surprise he has reached the round of 16 on his least favourite surface. However, the Spaniard has played some really good tennis. It has also been good to see Verdasco waiting for the right moment to unleash his big forehand, rather than a tendency to go for broke at all times.

De Schepper has also progressed serenely without dropping a set, although a walkover against Marin Cillic in the second round certainly helped his cause. Another player with a big serve enjoying the surface, De Schepper will struggle to gain a foothold against Verdasco's greater variety. Verdasco will be motivated to make the quarters of a grand slam again, and should do so with little alarm.

Mikhail Youzhny (20) vs. Andy Murray (2)

Yet another player with a love for grass, Youzhny was bound to make an impression at Wimbledon this year after finishing runner-up to Roger Federer at Halle. Youzhny's single-handed backhand is his biggest weapon, and he is very adept at sudden changes of direction in long rallies. However, his serve has been inconsistent at SW19 this year.

Andy Murray
Andy Murray (Photo credit: Carine06)
Andy Murray has been playing sublime tennis this year in front of his adoring fans. Murray clearly has a superb understanding of how to craft points on grass, and with his Olympic gold secured at Wimbledon last year, there is a confidence and swagger that Murray has brought to Centre Court which wasn't always evident in previous years.

Murray is firing on all cylinders, the serve exceptional, the volleys elegant, the passing shots incredible as always. He has the edge on Youzhny in all departments, and has the greater focus as well. Expect Youzhny to hit sublime winners, but eventually disintegrate in the face of Murray's brilliance.
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