Two-time Wimbledon champion and the 18-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal opens his bid towards his possible 3rd title at Wimbledon on the second day of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships against a little known Japanese player Yuichi Sugita.
As per ATP rankings, Nadal is the 2nd ranked player, however as Wimbledon uses its own formulas and calculations to evaluate the seedings of players, giving priority to their performances on grass, the Spaniard finds himself as a third seed and not second at this year’s Wimbledon.
As a result, Nadal faces a tougher draw and now has to go through a much sterner test if he fancies winning his third title at the All England Club.
Out of all the Grand Slams, Nadal has appeared to be the most vulnerable at Wimbledon and post 2011 Wimbledon where he was the runner-up of the tournament losing to Novak Djokovic in the finals, the ‘King of Clay’ has suffered sensational as well as shocking early round exits in the subsequent years.
At Wimbledon 2012 and 2015, the Spaniard suffered the misfortune of exiting the tournament in the second round while in 2013 he faced an embarrassing and discouraging first round exit.
However, in 2018, the then 17-time Grand Slam champ arrested his slide at Wimbledon and found a place in the last four for the first time since 2011. He might have narrowly lost to rampant Djokovic in the semi-finals, but his performances at last year’s competition where he did not drop even a single set in his first four rounds give us an indication that he still has a game on grass that can potentially win him his third Wimbledon crown of his illustrious career so far.
The tough nature of the draw and his injury-prone body can stack up against him at this year’s Wimbledon and it is imperative that Nadal somehow finds a way to get past the first week without incurring a significant damage.
With the likelihood of dangerous players like Nick Kyrgios in the second round, Denis Shapovalov or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round and a possible opponent in Marin Cilic at the fourth round, his first round match against Sugita, ranked No. 274 in the world perhaps appears to be the only relatively simple contest at this year’s Wimbledon for the 18-time Grand Slam champion.
Just to make things further tricky for the Spaniard, he hasn’t faced Sugita before and their upcoming Wimbledon opening round clash is their first ever meeting.
Against Sugita, Nadal surely starts as an overwhelming favourite but scary things have happened to the Spaniard in the past in the opening couple of rounds at the third Slam of the year and one can expect the Spaniard to be stoked and motivated as he always is to kick off his Wimbledon campaign in the best possible way.
While Nadal did not participate in any competitive tournament as a part of warm-up for the Wimbledon, he did play exhibition matches at the Aspall Tennis Classic in Hurlingham last week in the lead up to the Wimbledon and suffered twin defeats at the hands of Cilic and Lucas Pouille.
A comprehensive win against Sugita in his first round clash would not only help the Spaniard gain the much-needed confidence, but also will offer him a good match practice up his sleeve before he prepares himself to face a pool of quality and equally dangerous players in the upcoming rounds.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.