Wimbledon: Five men who could make the second week for the first time

 

The grass-court season lasts for only six weeks, perhaps explaining why many top-level pros struggle to make the adjustment from clay. Here are five players looking to make a breakthrough at SW19.

 

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem

The Austrian has, since 2015, looked one of the most likely contenders to upset the established order and at the age of 23 is playing some of the finest tennis of his career. A grass-court title at Stuttgart in June last year demonstrated that he has the attributes to be successful on the surface, but he has yet to show that at SW19, having only made the second round in the last two years. His preparation for Wimbledon has not been ideal, after suffering a shock defeat on Tuesday to world number 222 Ramkumar Ramanathan in Antalya. However, if the right-hander can rekindle the form that saw him demolish Novak Djokovic in Paris earlier this month, he will be an irresistible force.

 

Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev1

The lanky German has already surpassed the achievements of his brother Mischa, who is nine years his senior. However, the 20-year-old has yet to realise his potential in the Grand Slams, with the third round his best-ever finish at the All England Club. Despite his lack of success on grass, Zverev has begun to turn the corner recently, reaching the final in Halle and beating Roberto Bautista Agut and Richard Gasquet along the way. However, he came up against an imperious Roger Federer in the final, who swatted him aside 6-1, 6-3, underlining that he has a lot of work to do before being talked about in the same reverence as the Swiss maestro. One to keep an eye on though.

 

Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils

Amazingly, the miracle man with the elastic legs has never contested the second week at Wimbledon. Known for his incredible athleticism and exuberant shot-making, Monfils has always been a crowd-pleaser, but he has had a tendency to lose his composure in the important matches. The 30-year-old has yet to reach a final on the Tour this year, but could break that duck this week having moved into the last four of Eastbourne following victories over British prospect Cameron Norrie and the rangy Australian Bernard Tomic. Given his unpredictable nature, it is difficult to know which Monfils will turn up, but his semi-final showing at the US Open last year suggests that he cannot be discounted.

 

Jack Sock

Jack Sock

It is a sad indictment of men’s tennis in the United States that their top player lies just inside the top 20, but Sock is certainly a man who has aspirations to reduce that ranking to single figures. The 24-year-old has made encouraging progress in the past few years, with 2017 undoubtedly being the Nebraskan’s high water mark, after scooping first prize in Delray Beach and Auckland. Success on grass has been elusive thus far in his career, but somewhat suprisingly for an elite singles player Sock also excels in doubles and sensationally partnered Vasek Pospisil to the Wimbledon title three years ago, defeating the top-seeded Bryan brothers. Sock and Pospisil were unseeded.

 

John Isner

John Isner

Despite his intimidating serve and powerful groundstrokes, John Isner has found the third round his ceiling at Wimbledon. At 32, the Florida resident is certainly not a youngster, but the likes of Federer and Serena Williams have shown that you can still play at the top of your game into your mid-thirties. The University of Georgia graduate has claimed two grass-court titles in his career, both in Newport, Rhode Island. However, his most well-known achievement on the surface was defeating Frenchman and now friend Nicolas Mahut back in 2010 in what is the longest match in tennis history, with Isner dragging himself to victory in a marathon final set that finished 70-68.

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Featured image: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

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Roland Garros: Five men who could make the second week for the first time

With the second Grand Slam of the year about to begin, it seemed high time to look at some of the players who could break new ground at Roland Garros this year and possibly spring a few surprises along the way.

Alexander Zverev

Zverev

Zverev is in the form of his life and is destined to remain in the upper echelons of the game for many years to come. The rangy right-hander has enjoyed a breakthrough year on the Tour, but there were signs in 2016 that he would be one to watch, when he sewed the title in St. Petersburg last September, defeating Stan Wawrinka in the final over three sets.

Since then, the German has gone from strength to strength, adding three more titles to his collection, two of which came on clay. His ability to raise his game against the world’s elite has been astonishing and was underlined when he outclassed Novak Djokovic to pick his most recent crown in Rome.

Zverev will face a very stiff first-round test in the form of Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, but the 20-year-old has already shown on a number of occasions that he can overcome adversity.

Grigor Dimitrov

Dimitrov

Many who watched Dimitrov blitz Andy Murray in a clinical Wimbledon quarter-final performance in 2014 would have expected the Bulgarian to push on. It hasn’t quite transpired like that, but the 26-year-old is displaying his swashbuckling brand of tennis on a far more regular basis in 2017.

The recruitment of coach Dani Vallverdu, formerly part of Murray’s coaching set-up, was a major coup and the intensive work that took place in the off-season in Monte Carlo has paid dividends. Impressive victories over Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori led the former junior champion at the All England Club to the title in Brisbane and this was backed up with a memorable victory in Sofia.

His first encounter during the fortnight will be against the experienced Frenchman Stephane Robert. Time will tell if Dimitrov can break his Grand Slam final duck.

Lucas Pouille

Lucas Pouille

Pouille was not on many people’s radar heading into last year and his name would have drawn shrugs from many regular observers of the sport. However, that all changed in 2016, when the 23-year-old reached two Tour finals and two consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals, at Wimbledon and the US Open, which included a sensational win over Rafael Nadal in the latter competition.

His sole title triumph this year was on clay in Budapest, where he convincingly crushed Briton Aljaz Bedene. At 6′ 1” he is not one of the tallest men on the circuit, but the Dubai resident compensates for that deficiency with a strong defensive game and a searing two-handed backhand.

Pouille’s first assignment at his home Major is against compatriot Julien Benneteau, a team-mate in France’s Davis Cup team. Given his remarkable recent improvement, bettering last year’s third-round performance at Roland Garros seems highly likely.

Nick Kyrgios

Kyrgios

Kyrgios has been beset by plenty of controversies in his fledgling career, but the 22-year-old has certainly matured recently and his scintillating brand of tennis can trouble any player in the world.

The Australian shot to prominence at Wimbledon three years ago, with an all-action display that shocked Nadal and those in attendance at SW19. His explosive groundstrokes, excellent balance and soft hands make him an exciting player to watch and last year saw him develop greater consistency with titles in Marseille, Atlanta and Tokyo. 2017 has not been as successful trophies-wise, but Kyrgios has claimed two notable scalps over Novak Djokovic.

The Canberra-born player’s first test will be against the elegant Philipp Kohlschreiber, who could push his young opponent all the way. A potentially intriguing duel.

Pablo Carreno Busta

Pablo Carreno Busta

One of a seemingly endless number of Spaniards to roll off the production line, Carreno Busta has taken a little longer to bloom than some of his fellow countrymen. However, his game has come in massively in the last year and he is currently nestled just outside the top 20.

The 25-year-old can generate a lot of power off both wings and is not afraid to come in and dispatch the loose ball when necessary, with his delicate touch at the net an indication of his extensive doubles experience. Last year saw him pick up his first ATP Tour titles, in Winston-Salem and Moscow. The Gijon-born player then captured his first clay court title in Estoril just three weeks ago.

Carreno Busta faces German Florian Mayer in round one, with a potential third-round match-up against Dimitrov on the horizon.

Featured image: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

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