Upsets on the horizon: Wimbledon men’s quarterfinal preview

The men’s singles quarterfinals of Wimbledon are all set, and there’s a ton of intrigue around the matches and competitors.

There are expected faces, like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are still on track to meet in the final a full 10 years after their legendary 2008 match on the same grass courts.

But there’s also the once-again-surging Novak Djokovic, the shockingly-good-on-grass Kevin Anderson, a toss-up between John Isner and Milos Raonic and, of course, Juan Martin del Potro after he finished off Gilles Simon in a delayed match on Tuesday.

There are no really new faces, but each match in the quarterfinal carries a good bit of intrigue, and we’re going to go over the four of them below, starting with the king of Wimbledon himself, and the man who just might pull off the upset against him.

Roger Federer vs. Kevin Anderson

Federer is the top seed after he once again skipped the clay court season to keep himself fresh for his best surface, the grass courts. But he’s running into a guy he hasn’t played in three years and who is doing incredibly well on grass courts in Anderson, the eighth seed.

Federer also has the fact that he’s recently lost to Borna Coric, had to save multiple match points against Benoit Paire and nearly lost to Nick Kyrgios — all on grass.

Let’s talk about Anderson. He’s coming off a four-setter against Gael Monfils in the Round of 16, and also needed four sets to best Andreas Seppi in the second round — but his serve has been incredible. The thing that Federer will lose first is his ability to handle powerful serves, and few serve as hard as Anderson, who has held serve 93.6 percent of the time over his last 10 matches.

That’s a staggering number, and staggering is exactly what a powerful serve does to a technical opponent. Early in the Federer vs. Nadal rivalry, it was about technique vs. power, and though Anderson is more than his power, the grass courts of Wimbledon and the wear on Federer’s body could combine for an unexpected upset on Wednesday.

Federer’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Dusan Lajovic (6-1, 6-3, 6-4), def. Lukas Lacko (6-4, 6-4, 6-1), def. Jan-Lennard Struff (6-3, 7-5, 6-4), def. Adrian Mannarino (6-0, 7-5, 6-4)

Anderson’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Norbert Gombos (6-3, 6-4, 6-4), def. Andreas Seppi (6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4), def. Philipp Kohlschreiber (6-3, 7-5, 7-5), def. Gael Monfils (7-6(4), 7-6(2), 5-7, 7-6(4)

Pick: Anderson

Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Martin del Potro

Nadal and del Potro are similar players, and that typically means they combine for very exciting matches. There have been a couple matches between the two that weren’t close, but most of them — and there have been 14— have been exciting to watch. They last played in the semifinals of the 2017 US Open, a match Nadal won in four sets. Prior to that, they faced off in the semifinals at the 2016 Olympics, where del Potro won in three sets.

Overall, Nadal leads the head-to-head, 9-5, but these things tend to happen in bunches between the two. Nadal won their first four meetings, del Potro the next three, Nadal the next four, del Potro the next two and then Nadal most recently has won one.

Will the bunches continue? It’s certainly possible. Del Potro has only been bothered by one opponent in this year’s tournament, and that’s Simon. But that match was delayed and that always has the potential to throw someone off. Other than that, both have looked phenomenal. This might be the best match of the tournament, as it often is.

Nadal’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Dudi Sela (6-3, 6-3, 6-2), def. Mikhail Kukushkin (6-4, 6-3, 6-4), def Alex DE Minaur (6-1, 6-2, 6-4), def. Jiri Vesely (6-3, 6-3, 6-4)

Del Potro’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Peter Gojowczyk (6-3, 6-4, 6-3), def. Feliciano Lopez (6-4, 6-1, 6-2), def. Benoit Paire (6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3), def. Gilles Simon (7-6(1), 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5)

Pick: del Potro

Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori

While Nishikori became the first Japanese man in 23 years to reach the Wimbledon quarters, most expect his run will end with Wednesday’s match against Djokovic.

That’s because Nishikori has lost to Djokovic 13 times in 15 meetings. The last time Nishikori beat him was in the 2014 US Open semifinals, where he needed four sets to get the win. The other win was in 2011, also on a hard court, in a three-setter. Since the 2014 match, Djokovic has won 12 consecutive matches against Nishikori, including two very recently on the clay courts in Madrid and Rome. Nishikori did manage to take a set off Djokovic in their last meeting, but was dispatched, 6-1, 6-3, in the next two.

Djokovic is in the midst of trying to recover from his recent tennis slump for the fourth or fifth time — it’s hard to keep track. He gets incredibly frustrated and deflated when he isn’t at the top, and it’s been showing for well over a year now. Still, he’s looking as confident as he’s looked in a long time, and he knows he has what it takes to not just beat Nishikori, but do it decisively.

Djokovic’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Tennys Sandgren (6-3, 6-1, 6-2), def. Horacio Zeballos (6-1, 6-2, 6-3), def. Kyle Edmund (4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4), def. Karen Khachanov (6-4, 6-2, 6-2)

Nishikori’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Christian Harrison (6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2), def. Bernard Tomic (2-6, 6-3, 7-6(7), 7-5), def. Nick Kyrgios (6-1, 7-6(3), 6-4), def. Ernests Gulbis (4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(10), 6-1)

Pick: Djokovic

Milos Raonic vs. John Isner

The big factor here is … well, the BIG factor. Both Raonic (the 13th seed) and Isner (the 9th seed) are tall players with powerful serves (Raonic is 6’5 while Isner is 6’10). Both are well-suited to dish out powerful serves on these grass courts, much like Anderson, but with similar skillsets, this one is effectively a toss-up.

They have played each other four times in the past, with Isner winning the first three and Raonic winning the most recent, a straight-set victory in Cincinnati from 2016. They have only ever played each other on hard courts, so there’s even more up in the air. Both are playing well, but Raonic has looked a bit sharper in most of his matches. Expect more tiebreaks.

Raonic’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Liam Broady (7-5, 6-0, 6-1), def. John Millman (7-6(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4), def. Dennis Novak (7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5, 6-2), def. Mackenzie McDonald (6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2)

Isner’s Wimbledon thus far: def. Yannick Maden (6-2, 7-6(4), 7-5), def. Ruben Bemelmans (6-1, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-7(3), 7-5), def. Radu Albot (6-3, 6-3, 6-4), def. Stefanos Tsitsipas (6-4, 7-6(8), 7-6(4)

Pick: Raonic

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