It’s been a year of misery for Federer fans. A torn meniscus from the Australian Open followed by back injury in Madrid has forced the tennis world to finally get a glimpse of what a Roger-less tennis tour looks like. Seeing him return to his favourite surface at The All-England Club has not generated a collective sigh of relief, as much as it’s raised questions. Is he in strong enough form to make a deep run into this tournament? No one knows the answer, not even Roger himself as he admitted during his post match interview.

Roger Federer [3] vs Marcus Willis

The 17 grand slam champion usually glides confidently through the earlier rounds on auto pilot. But it’s this challenged confidence that will be his greatest test this first week. If his first round offered any insight, indicators were positive. Roger served well, returned well, crafted winners, and was able to accelerate on the intensity when it mattered most. Except for a few suspiciously tentative lateral movements, there were no alarming warning signs.

His opponent, Marcus Willis, won a spot in the Wimbledon qualifying draw, and three games later found himself in the main draw. The British crowd adores Roger, but they also throw themselves behind their home grown players. So Marcus Willis will feel elated and elevated in front of his home crowd.

Willis, ranked an astonishing 772, saw off 52 ranked Ricardas Berankis in three sets. The Brit has experienced a true Cinderella fairy tale this year, transforming from a Warwick Boat Club coach to a competitor with a Wimbledon victory. And now he will meet Roger Federer in the second round.

Willis’s idol, Goran Ivanisevic advised him to get drunk before his second round clash and just enjoy it! But as inevitable as a Federer win may seem, this match will entirely depend on Roger’s form. If Willis has the athleticism to aggressively push the Swiss around the court and extend the rallies, he could make life very difficult for rehabilitated Roger. The world number 3 who has lost some his aura of invincibility, will need to believe in his prowess and allow his magic wand to remind viewers why so many believe he is the greatest of all time. We predict Roger through in a tight three sets.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Gilles Simon [16]

A man all but forgotten, Grigor Dimitrov is showing signs of being back on form. After suffering a series of five back to back first round exits, the Bulgarian broke his losing streak yesterday, beating Bjorn Fratangelo convincingly in three sets.

Two years ago Dimitrov was tipped to be the next greatest thing in tennis. His run at 2014 Wimbledon to defeat Andy Murray and reach the semi finals, catapulted him to world number 8, his highest ranking to date. His exceptional shot-making abilities and fluid style of play earned him the patronising yet promising nick-name, “Baby Fed”.

But these last two years the Bulgarian has proved inconsistent, with early round losses hurling him down in world rankings. Now ranked number 37, he has teamed up with Juan Martin del Potro’s old coach and is looking to jump back with confidence onto everyone’s radar.

Gilles Simon’s best Wimbledon efforts came last year when he reached the quarter finals. After having a decent season last year, the Frenchman should be the more confident player for this match up. He also leads their head to head 5:1, which includes a Monte Carlo defeat this year.

But if Dimitrov really is experiencing a resurgence, then Simon will need to maintain a high level of aggression throughout the match and get ahead on the scoreboard early to perturb the Bulgarian’s confidence. Particularly as the Frenchman’s own confidence may be rattled following his first round exit at Queens. Tactically he could attack Dmitrov’s backhand with topspin, forcing him to slice. Dmitrov’s does have the shot-making abilities, but Simon can combat this with his speed, defence and competitiveness. We predict Simon in four sets.

Andreas Seppi vs Milos Raonic [6]

Just a few years after turning pro, Milos Raonic became the highest ranked Canadian in history, reaching world number 4 in 2015. He is currently ranked number 7, but his goal is to one day be world number 1. His supporters believe one day he will achieve this. Milos is the one amongst the younger generation who is expected to win a grand slam within the next year. So convinced are his believers, that even John McEnroe has taken up an unlikely role as the Canadian’s “grass-court consultant.”

Keen to prove that he is not all serve and no game, the 2016 Australian Open saw an updated Milos. The lanky Canadian could go down surprisingly low. And his volleys were impressive. And now we’re in grass court season, perhaps McEnroe’s influence is already apparent. The world number 7 reached his first ever grass court final this year’s Queens Club. His run was finally put to an end by Andy Murray. But not before pushing him to three sets.

Raonic will be met with strong resistance by Andreas Seppi. Seppi, ranked 45, is a patient counter-puncher, solid off both wings. He had a great opening match against Garcia-Lopez even handing him a bagel for good measure. But the 6ft 5″ Raonic presents a very different problem to solve.

The Italian will have his hands full. Raonic will generate many free points off his serve which means the pressure will consistently be on Seppi. Luckily the Italian serves well, but he will need to maintain a high first serve percentage. He also must move the Canadian around the court, drop shot low short balls, and attack his backhand quickly enough so he doesn’t have time to run around it.

They’ve only played each other once during the 2013 Davis Cup quarter finals match on hard court. Raonic won in four sets. We predict another Raonic victory in four sets.


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