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Nadal has tough road in quest for Paris-Wimbledon double

Nadal adopts an anguished look against Steve Darcis.
by Dan Imhoff
Friday 20 June 2014

With the arrival of a Grand Slam draw, players roll out the scripted line of not looking beyond their next match. Given world No.1 Rafael Nadal’s hasty exits in his past two Wimbledon campaigns, it stands to reason.

But when the two-time champion is projected for a second-round rematch with the Czech player who bludgeoned him on the grass only two years ago, whispers of revenge begin to circulate.

With due respect, the No.2 seed should have few difficulties opening against the Slovak, Martin Klizan. Having crashed out badly in Halle to Jamaican-German Dustin Brown only last week though, he will be keen to get things off to a smoother start, given his flunk to Belgian Steve Darcis at the same stage last year.

That aforementioned bludgeoning Czech was Lukas Rosol and he would first have to get past Frenchman Benoit Paire.

Should revenge eventuate, Nadal could face the perennial dangerous floater on the grass, big-serving Ivo Karlovic, in the third round before a likely fourth-round date with a Frenchman – either Richard Gasquet or Roland Garros quarter-finalist Gael Monfils.

If swatting back Karlovic’s missiles weren’t enough, the Spaniard is drawn to meet the monster serve of Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals. The Canadian, who made his first-ever major quarter-final earlier this month in Paris, has a smooth path until an expected fourth-round match with Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

Should the draw pan out accordingly, Nadal's 34th instalment in his rivalry with Roger Federer would take place in the semi-finals. The Swiss No.4 seed has won two of their three grass-court showdowns (all with the Wimbledon trophy on the line) and launches his bid for an eighth crown at the All England Club against Italian Paolo Lorenzi.

From there, Federer could face a tricky second-round hurdle in either Frenchman Julian Benneteau or Luxembourg lefty Gilles Muller. Last year’s semi-finalist, No.15 seed Jerzy Janowicz, is his likely fourth-round assignment, but the Pole would possibly have to negotiate his way past 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian making his 16th main-draw Wimbledon appearance. Hewitt opens against Janowicz’s countryman Michal Przysiezny.

A potential all-Swiss quarter-final between Davis Cup team-mates is on the cards. World No.3 Stan Wawrinka – bumped to No.5 in the seedings for Wimbledon – will be out to atone for a shock first-round tumble against Hewitt last year, when he starts against Portugal’s Joao Sousa. Russian Dmitry Tursunov could prove difficult in the third round before Wawrinka would potentially have to stifle the big serve of American No.9 seed John Isner.

Top seed Novak Djokovic comes off a disappointing loss in the final at Roland Garros – his fifth defeat in his past seven Grand Slam finals – and is desperate to rediscover the form that took him to the men’s title at SW19 in 2011.

The Serb kicks off against Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev, with two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a tough expected fourth-round task. A quarter-final showdown with 2010 finalist and No.6 seed Tomas Berdych is tipped, but the Czech No.6 seed could face more than a few headaches against Croatia's Marin Cilic in the third round before having to avenge his Roland Garros defeat by Ernests Gulbis in the fourth round.

Djokovic would likely face a rematch of last year’s final against defending champion, Andy Murray, in the semi-finals.

Murray, who benefitted most from the seedings not running according to rankings (moving from No.5 to No.3), has arguably the easiest draw of the top four seeds. The Scot opens against Belgian David Goffin, a match which will open play on Centre Court Monday, as tradition directs. Murray is projected to meet Fabio Fognini in the third round, the Italian who defeated him in Davis Cup play earlier this year, but a player whose best results have come on clay.

In the quarter-finals the No.3 seed is slated to face Spaniard David Ferrer, who enters recovering from a stomach complaint this week. Recent Queen’s champion Grigor Dimitrov, though, could be Murray’s biggest pre-semi-final threat should Dimitrov get past Ferrer. The Bulgarian meets another young gun, American qualifier Ryan Harrison, first up, and would likely have to negotiate a way past flashy Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round.

For flashy shot-making from any corner of the court, it is hard to look past the marquee first-round showdown between the dreadlocked Dustin Brown and Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis, who recently won the Nottingham Challenger, his first title of any sort since Sydney 2010, is a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, while Brown upset Nadal only last week on the grass in Halle.

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