By Ricky Dimon
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will be back in action at the All-England Club as round two gets underway on Wednesday. Djokovic is going up against Thanasi Kokkinakis, while Murray has to face the huge serve of former semifinalist John Isner.
Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
The Covid-19 pandemic has already been a significant issue at two of the three Grand Slams (Roland Garros excluded) and it is already a U.S. Open story since Djokovic probably won’t be able to play—just as he wasn’t in Australia. With Matteo Berrettini and Marin Cilic already out of Wimbledon because of positive tests, Djokovic has become even more of a favorite to lift the trophy for a fourth straight time. The top-seeded Serb will hope to avoid both Covid-19 and opponents’ upset bids, the latter of which he accomplished in his opener by scraping past Soonwoo Kwon in four sets.
Up next for Djokovic on Wednesday is Kokkinakis, who lost their only previous meeting 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in round three of the 2015 French Open. Kokkinakis’ victory over Kamil Majchrzak on Monday was his first ever in the main draw at Wimbledon. The 79th-ranked Aussie played only one match on grass leading up to this fortnight and lost it in straight sets to world No. 375 Otto Virtanen at the Surbiton Challenger. Kokkinakis generally plays better on big stages, but Djokovic has a match under his belt and should improve to win this one in straight sets.
Pick: Djokovic in 3
Andy Murray vs. (20) John Isner
Isner and Murray will be matching up for the ninth time in their careers on Wednesday. That Murray has a lead in the head-to-head series is hardly surprising; but nobody can claim that they would expect it to be 8-0 in the Scot’s favor. That, however, is exactly the case heading into their round-two showdown. Interestingly, Isner has a better record against every member of the Big 3: 2-8 vs. Djokovic, 1-8 vs. Rafael Nadal, and 2-10 vs. Roger Federer.
Their most important encounter has also been one of their most competitive. In the 2011 U.S. Open quarterfinals, Murray survived 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2). Fast forward 11 years and both guys are still battling in the second half of their 30s. Isner registers at No. 24 in the world to Murray’s No. 52, but it is the three-time Grand Slam champion who owns the current momentum and also has the benefit of playing at home. Murray recently advanced to the Stuttgart final, beating Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the process before falling to Matteo Berrettini in three sets. The world No. 52 could not play Queen’s Club because of an abdominal injury, but he looked 100 percent during a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 6-4 victory over James Duckworth on Monday. Isner needed five sets to get past Enzo Couacaud. Murray has always feasted on big servers—the 6’10’’ American included—throughout his career and there is no reason to expect anything different here.
Pick: Murray in 4
Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.