The gentlemen’s singles draw for Wimbledon 2015 has been released, with seeded players in white:
And here's the complete entire #Wimbledon men's draw. Should be fun! pic.twitter.com/NniXk2z6lg
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 26, 2015
Here are the items of foremost importance after the revelation of the brackets:
The biggest question in the men’s draw, in terms of pointing the path to the eventual champion, was whether Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer (the top two seeds) would have Andy Murray land in their half of the draw. Murray is playing great tennis and is as much of an in-form player as anyone else in the ATP field. Renewed, fully healthy, and aided by the healing passage of time, Murray looks like a man ready to win another major.
As great as Stan Wawrinka (the other top-four seed) was in Paris, the newly-crowned French Open champion is not as central a threat on grass. Djokovic and Federer would have preferred Wawrinka in their half. The winner: Djokovic. He gets the Swiss No. 2, while Federer has to face the prospect of playing Murray in the semifinals. It’s true that Federer and Rafael Nadal — bracketed to play each other before the final in each of the past two Wimbledons — never did meet. Both players were upset in 2013, and Nadal was bounced in the fourth round of the 2014 event by Nick Kyrgios. It could very well be that Federer and Murray might not match wits in the semis. However, one thing is clear: Djokovic is free from either of them until the final, meaning he has to beat only one of them to win Wimbledon. Murray and Federer might catch a break, but they also might have to beat the other just to earn a date with Djokovic on Sunday, July 12.
The other really big question in the men’s draw was always going to be where Rafael Nadal landed. Seeded tenth, Nadal was always going to face a top-10 player (more precisely, someone seeded 5 through 8) in the fourth round, but the bigger issue was which top-four quarter he was going to fall into. The answer: Murray.
In light of the fact that Murray handled Nadal with relative ease in the Madrid (clay) Masters final over a month ago, Murray would enter a quarterfinal clash as the clear favorite. However, it’s very much worth pointing out that while Murray has defeated Nadal in the two hardcourt majors — at the Australian and United States Opens — he has never beaten Rafa on French Open clay or Wimbledon lawns. In one quarterfinal and two semifinals from 2008 through 2011, Nadal won nine of ten sets against Murray.
Is Murray a different player with a different perspective, now that he’s won a couple of majors (including Wimbledon) and regained health following back surgery in 2013? Sure. However, if Nadal — a player who has had trouble getting through the earlier stages of Wimbledon the past few years — can in fact plant himself in the middle of the second week, the Spaniard could arrive at that match with a newfound comfort zone. Yes, Murray would deserve to be the favorite, but if Nadal can get past the fourth round (his possible opponent: David Ferrer), he might become more formidable than anyone in the community of tennis pundits is currently ready to accept.
Nadal is the kind of player who must always be respected, but at this specific point in time, it is hard to trust him in main-event showdowns against top players. It’s true that Murray has not beaten a member of the so-called “Big Three” at a major since his 2013 Wimbledon title (also not since his 2013 back surgery), but he’s made the final in Australia and the semis at Roland Garros. He won his grasscourt warm-up at Queen’s Club a week ago, and though Nadal captured the ATP 250 title in Stuttgart, Murray is a sharper lasher of the ball on lawns right now.
If we’re lucky enough to see a non-clay Murray-Nadal matchup at a major for the first time since 2011, the confrontation would overflow with intrigue and potentially reshape the rest of the tennis season for both men. This doesn’t mean victory would automatically be transformative for the winner; it could well be that a gallant loss will give Nadal the belief that his game is rounding into form, setting the table for a genuine resurgence in the summer hardcourt season. That’s just one of several scenarios in play if this quarterfinal comes to pass.
If you’re inclined to bet on all top four seeds making the semifinals, you’d be exercising sound logic. Kei Nishikori had to withdraw from his grasscourt warm-up tournament in Halle; he was barely moving in his truncated semifinal against Andreas Seppi. Milos Raonic, a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year, is just getting back into the swing of things after foot surgery a month ago. David Ferrer has never made the semifinals of Wimbledon. If any of the players seeded 5 through 8 has a shot at the final, it’s Tomas Berdych, but given the way he bowed out of the French Open, you’re not going to see bettors flocking to the window to put some cash on him reaching the final.
The inability of “the next generation” of ATP players to make a dent in the 28-and-older crowd (Djokovic and Murray both turned 28 in May) is one reason to expect the top seeds to advance. Form and health among the 5 through 8 seeds, plus Nadal at 10, represents another convincing reason to pick “chalk” at SW19.
The French Open, however, ultimately surprised us. Wawrinka, seeded eighth and coming off a complete meltdown in the Rome semifinals against Federer, regained focus and was locked in for the whole tournament, save for a brief vacation in the second set of his Roland Garros semifinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in searing Parisian heat.
Will a Wawrinka-level surprise emerge at Wimbledon? As Richard Krajicek in 1996 or Goran Ivanisevic as a wild card in 2001 could tell you, all things are possible.
It’s just very hard to see what’s possible when men’s tennis — even with all its major-tournament surprises over the past year and a half — continues to provide a relatively small pool of title contenders at its biggest events.
This is great news for Novak Djokovic, and good news for Andy Murray. What it means for everyone else is uncertain as The Championships arrive.