Among the 128 players in a Grand Slam singles event–like Wimbledon, the 32 top entrants are seeded. Tournaments organizers seed these stars so the best players avoid each other in the early rounds. The #1 and #2 seeds are placed in opposite halves of the draw to ensure they do not meet until the final round.
In addition to the seeds, 16 of the 128 spots in the main draw are reserved for qualifiers. These grinders, from outside the top 100 players in the world, must win three qualifying matches in order to gain entrance in the main draw. At Wimbledon, the first two rounds of qualifying are best-of-three sets. In the final round of qualifying, the player needs to win three sets to advance to the main draw.
In the 2021 Wimbledon men’s singles, six of the 16 qualifiers will face seeded players in the first round. On paper, these are easy matches for the seeds. In several cases, more than 100 ranking spots separate the competitors. However, these matches will be played on grass, not on paper–so upsets are possible.
The six matches which pit qualifiers vs. seeds are:
Tallon Griekspoor vs #4 Alexander Zverev
Christopher O’Connell vs #13 Gael Monfils
Bernabe Zapata Miralles vs #17 Cristian Garin
Mackenzie McDonald vs #25 Karen Khachanov
Denis Kudla vs #30 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Brandon Nakashima vs #31 Taylor Fritz
Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, Austrailia’s Christopher O’Connell, and Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles each advanced to the main draw in dramatic fashion. In the third round of qualifying, Griekspoor rallied back from a two-set deficit to knock off Arthur Fey in five sets. O’Connell narrowly escaped his first round match by defeating Filip Horansky 9-7 in the deciding third set. Zapata Miralles needed five sets to reach his second Grand Slam main draw.
The pixie dust will run out for this trio of qualifiers in the first round. Griekspoor will provide no match for German superstar Alexander Zverev. O’Connell, playing in his first ever Grand Slam main draw, faces France’s Gael Monfils. Monfils is playing in his 13th Wimbledon, his talent and experience will be too much for the Australian newbie. While Garin holds an unimpressive 0-3 record at Wimbledon, he is too strong for Zapata Miralles, who owns only a handful of tour level wins in his career.
While the seeds hold the advantage on paper, Americans Denis Kudla and Mackie McKenzie hold a puncher’s chance against their higher rated foes.
Despite holding the #118 world ranking, Kudla possesses strong experience in Grand Slam events. Kudla will be playing his seventh Wimbledon and he’s been in the main draw of more than 20 Grand Slam singles events. Davidovich Fokina is competing at Wimbledon for the first time in 2021 and holds only 35 tour level wins. The advantage might belong to Kudla.
Karen Khachanov plays with tremendous power and will provide McDonald with a stern test. Still, McDonald competes fiercely and played well at Wimbledon in the past. The winner of three Wimbledon matches in 2018, look for McDonald to give Khachanov fits in their first round tussle.
During qualifying, 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima proved he can match skills with experienced veterans. The young American knocked out long time tour players Viktor Trocki and Ernests Gulbis to advance to the main draw.
In his third ever Grand Slam main draw match, Nakashima squares off against fellow American Taylor Fritz. Fritz holds a 2-4 record all time at Wimbledon and he has never escaped the second round. Fritz is bigger, stronger, and more experienced–but not by much. Nakashima continues to prove he is a cool customer who should not be taken lightly. If Fritz is even marginally off his game, or Nakashima catches fire, look for a qualies survivor to topple a seed in this all American affair.
The Wimbledon Qualifier’s Opportunity
For many qualifiers, just reaching the main draw of a Grand Slam provides the player with a solid paycheck and wins which help define a season or career. However, now that they are here, though the sound may be faint, opportunity knocks. For these six, it is the opportunity to oust a seed and make headlines. Time to play.
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