While it feels like Roland Garros just concluded, in professional tennis, the calendar waits for no one. The Wimbledon men’s qualifying draw will kick off this week in Roehampton! With grass as much more of a “novelty” surface nowadays, the players that stand out in this draw might not be the same as other surfaces.
So, which male players should tennis fans be following closely as Wimbledon qualifying gets underway? Let’s take a look.
Four Men Watch in Wimbledon Qualifying
1. Denis Kudla
No. 6 seed Denis Kudla is an excellent grass-court player. With a 67-42 career record on grass (61% winning percentage), he has clearly played a ton on the grass and knows his way around the surface.
Kudla won the Ilkley Challenger grass title in 2015 over another solid grass courter in Matthew Ebden. He’s made two other grass-court Challenger finals, including a couple weeks ago during the Nottingham Challenger. He lost to fellow American Frances Tiafoe in that final, but had impressive wins over Dan Evans and Kamil Majchrzak during his run to the championship match.
Kudla made the only second week of a Major in his career at Wimbledon in 2015.
Kudla had an impressive win over Alexander Zverev in the second round and even took Marin Cilic to four sets in the round of 16.
During that run, Kudla told the ATP regarding his play on grass, “I’ve always had really good results. I felt very comfortable on it. I thought it suits my game better than any other surface…”
And, looking at Kudla’s game, it’s easy to see why he says that. He has compact, flatter groundstrokes. His shots cut through the court and he’s able to deflect back nasty serves and powerful shots from the baseline, an ability to prolong points on grass that many other players don’t have.
Kudla’s draw sees him play clay-courter Andrea Pellegrino in the first round, and then either Kacper Zuk or Lukas Rosol in the second. He might face Roman Safiullin or Blaz Rola in the final qualifying round. Despite some potential roadblocks along the way, given Kudla’s prowess on the grass and his comfort on the surface, it’s hard not to see him qualifying for Wimbledon.
2. Arthur Rinderknech
No. 7 seed Arthur Rinderknech’s game is built for the grass. Despite playing only four matches on the surface in his career so far, it’s hard to take him off of this list when one looks at how he plays.
Rinderknech has a huge first serve, flat, cutting groundstrokes, and knows the right time to come into the net. All these attributes can make a player successful on the grass.
In his first grass-court tournament ever in Halle last week, Rinderknech came through qualifying and even won a round in the main draw. This included a big, straight-sets victory over famous grass courter Sergiy Stakhovsky in qualifying.
Even including his loss to World No. 30 Nikoloz Basilashvili in the second round of the main draw, the Frenchman won 127/164 (77%) of his first-serve points over the course of the week. That’s a very high percentage, especially considering he only had one match where he (barely) served under 60% first serves in.
It’s no surprise that Rinderknech’s four career Challenger finals (three titles) have all come on indoor hard courts, where it’s typically more serve-dominant and the ball bounces lower. That includes a title earlier this season in Istanbul over Benjamin Bonzi.
With a weapon like his first serve and a game that suits the grass well, Rinderknech should have no issues navigating his Wimbledon qualifying draw. Rinderknech will play fellow Frenchman Matthias Bourgue in the first round. After that, it’s likely likely Joao Menezes and then either Martin Klizan or Lukas Lacko in the final qualifying round.
Fans should expect to see Arthur Rinderknech in the main draw of Wimbledon very soon!
3. Anton Matusevich
I want to pivot away from seeded players and talk about a couple unseeded players that could do some damage on the grass. World No. 547 Anton Matusevich might be a wild card into the qualifying draw, but don’t expect him to play like one.
Anton Matusevich started off this grass-court season by playing Ramkumar Ramanathan (who I will discuss later) in the first round of Nottingham 1 Challenger qualifying. And while Matusevich lost that match in a third-set tiebreak, he showed great promise. The Brit won 79% of his first-serve points serving at 69% first serves in and that match could have went either way.
The 20-year-old has made the quarterfinals of junior Wimbledon twice and should have support if he reaches the main draw, given that he’s playing in his home country.
Matusevich is a very clean ball striker and hits with remarkable depth and precision. His shots generally stay lower down towards the grass, making them tough for opponents to handle and his tennis IQ is very strong.
Matusevich’s draw is manageable. After a matchup in the 1st round of qualifying with fellow wild card William Janson, Matusevich would then take on a clay courter in either Andrea Collarini or Carlos Taberner. In the final qualifying round, Matusevich might have to play Bernabe Zapata Miralles or Bernard Tomic.
With the exception of Tomic, this would be a nightmare draw on clay for Anton Matusevich. But, on grass, it’s doable.
4. Ramkumar Ramanathan
I would feel very guilty if I left Ramkumar Ramanathan off of this list. While Ramanathan is unseeded, he is one of the most “stereotypical” grass-court players in the entire draw.
Ramanathan employs a serve-and-volley game. With a massive first serve and soft hands at the net, along with very agressive, powerful play from the baseline, Ramanathan is a nightmare to play on the grass.
Ramanathan is 23-17 (58%) on grass over the course of his career, and just last week qualified and won a round in the main draw of the Nottingham 2 Challenger. In the final round of Nottingham qualifying, he got an impressive win over Kacper Zuk!
Before losing to Kamil Majchrzak, Ramanathan won over 75% of his first-serve points in three matches–including winning 93% of his first-serve points against Leonardo Mayer while serving at 75% first serves in! In fact, in those 3 matches before the loss to Majchrzak, Ramanathan won at leas 65% of his first-serve points. These are very impressive numbers.
Ramanathan has even made the final of an ATP event on grass! In 2018, he made the Newport final before falling to Steve Johnson in three sets. Ramanathan had to beat good grass courters in Denis Kudla and Vasek Pospisil on his way to that final. He even beat Pospisil in straight sets!
In the first round of Wimbledon qualifying, Ramanathan will take on clay-courter Jozef Kovalik. Then, if he wins, Ramanathan will play Tomas Etcheverry or Cem Ilkel. If he’s able to reach the final qualifying round, he will most likely take on the winner of the first-round match between Borna Gojo and Marc Polmans.
While Ramanathan is certainly not a lock to qualify for Wimbledon, his increasingly unique style and ability to make opponents uncomfortable by consistently charging the net make him a threat no matter who he plays.
Make sure to also check out our players to watch in the women’s qualifying draw.
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