Matteo Berrettini v Christian Garin
The big Italian has a real crack at the Wimbledon title this year. He only returned from a surgery after three months out at Stuttgart three weeks ago. However, he hasn’t lost a match since his comeback and there has certainly not been any affect to his serve.
The numbers on Berrettini’s serve are unbelievable. He has an all-time career service hold percentage of over 90% on grass, 92.7% in 2022. His forehand is one of the key reasons that he is difficult to break as well because the serve is that strong that the returner can rarely find the weaker backhand side of the Italian.
Christian Garin is a clay-court specialist, albeit a good player on other surfaces too. He has a 3-3 win-loss record on the surface but he is nowhere near Berrettini’s standard on the green stuff. In their previous matches Berrettini has won two out of three, but won the non-clay court match in a convincing straight sets.
Also, with those injury concerns it is likely that the #8 seed will want to conserve energy in the opening rounds where possible. This is why I like the straight sets angle here.
Mikhail Kukushkin v Jenson Brooksby
Kukushkin has long loved playing on the faster surfaces. He helped Kazakhstan punch well above their weight in the Davis Cup when it was decided by home-and-away ties – the Kazakhs nearly always choosing a fast indoor hardcourt for ‘Kuku’ and co to perform on.
On grass, Kukushkin made the last 16 here at Wimbledon three years ago, while he’s also a former semi-finalist in Eastbourne, so he’ll have no qualms about playing on the surface. He put a recent injury firmly behind him last week, winning three qualifiers down the road at Roehampton to set up this contest.
Brooksby, however, has very much struggled for wins since moving onto the grass – the numbers show he’s won just one of four matches and he was hammered 6-2 6-2 by Jack Draper in Eastbourne last week.
He looks like a player waiting for a return to his favoured hardcourts and Kukushkin could hasten his return to North America with an upset victory here.
Denis Shapovalov v Arthur Rinderknech
The Canadian #2 is a talented player, as we saw at Wimbledon last year when he reached the quarterfinals. However, he is on a rotten run of form. He produced an excellent victory over Nadal in Madrid, but hasn’t won a match since then.
It is possible that a return to SW19 could inspire him but this is going to be a competitive match. Rinderknech has a big serve himself and is familiar with coming forwards into the forecourt. As a title winner in 2022 and the winner of the last match between the pair the Frenchman will definitely fancy his chances here.
It has a potential five-setter written all over it so I will be disappointed if both players don’t win a set in this match.
Serena Williams v Harmony Tan
In many ways, it’s anyone’s guess what level of tennis we’re going to get from Williams in this match, her first in singles in exactly a year.
She didn’t look in the greatest shape in Eastbourne last week where she did at least manage to win two doubles matches alongside Ons Jabeur. What remains on her side is her ability to hit the ball with great power and that may be enough against an admittedly fairly-limited opponent. However, what Tan does have is an ability to mix things up and I have no doubt she’ll try to move Williams around the court to test her fitness and movement – the latter being particularly important on the grass.
If she’s able to do that, the Frenchwoman may well force errors from the former champion’s racquet and backing the upset is a tempting proposition given the circumstances.
Sonay Kartal v Danka Kovinic
A lot of people won’t have heard of Kartal, but the young British player has made some waves over the last few months in the domestic game.
There are a series of events that are played in the UK on the ITF circuit, which is two tiers below the WTA circuit, and Kartal went on a four tournament winning streak at these events in Nottingham, Glasgow and Birmingham. She defeated some very good players en route to these titles and it is a more impressive senior ITF CV than even the likes of her contemporary, Emma Raducanu, managed.
Kovinic is no mug though. Last seen testing Iga Swiatek in the third round in Roland-Garros, the reason that I am backing against her is her grass court record. The Montenegrin is 1-9 on grass and clearly doesn’t seem to get on with the surface.
Kartal will have been preparing hard for this tournament having been told about her wildcard a few weeks ago and undoubtedly she will be tuned into the surface now. I give her an excellent chance of progression here.
Karolina Muchova v Simona Halep
Muchova’s court craft looks set to make this an awkward contest for the 2019 champion.
She showed her full repertoire of shots during last year’s run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals and I’m sure she’ll do all she can to throw Halep off course. The Romanian will be playing in SW19 for the first time since her 2019 title success – COVID denied everyone a 2020 tournament, while last year she had to withdraw due to injury.
Another injury issue reared its head last week when Halep withdrew from her semi-final in Bad Homburg due to a neck problem, although we don’t really know how serious that was. Muchova, who beat Maria Sakkari at the recent French Open, is returning to some fort of form after an injury-hit season but she looks dangerous here at a decent price.
With the duo having yet to meet, she could well surprise Halep with her variety of shots and looks worth chancing.
Zizou Bergs v Jack Draper
Bergs will be very much on a high at the moment. A late wild card recipient, the Belgian received the honour as a result of winning the Ilkley Challenger last week, beating Jack Sock in the final there. He has since gone to the exhibition at Hurlingham and defeated French Open finalist Casper Ruud convincingly.
However, Jack Draper has also been quite convincing in his recent ATP matches. He has broken into the top 100 in the last few weeks and is surely destined to climb even higher soon. The big lefty game is reminiscent of Greg Rusedski’s, except Draper has a bit more bulk about him and more power from the baseline.
Both men are in good form then and this should be a highly competitive encounter. As always, when betting the both players to win a set market, a tiebreak or two is likely to play a part and it could go either way.
Felix Auger-Aliassime v Maxime Cressy
There seems unlikely to be much between these two given what we’ve seen from them in the last few weeks on the grass.
Both have been excellent on serve, holding with great regularity. Cressy used his big delivery to reach the Eastbourne final last week and on grass in 2022 he’s now held in 94% of his service games.
Auger-Aliassime isn’t far behind, on 93%, and he’s also had some decent results, making the semi-finals in Den Bosch and the quarter-finals in Halle. On each occasion he lost to the eventual champion, with Hubert Hurkacz winning their contest in Halle despite failing to break the Canadian’s serve. Auger-Aliassime will start a firm favourite but when looking at his Grand Slam record, the number of first-round losses is notable – six in 12 Slams so far in his career.
This year he’s required five sets to win his opener at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros and if he sails that close to the wind here, Cressy may well be able to punish him with the smaller margin of error the grass offers, especially in matches involving two big servers.
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How to watch Wimbledon
📅 When is Day 2 of Wimbledon? / Tuesday, 28th June 2022 from 11am
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