Thursday 19 October 2017 / 03:51 AM

AUSSIES FACE TOUGH WIMBLEDON ROAD

The 131st edition of the Wimbledon Championships begin on Monday and the Australian players have been dealt very difficult draws.

Nick Kyrgios leads the Aussie charge in the men’s field as the 20th seed. However, the former Wimbledon quarterfinalist has been placed in the top quarter of the draw, along with defending champion Andy Murray.

Kyrgios could face the World No.1 as early as the fourth round. But that is only the beginning of his troubles. In order to even get to that potential match-up, Kyrgios has to overcome tricky Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the fiery Fabio Fognini. The ever-dangerous Fernando Verdasco also lurks in the top quarter. Furthermore, if Kyrgios manages to overcome all of these hurdles, he could be on track to a quarterfinal showdown against nemesis Stan Wawrinka.

In contrast, his first-round clash against Pierre-Hugues Herbert is a very winnable match for the 22-year-old, despite it being their first tour meeting. But Kyrgios does enter the Grand Slam under an injury cloud after he was forced to retire from last week’s warm up event – the Aegon Championships – with a hip injury.

“It’s (my hip) not great. I played a couple of matches at Boodles the last couple of days to see where I was at and it’s definitely not 100 percent,” Kyrgios told media at the Boodles exhibition event, rating his fitness a mere 60-65 per cent.

“But I’m still going to obviously feel confident on the grass,” he added.

“I can serve well and still be successful but, at the same time, it’s not where I’d like my body to be.”

Fellow Australians Jordan Thompson, Thanasi Kokkinakis, John Millman and Bernard Tomic have also been landed with similarly tough draws.

Millman faces the incredibly difficult task of mustering two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in the opening round. But an optimistic Millman declined to rule himself out of contention ahead of his first meeting against the Spaniard.

“I’ve been brought up the wrong way if I went into a match thinking I couldn’t win,” Millman said.

“And it sounds stupid maybe when you’re up against someone of the calibre of a Rafael Nadal and all he’s done, but I’ve always been brought up not to play anyone’s reputation.

“Be respectful to your opponent but turn it into a fight out there.”

Despite his confidence, Millman is fully aware of the danger Nadal presents, adding that he believed the recent French Open champion was one of the favourites for the tournament before the draw was announced.

“We start off even, it’s early on in the slam and anything’s possible … Rafa’s a little bit of a daunting prospect due to the fact that he seems at times relentless in his approach in early rounds,” Millman said.

“He wants to get on and get off the court. He’s not going out there to make any friends. It’s definitely a tough draw. I’ve got him pegged as one of the two favourites going into the tournament.”

World No.86 Jordan Thompson enters Wimbledon riding a wave of confidence following his straight-sets upset of Andy Murray at the Queen’s Club tournament last fortnight. He begins his campaign against 25th-seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and he could be on track to a third-round battle against sixth-ranked Milos Raonic.

Bernard Tomic kick-starts his campaign against 27th-seed Mischa Zverev, who is widely known for ousting Murray at the Australian Open earlier this year. He is also the older brother of rising young gun Alexander Zverev.

Tomic’s season has become increasingly mediocre, winning just eight matches since January. He does hold a 1-0 advantage against Zverev though, after recently defeating him in straight sets at Eastbourne.

In the bottom half of the draw Thanasi Kokkinakis has his own problems to deal with, drawing the powerfully resurgent Juan Martin del Potro. Kokkinakis has battled his way back from injury and played the match of his life two weeks ago to upset Milos Raonic at Queen’s, however he followed it up with what he referred to as “the worst performance of my life” losing to Daniil Medvedev in just 59 minutes. This will be the first time he has faced del Potro.

Young qualifier Andrew Whittington will bolster the Aussie contingent in the draw, as he prepares to feature in his maiden Wimbledon main draw after a stunning 4-6 2-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 victory over Denis Kudla in the qualifying rounds. Whittington kicks off his campaign against Thiago Monteiro from Brazil.

Roger Federer is the favourite for the title, a status bolstered by recently winning his ninth Halle trophy, but the 35-year-old faces an arduous road to his eighth Wimbledon crown. In the first round he faces the tricky Alexandr Dolgopolov, while John Isner, Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Sock, the Zverev brothers and Milos Raonic all loom in the same third quarter of the draw.

In women’s action, Daria Gavrilova looms as Australia’s best chance as the 20th seed. She recently overtook Sam Stosur as the top-ranked Australian women’s player and begins her campaign against qualifier Petra Martic. Meanwhile, Stosur will miss the Grand Slam with a wrist injury.

16th-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could be a third-round opponent, while Kristina Mladenovic, Coco Vandeweghe, Daria Kasatkina and Caroline Wozniacki all feature in the second quarter of the draw.

Ashleigh Barty continues her comeback against fourth seed Elina Svitolina. Barty enters the Championships with momentum after reaching the Birmingham final last week, narrowly losing to Petra Kvitova in three sets. However, Svitolina leads their head-to-head 1-0, having defeated Barty 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 at the Fed Cup earlier this year.

166th-ranked Australian Arina Rodionova also earned her Wimbledon berth, winning through the qualifying rounds. She is set for a difficult challenge against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is the 16th seed this fortnight.

All of the action from the championships begins at 11am (8pm AEST) on July 3.

WIMBLEDON 2017 – DAY 1 SCHEDULE

CENTRE COURT – 1:00PM

  1. Andy Murray (GBR) [1] v Alexander Bublik (KAZ)
  2. Johanna Larsson (SWE) v Petra Kvitova (CZE) [11]
  3. Daniil Medvedev (RUS) v Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [5]

NO.1 COURT – 1:00PM

  1. Elise Mertens (BEL) v Venus Williams (USA) [10]
  2. Rafael Nadal (ESP) [4] v John Millman (AUS)
  3. Johanna Konta (GBR) [6] v Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE)

NO.2 COURT – 11:30AM

  1. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [12] v Cameron Norrie (GBR)
  2. Marina Erakovic (NZL) v Simona Halep (ROU) [2]
  3. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) v Marin Cilic (CRO) [7]
  4. Maryna Zanevska (BEL) v Heather Watson (GBR)

NO.3 COURT – 11:30AM

  1. Nick Kyrgios (AUS) [20] v Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA)
  2. Ashleigh Barty (AUS) v Elina Svitolina (UKR) [4]
  3. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) [21] v Aljaz Bedene (GBR)
  4. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) [13] v Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR)

COURT 12 – 11:30AM

  1. Nao Hibino (JPN) v Madison Keys (USA) [17]
  2. Kei Nishikori (JPN) [9] v Marco Cecchinato (ITA)
  3. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [8] v Andrea Petkovic (GER)
  4. Steve Johnson (USA) [26] v Nicolas Kicker (ARG)

COURT 18 – 11:30AM

  1. Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) v Laura Robson (GBR)
  2. Fernando Verdasco (ESP) [31] v Kevin Anderson (RSA)
  3. Marton Fucsovics (HUN) v Gilles Muller (LUX) [16]

 

 

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Alyssia Varricchio

Alyssia Varricchio is a sports reporter, journalist and producer based in Melbourne.

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