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Novak Djokovic Headlines Play At Day One of Wimbledon

Trenton Jocz’s Marquee Matches

(1) Novak Djokovic vs Philipp Kohlschreiber

Djokovic, the 2014 champion, will be defending a Grand Slam outside of Australia for the first time since 2012. Unlike his fellow top players, Djokovic does not play tune-up events on grass, so he hasn’t played an official match since his loss in the Roland Garros final to Stan Wawrinka. He admitted that he needed mental and physical rest, and it’s hard to argue with his logic considering he’s at least reached the final in every event he’s contested dating back to the Australian Open.

He did, however, play two exhibition matches last week, with mixed results. In the first, he split two sets with veteran Richard Gasquet before claiming an abbreviated third set and the victory. The second saw him fall in straight sets to promising prospect Alexander Zverev, a surprising outcome regardless of its exhibition status.

Kohlschreiber is more than capable of taking this match, especially as it’s on Djokovic’s worst surface. History says he won’t though, as he’s ranked below his talent level for a reason.

Prediction: Djokovic prevails in four competitive sets after Kohlschreiber fails to seize an opportunity to grab control of the match

(27) Barbora Strycova vs Sloane Stephens

This match could not feature more opposite personalities. Strycova is an emotional who wears her heart on her sleeve while Stephens has been deemed an underachiever largely because of her lack of intensity in matches.

Stephens cares, it just appears she’s afraid to commit to caring at times. It’s reminiscent of the line from Peter LaFleur, Vince Vaughn’s character from Dodgeball, “I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell you, it feels phenomenal.”

In 2015 though, reunited with her old coach Nick Saviano, Stephens has shown signs of adjusting to the pressure of expectations and fighting harder in close matches, and it shows in her almost-revived ranking.

Prediction: Stephens in three sets

(30) Belinda Bencic vs Tsvetana Pironkova

Just 18 years old, Bencic reached two grass finals this season, including her first career title, claiming the Eastbourne title over Aga Radwanska. Often compared to Martina Hingis (so much so that it’s become a lazy comparison), Bencic has a lot of promise, but also concerns over her lack of truly elite skills, such as the serve/forehand combo of Madison Keys or the defensive abilities of Simona Halep.

She received a rough draw in Pironkova, who’s a non-threat the rest of the year but is a wild card in London. Just 22-29 lifetime at the other three Slams, the Bulgarian is 14-9 at Wimbledon, which includes making the semifinals in 2010 and quarterfinals in 2011.

Prediction: An upset would not be shocking but Bencic in three sets.

Peter Elbaum’s Marquee Matches

(14) Kevin Anderson vs Lucas Pouille

A product of the men’s tennis program at Illinois, Kevin Anderson has been enjoying a period of success and reached the final of the grass court tournament at the Queen’s Club. Pouille is a rising French youngster with a big upside in his game. Both players have long frames and powerful groundstrokes, so look for excellent shot making in this match. Anderson is the more experienced player and could use his serve to devastation.

Prediction: Anderson in four

Lleyton Hewitt vs Jarkko Niemenen

This matchup may typically be overlooked. However, both Hewitt and Niemenen are playing in the last Wimbledon of their respective careers. Consequently this match could be filled with hope or desperation—perhaps both. Hewitt is a former champion whose skills as an aggressive baseliner are well suited to grass. Niemenen has had a far less illustrious career but could claw his way into this match with his lefty serve.

Prediction: Hewitt in four

(19) Sara Errani vs Francesca Schiavone

The match between Errani and Schiavone is an intriguing pairing. Schiavone is a former French Open champion who is known for her relentless determination and competitive spirit. While Schiavone, 35, is nearing the end of her career, Errani is coming into her own. She is a prolific doubles player having won all four Grand Slams in doubles, but in the past three seasons she has also established herself as an elite singles player. Even so, Schiavone’s doggedness is impressive and could carry her to victory.

Prediction: Schiavone in three

Other notable gentlemen’s matches: (4) Stan Wawrinka vs Joao Sousa, (5) Kei Nishikori vs Simone Bolelli, Fernando Verdasco vs Martin Klizan, Donald Young vs Marcos Baghdatis

Other notable ladies’ matches: (1) Serena Williams vs Margarita Gasparyan, (4) Maria Sharapova vs Johanna Konta, (16) Venus Williams vs Madison Brengle, (31) Caroline Garcia vs Heather Watson, Daniela Hantuchova vs Dominika Cibulkova

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