Looking at the recent history of this event, it’s not one to go gung-ho on underdogs at, with, like the rest of the majors really, a small percentage of them winning every year.
In Wimbledon’s case there have been only 24% of underdog winners on average in the last six years and in round one that figure dips to 21%.
As far as tie breaks are concerned, the longer format leads to more tie breaks and 56% of the matches here have featured at least one in the last six years, with round one seeing 44% of matches in the last six years featuring a tie break (rounds 2 and 4 are as high as 63%).
Last year qualifiers and lucky losers went 8-15 win/loss in round one and weather-wise we’re expecting a cloudy day, with no rain expected, but a fair strength wind at 20kph.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs Alexei Popyrin
PCB tried his best on the grass of Antalya last week, but he just isn’t up to the job on a grass court and an opponent with a strong serve and heavy ground strokes should have the edge over him most times on grass.
I watched a bit of Popyrin in qualies on Thursday in a tough clash against Bjorn Fratangelo and he certainly fits the bill as far as having the power to put PCB firmly on the back foot is concerned.
PCB tried coming to net in Antalya, but rarely did he get it to work for him, choosing odd times to approach and lacking the volleying skills to do a great deal once he got there.
The Spaniard’s stats say it all about his grass game, with a 2-7 win/loss record, 71.3% holds of serve, combined with 8.8% breaks of serve for a poor total of 80.1 and Popyrin couldn’t have hoped for a much better draw than this.
The Aussie has been working with former champ Pat Cash lately on his play up at net and it worked out well for him in qualies, where he held serve 41 of 44 times and won 87% of the points on his first serve.
PCB also has to contend with a tough turnaround from Turkey, where he was eased aside by the power of Lorenzo Sonego and given how he’s downed tools here at Wimbledon before (notably last season when he lost sets 6-0, 6-2 and 6-1 to Radu Albot) I’m happy to take the handicap on Popyrin here.
The -2.5 games or -1.5 sets or even the -5.5 games appeal here if Popyrin brings something approaching his best tennis to the court on Monday.
Other qualifiers that could go well on Monday include Kamil Majchrzak and Ruben Bemelmans, who face Fernando Verdasco and Stan Wawrinka respectively.
Tough draws, but Bemelmans almost always raises his game in majors, beating Daniil Medvedev and Steve Johnson here (and was very close to beating John Isner, too), Lucas Pouille in Melbourne and Jack Sock and Gilles Muller at the US Open.
One I like as slight underdog on Monday is Guido Pella, who has a better record here at Wimbledon than opponent Marius Copil, with the Romanian disappointing on grass (0-3 at Wimbledon and 6-8 overall at main level).
Pella was the only player to take a set off Taylor Fritz in Eastbourne and he played well against Roger Federer here, beat Marin Cilic from two sets down and beat Jason Kubler, who’s a decent grass courter.
Copil hasn’t won a match on tour since February and is 3-12 win/loss for the season (one win against 449 ranked Garanganga in Davis Cup and another versus number 109 Granollers).
He’s yet to beat a player ranked inside the top-200 at Wimbledon (qualies or main draw) and in all 14 of his main level grass matches he’s broken serve just 10.8% of the time.
He’s also questionable against left-handers, losing six of his last nine and his one win over a top-50 ranked lefty came in Gilles Muller’s last six months on tour.
One I fancy at a bigger price is for Roberto Bautista Agut to beat Peter Gojowczyk by three sets to one.
That was the score when this pair met here two years ago and it’s no surprise, as Gojowczyk very often has one set where he’s virtually unplayable, but can’t keep it up.
Six of his last eight losses in completed matches at majors have been by that 3-1 score line and 3.75 on that outcome again looks of interest to me.
Another player who’s often only good for one set is Malek Jaziri, who isn’t a fan of grass, losing 18 of his 26 matches on it at main level, but he always puts up a fight early on at Wimbledon.
He’s played seven matches at Wimbledon (1-6 win/loss) and the last five opening sets have all gone past 10.5 games (four of them tie breaks) and Jaziri also has a poor record in breakers on grass of 5-12 win/loss, so Denis Kudla 7-6 or the over 12.5 in set one are options there.
Of all the players in action on day one (apart from Ivo Karlovic), who would you think has played the most tie breaks per set at Wimbledon (main draw) in his career?
Gulbis? Chardy? Anderson? Raonic?
It’s actually Paulo Lorenzi, who’s played a whopping 0.38 tie breaks per set in his 10 main draw matches at Wimbledon, with nine of those 10 featuring at least one breaker.
Perhaps not surprising, given that he holds 81% of the time and breaks only 9% of the time at Wimbledon, but he’s a pest to most players and 3.10 about him playing a tie break against Daniil Medvedev is tempting.
Gael Monfils has played at least one breaker in 10 of his last 13 matches here, while Kyle Edmund is now 3-13 win/loss in tie breaks in main level matches on grass.
Finally, Jiri Vesely has a very good record at Wimbledon (10-5 win/loss in the main draw and a hold/break total of 103.3) and surely can cause problems for Alexander Zverev, who had a knee problem in Halle and has been in poor form for some time.
Vesely holds serve 88% of the time, both on grass at main level and only at Wimbledon, and while his movement lets him down against the elite it’s hard to call Zverev an elite player on all recent form.
We know Zverev has failed to really perform at major level so far in his career and did very little on grass in Stuttgart and Halle and if he has a bad knee as well this could be another Grand Slam struggle for the German.
Over 38.5 games or even over 43.5 games look like the bets of interest in that one.
So, plenty of options on a busy opening day at Wimbledon 2019.