Wimbledon Men’s Singles First Round Watchability Power Rankings

Wimbledon Centre Court

There are plenty of dull, unappetizing matches in the first round of the Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles draw. However, the following clashes have the potential to be incredibly entertaining for one reason or another.

Again, in this article we will are not necessarily considering the quality of play, but the ability of the players to own Tennis Twitter. Game on!

Poisonous Entrées

Novak Djokovic vs Philipp Kohlschreiber

Ever since the Grand Slams adopted the 32-seed formula at the turn of the century, top favorites tend to enjoy relatively easy debuts. That is clearly not the case for Djokovic this time around. The Serb drew one of the few players who could pose a threat in Kohlschreiber. The veteran German defeated the World No. 1 at Indian Wells this year. While Djokovic is the unquestionable favorite, Kohlschreiber is a savvy grass court player, flashing a 61 per cent winning rate on the surface over his lengthy career, including the 2011 Halle crown. The President of the ATP Player’s Council better show up prepared for a tough test on Monday.

Watchability Index: 7/10
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Kevin Anderson vs Pierre-Hugues Herbert

Despite arguably being the biggest winner from the Wimbledon seeding formula, No. 4 seed Anderson was dealt a terrible opener in Herbert. The 2018 runner-up, who has only been able to participate in four events in 2019 so far, will seek to break Herbert’s four-year streak of producing a first round upset at Wimbledon. The Frenchman was the underdog in 2015 versus Hyeon Chung, in 2016 versus Kohlschreiber, in 2017 versus Nick Kyrgios and in 2018 versus Mischa Zverev, yet he defeated them all.

Watchability Index: 8/10

Dominic Thiem vs Sam Querrey

Back in the late 90s, clay specialists despised playing on grass, to the point they sometimes opted to skip Wimbledon. Nowadays, grass is slower and most players can compete with dignity on any court. Still, Thiem’s struggles are well-documented. His 14-13 career record on the surface is somewhat embellished due to a six-match winning streak in 2016. Meanwhile, Querrey is coming off a final run in Eastbourne despite missing almost the whole clay swing. Furthermore, the big-serving American knows a thing or two about Wimbledon upsets. Just ask Djokovic and Murray. Jeff Sackmann’s ELO-based Wimbledon forecast gives Querrey a solid 39.9 per cent chance of eliminating Thiem.

Watchability Index: 9/10

Next Gen vs Lost Gen
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Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Vasek Pospisil

The Vernon native is making his return to competitive tennis after an eight-month layoff due to injury, during which he was very active on Twitter advocating for a more fair distribution of tournament revenue, especially at Slams. The 2015 Wimbledon quarterfinalist is set to face Auger-Aliassime, arguably the sport’s biggest prospect in more than a decade. The youngster will try to win his first main draw match at a Major.

Watchability Index: 8/10

Corentin Moutet vs Grigor Dimitrov

Dimitrov currently seems to be mired in something of an identity crisis. The 2014 semifinalist and 2008 boys champion could use a big result at Wimbledon to put his career back on track. French youngster Moutet is having a sensational year and looked dominant in the final two rounds of qualifying at Roehampton.

Watchability Index: 8/10

Alexei Popyrin vs Pablo Carreño Busta

After half a decade of repeated futility on grass, Carreño picked up his first three career wins on the surface in Antalya this past week. In turn, 19-year-old Popyrin also collected a trio of victories in the Wimbledon qualifying draw. The Australian big hitter, already a top 100 talent, is more than capable of making noise at SW19.

Watchability Index: 8/10

A Wimbledon Payday

Reilly Opelka vs Cedrik-Marcel Stebe

It’s impossible not to feel pity for Stebe, whose career has been so badly hampered by injuries. The German, who is using his protected ranking to play Wimbledon, has only managed to win two matches in 2019, at a $15,000 ITF in Kaltenkirchen (Germany) on clay a few weeks ago. Oh, and he retired from his quarterfinal match against Christian Lindell. Stebe should pose little threat to former boys champion Opelka.

Watchability Index: 6/10

Steve Darcis vs Mischa Zverev

Typically, matches under this category feature a player using his protected ranking whose current ability is nowhere near what it was back in his heyday. On this occasion, this match is a coin flip between two dudes who are shells of their former selves. Mischa Zverev is having a historically poor year. His 2-13 record speaks for itself. Wait, it actually doesn’t. His first win came at the Miami Open after Spanish young gun Nicola Kuhn squandered eight match points and cramped out of his duel against Zverev when the scoreboard was 4-6 7-5 2-2.
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The German’s ranking was kept somewhat afloat by the 250 points corresponding to his 2018 Eastbourne title run, but they vanished on Monday. Hence, Zverev is now ranked at No. 119 and a disastrous No. 281 on the Race to London. It would not be surprising at all if this was his final main draw appearance at a Major. For his part, Darcis (No. 230) is pretty much a full-time Challenger player at the moment.

Watchability Index: 10/10…for gamblers. 2/10 for non-betting fans

Ageless Dinosaurs

Ivo Karlovic vs Andrea Arnaboldi

Sixteen years ago, an then World No. 203 Karlovic upended defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of Wimbledon 1-6 7-6 6-3 6-4. At 40 years of age, Croat still possesses one of the most lethal serves on tour. An average day at the office should be enough to beat Arnaboldi, who was stretched to a deciding set in all three qualifying rounds by players ranked outside the top 200.

Watchability Index: 5/10
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Feliciano López vs Marcos Giron

The Spaniard seemed ready to admit his defeat against Father Time when he agreed to become tournament director at the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open. However, his magical week at Queen’s might have altered those plans, jumping from No. 113 to No. 53 on the ATP rankings. A three-time quarterfinalist at Wimbledon (2005, 2008 and 2011), López should handily dispatch former NCAA champion Giron, who’s enjoying a career-best campaign with 31 wins and 15 losses.

Watchability Index: 6/10

Other Intriguing First Rounds

Fabio Fognini vs Frances Tiafoe

Somehow, it seems like Tiafoe always gets tough draws at Majors, but big stages bring out his best tennis. Conversely, World No. 10 Fognini has yet to make a splash at the Grand Slam level. He still hasn’t gone beyond the quarters at a Major, which he did in Paris in 2011 when he was aided by a super favorable draw. As talented as the Italian is, he has never felt comfortable on the Wimbledon grass, never making it to the second week at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Expect the unexpected in this matchup.

Watchability Index: 8/10
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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Bernard Tomic

This would have been a sensational clash a few years back, but Tomic has fallen off a cliff. Nowadays, the Australian gives a lackadaisical effort more often than not. Still, you never know with the 26-year-old. He seems to react whenever it’s necessary to preserve a decent ranking and, given his abysmal season so far, he is due for a breakthrough sooner rather than later. Tsonga, a former semifinalist at SW19, is feeling it on grass, barely losing to Milos Raonic (6-4 6-7 7-6) in Stuttgart and Roger Federer (7-6 4-6 7-5) in Halle.

Watchability Index: 7/10

Tomas Berdych vs Taylor Fritz

The brand-new Eastbourne champion is seeking to back up his surging form with a sound result at Wimbledon. Nevertheless, the American was dealt one of the most challenging first round opponents in the draw in Berdych. At 33 years of age, the Czech is past his prime, but you simply cannot count out someone with a tremendous 42-14 career record at Wimbledon. In fact, Jeff Sackmann’s forecast gives the 2010 finalist a 77.4 per cent chance of advancing.

Αντίο Marcos! It’s Been a Pleasure

Marcos Baghdatis vs Brayden Schnur

The Cypriot legend will be playing his final professional tournament at Wimbledon. It’s been 12 years since latest time Baghdatis reached the second week, but he has a good opportunity to extend his career at least one more match. The ripple effect of Borna Coric’s late withdrawal placed lucky-loser Brayden Schnur in the spot formerly occupied by Jan-Lennard Struff. The ex-Tar Heel is close to breaking into the top 100, but he is nowhere near Struff’s level. Expect a wild crowd cheering for Baghdatis from the top of their lungs.

Watchability Index: 10/10

Sorry, Had To
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Rafael Nadal vs Nick Kyrgios

This may only be a potential second-round clash at this point, but it’s just too engaging to be ignored. Kyrgios’ results and behaviour have dramatically spiralled lately, so it’s far from guaranteed he will not implode against compatriot Jordan Thompson in the round of 128. If he manages to win, though, Kyrgios will be prepared to give Nadal a scare or two. Keep in mind that Kyrgios is 6-6 against the Big 3. Nadal has been historically vulnerable throughout the first week at Wimbledon and, by day four, the grass is still fast enough for a motivated Kyrgios to be considered a legitimate threat. At the same time, if Nadal is upset by Yuichi Sugita, it would not be surprising if Kyrgios stays up until 3 a.m. playing FIFA and lays an egg against the Japanese qualifier.

Watchability Index: 10/10

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