The four top favourites for Wimbledon

By Jürgen Fritz, Sun 26 Jun 2022, Cover photo: © JFB

Who can win the men’s singles competition this year on the grass of Wimbledon, the most traditional and prestigious of all tennis tournaments? In my opinion, only four players can do it.

1. The best grass court player since 2011

Novak Djokovic is still the best of all on grass. Six wins from 2011 to 2021, with Wimbledon 2020 not played because of the pandemic. The last three times the Djoker always won and what I saw from him on Wednesday against Auger-Aliassime, one of the six best grass court players in the world, was incredible. What returns against one of the best servers in the world! Djokovic is the clear favourite No. 1, very strong. But you can beat him. He is not untouchable. But a lot of things have to come together. Maybe that he doesn’t have his best day and that you play enormously well yourself. Three people in particular can play enormously well on grass, and they can be trusted not only to play one, two or three convincing matches, but to go through the whole tournament: seven rounds of best of five. Not many can do that.

Wimbledon winner since 2003

2003: Federer vs Philipoussis
2004: Federer vs Roddick
2005: Federer vs Roddick
2006: Federer vs Nadal
2007: Federer vs Nadal
2008: Nadal vs Federer (final of the century)
2009: Federer vs Roddick
2010: Nadal vs Berdych
2011: Djokovic vs Nadal
2012: Federer vs Murray
2013: Murray vs Djokovic
2014: Djokovic vs. Federer
2015: Djokovic vs Federer
2016: Murray vs Raonic
2017: Federer vs Cilic
2018: Djokovic vs Anderson (in the semi-final/advanced final against Nadal)
2019: Djokovic vs Federer (another final of the century)
2020: cancelled
2021: Djokovic vs Berrettini
2022: ?

2. The winner of Stuttgart and Queen’s Club and last year’s finalist

Matteo Berrettini is definitely one of the favourites. The Italian reached the Wimbledon final against Djokovic last year, beat Hurkacz in the semi-finals, has won a series of grass-court tournaments since 2019 and came back enormously strong after his three-month injury break and hand surgery just three weeks ago, immediately winning the grass-court tournament in Stuttgart (E) and then Queen’s Club (D) in London. Hardly anyone serves with such power and consistency. Almost every first serve flies in at around 220 km/h and his forehand is also powerful, his backhand slice ideal for grass. I liked Hurkacz in Halle even better than Berrettini in London, but I trust the Italian to become even stronger over the next two weeks. After a quarter of a year off, he should still be in the rebuilding phase and could perhaps reach his peak in the second week of Wimbledon if things go well for him.

3. The underestimated – winner of Halle and last year’s semi-finalist

In my opinion, Hubert Hurkacz is underestimated. The Pole already reached the semi-finals last year, completely dismantled record winner Roger Federer (eight Wimbledon titles) in the quarter-finals, gave him an enormously painful 6-0 in the third set. And what the Pole showed last week in Halle (D) was more than impressive. He successively beat Felix Auger-Aliassime, the enormously strong Nick Kyrgios on grass and then in the final he dismantled the world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in 62 minutes 6-1, 6-2. Hurkacz is very strong on grass, one of the best, and unlike Auger-Aliassime, for example, he has nerves of steel, is in an excellent mental position, stays very calm and concentrated and does his thing without any fluttering nerves until the end. Hurkacz is also underestimated by the bookmakers. For me, he is one of the four best on grass at the moment and his ATP final record speaks for itself: 5-0. That shows: When it comes down to it, Hurkacz is at his best. In terms of playing strength, I see Hurkacz at about the same level as Berrettini, just ahead of Nadal.

4. The record Grand Slam champion

Everyone knows that Rafael Nadal can win the big tournaments, and still can. No one has done it more often than him. 22 Grand Slam titles are unique in the history of men’s tennis. Rafa knows how to do it and he is also strong on grass, even though it is perhaps the most difficult surface for him. Nevertheless, when he is physically fit, he is also one of the four, five, six best here. And he has something that only very few players have: He can improve again in the very important moments, doesn’t drop off, but then goes one better. In 2022, he has been the all-important player so far, winning the Australian Open straight away after almost six months of injury, which was never easy for him, and then Roland Garros for the 14th time, beating four top ten players in a row, including Auger-Aliassime, Djokovic and Zverev, despite foot problems. He can also win Wimbledon because he is made for the really big events and can focus like hardly anyone else.

Nadal may not have exactly the same grass court level as Hurkacz and Berrettini – or Djokovic anyway – but he has the Rafa spirit and the Nadal experience. He can release additional energy in the really big events, when most of them collapse under the pressure or at least noticeably weaken, he is mentally stronger. That can be the deciding factor in a Grand Slam semi-final or final. But Djokovic also has this mental strength and on grass he is a bit stronger with his enormously effective service and his brilliant returns. On grass, those are the two key strokes, the player opening. Therefore, the Serb remains the top favourite. Hurkacz and Berrettini will have to go to their absolute limits to beat him, Rafa as well. But the three of them can at least do it.

The favourites in the second row

5. Felix AugerAliassime is very strong on grass, but doesn’t have the mental strength to win an A tournament. The young Canadian will be very hard to beat in the early rounds until the quarter-finals, but to see it through to the end of the tournament, I don’t trust him.

6. The same goes for Nick Kyrgios, who is always good for individual world-class matches and can be a fire hazard for anyone. He’s tremendously strong on grass but I don’t think he’ll last that long a tournament over seven rounds.

7. Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won his first grass court tournament yesterday in Mallorca, is also a very good player, made it to the final at Roland Garros in 2021, but others are a bit stronger on grass. He could meet Kyrgios in the third round, a very tough match for both, but I see Kyrgios in the lead.

8. Marin Cilic has been playing really well again for a few months and surprised many people by reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros. He’s actually even stronger on grass. But here he would have to beat Nadal and Auger-Aliassime to get that far. That will be very difficult for him.

9. Andy Murray has always been good on grass, winning the 2012 Wimbledon Olympics, 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon Championships. In Stuttgart he beat Tsitsispas in the quarter-finals, Kyrgios in the semi-finals and only lost to Berrettini in the final. Andy is enormously strong on grass. But with his metal hip, I don’t trust him to go through such a long, difficult tournament over seven rounds a best of five. But he could make the quarter-finals.

Djokovic, Hurkacz, Berrettini or Nadal, one of these four will win the title

I have left Carlos Alcaraz out of my list of favourites altogether after watching him play Tiafoe and Ruud at Hurlingham on Thursday and Saturday. He lost both matches in 0-2 sets, really didn’t play well. Either he is out of shape, has problems with his elbow or grass doesn’t suit him. Alcaraz will not play a big role in Wimbledon 2022.

With that, I’ll make up my mind: Djokovic will win the title again or one of the three: Hurkacz, Berrettini or Nadal. Those are the only ones who can really challenge Nole at Wimbledon. By the way, Djokovic and Nadal have won 16 of the last 20 Grand Slam tournaments since Roland Garros 2017:

Australian Open – Roland Garros – Wimbledon – US Open

2017: FedererNadalFedererNadal
2018: FedererNadalDjokovicDjokovic
2019: DjokovicNadalDjokovicNadal
2020: DjokovicNadal – cancelled – Thiem
2021: DjokovicDjokovicDjokovic – Medvedev
2022: Nadal Nadal – ?

The draw

This is the draw of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships in men’s singles. Possible third round (R32). In brackets I have marked my favourites from 1 to 9:

  1. Djokovic (1) v Kecmanovic
  2. Basilashvili v Opelka
  3. Sinner / Wawrinka v Murray (9) / Isner
  4. Otte v Alcaraz

  5. Ruud / Ramos Vinolas v Goffin / Baez
  6. Tiafoe v Carreno Busta
  7. Norrie v Dimitrov
  8. Paul v Hurkacz (3)

  9. Berrettini (2) v Brooksby
10. de Minaur v Schwartzman
11. Shapovalov v Bautista Agut
12. Krajinovic / Kyrgios (6) v Tsitsipas (7)

13. Auger-Aliassime (5) / Cressy v Evans
14. Rune v Fritz
15. Cilic (8) v van de Zandschulp
16. Sonego v Nadal (4)

Very grateful draw for Hurkacz, very difficult for Nadal

Hurkacz, who I rate as strong as Berrettini and Nadal, has the easiest draw of the top players in my estimation. He should be able to march effortlessly through to the semi-finals in the second quarter, if he plays in halfway normal form. There he should meet Djokovic, who won’t be stopped by Murray or Alcaraz. Then we would have the first absolute top match.

The lower half seems to me to be stronger. Here, Berrettini should march through to the quarter-finals. There he could meet Kyrgios, who can eliminate Tsitsipas if he is physically fit. Berrettini vs Kyrgios or Tsitsipas could be the hammer quarter-final.

Nadal has once again had a tough draw. He already faces Cilic in the last 16, then Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals, Berrettini (or Kyrgios) in the semi-finals and Djokovic (or Hurkacz) in the final. That means he would have to knock out four of the nine best grass players top ten in a row, as he did at the French Open. Very difficult fare.


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