Peter Elbaum’s Marquee Matches
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13) vs. Gilles Muller
Tsonga is a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist who has shown that he can compete with anyone on tour. Muller, a 6-foot-4, big-serving lefty, had a good grass court season, reaching the semifinals and quarterfinals at two warm-up tournaments. If Muller looks to come to the net he could neutralize Tsonga’s powerful groundstrokes. Tsonga has not played since the French Open and may need a few rounds to get his bearings on the grass.
Prediction: Tsonga in five but Muller could surprise
Jelena Jankovic (28) vs. Elena Vesnina
Jankovic was ranked No. 1 in the world and used to consistently contend for Grand Slam titles. She has finished five seasons ranked in the top ten, but her ranking has slipped recently. Vesnina, one of the world’s best doubles players, has also seen success in singles (as a former top 30 player) that belies her current ranking of 89th. Both of these players could make a deep run in the ladies’ draw—look for them to have a competitive and entertaining match.
Prediction: Jankovic in three—could break away fast depending on Vesnina’s play
Gilles Simon (12) vs. Nicolas Almagro
Called the “poor man’s Andy Murray” by Brad Gilbert, Simon has the consistency of the Scot but lacks the major weapons to consistently contend with the top players. Even so, he could go deep in the draw depending on how he uses his opportunities to be aggressive. Almagro is a former top-10 player whose ranking has slipped to 145th due to a foot injury that required surgery and a seven-month layoff. Almagro hits one of the best one-handed backhands in the men’s game and could make it a very long day for Simon if he is in playing shape.
Prediction: Simon in four contingent upon Almagro’s foot and conditioning
Trenton Jocz’s Marquee Matches
(6) Tomas Berdych vs Jeremy Chardy
The 2010 finalist begins his campaign against a dangerous player in Chardy. Berdych has shown a slight uptick in play under new coach Dani Vallverdu, although wins over the top players are still all but absent. He has made it deep into multiple tournaments this year, yet has never really felt like a contender in any of them. His opponent, Chardy, won Wimbledon a decade ago as a junior, though he has just one title to his name as a pro, putting him squarely in the cluster of men’s players (Monfils, Kohlschreiber, Almagro, Dolgopolov, etc) who have left tennis viewers disappointed in their inconsistency. He’s one of the tougher unseeded players in the draw, but an upset here would be a tad stunning.
Prediction: Berdych in four sets
Laura Robson vs Evgeniya Rodina
Rodina gave Simona Halep a run for her money in the opening round at Roland Garros, but this one’s all about Robson, who is returning after a year and a half away from the sport due to a wrist injury that has kept her out since the 2014 Australian Open. Though she recently won just one game in her first match back, a loss in Eastbourne, it’s simply nice to see her on the court again. Once one of the brightest prospects on tour and still only 21 years old, Robson already has an Olympic silver medal, having come just short of the mixed doubles title in London with partner Andy Murray, as well as fourth round appearances at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Prediction: Who knows, but rooting for a Robson win
Borna Coric vs Sergiy Stakhovsky
This matchup pits the top teenager in men’s tennis against a tour veteran. Stakhovsky notably upset Roger Federer at Wimbledon during the legend’s down year of 2013, and is known as one of the more unlikable players on tour. Coric meanwhile is often compared to Novak Djokovic and Murray, sometimes by himself even. He has an elite defensive skillset and a strong backhand, but the offensive tools are a major work in progress. With his forehand not yet developed, it’s hard to like his chances on grass.
Prediction: Stakhovsky in four sets