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Monday Digest: Nadal, Djokovic on collision course at wild Wimbledon

Grass may be tennis’ original surface, but that does not mean everyone is comfortable with it.

The lawns of the All England Club has been what makes The Championships so challenging for the last few decades, ever since the tours shifted to primarily hard courts in the 70s and 80s, which has opened the doors for Wimbledon to be the most unpredictable of the four Slams.

But even by Wimbledon standards, the 2022 event has been bonkers.

And yet, despite all the upsets and unexpected results, it looks like there could be a very familiar final on the horizon.

Here’s what you need to know.

In Case You Missed It: Dabrowski still standing after crazy first week of Wimbledon

Over the last decade or so, Wimbledon has been the best major for Canadian tennis. Unfortunately, the 2022 edition did not live up to that history.

In singles, the four Canadians combined for a 2-4 record, with only Bianca Andreescu and Denis Shapovalov reaching the second round, where they both lost.

Unseeded, Andreescu had avoided a major first-round challenge, easily dispatching qualifier Emina Bektas with the loss of just four games. But she ran into the powerful 17th seed Elena Rybakina in the second round, who bested the Canadian in straight sets.

Still, reaching the second round was Andreescu’s best result in three main-draw appearances at Wimbledon.

Shapovalov arrived at the All England Club having lost six straight matches, including all of his contests on grass in 2022. He looked destined for a seventh loss in a row when he trailed Arthur Rinderknech by two sets to one in the first round, but the 2021 semi-finalist managed to re-find the form that saw him reach the final four a year ago as he rallied for his first win since May.

It did not last, however, as Shapovalov was quickly dispatched in straight sets in the second round by Brandon Nakashima.

Probably the biggest disappointment for the Canadian contingent was Félix Auger-Aliassime, who was looking to build on his 2021 quarter-final performance and was considered to be among the title favourites as the sixth seed.

Instead, he was bounced in round one by the serve-and-volleying American Maxime Cressy in four sets. Cressy, who had reached the final the week before in Eastbourne, played textbook grass-court tennis, only allowing Auger-Aliassime one break point in the match, which he saved. The defeat snapped Auger-Aliassime’s streak of four straight majors reaching at least the fourth round.

Rebecca Marino also went down in round one, losing a tight three-setter to qualifier Katarzyna Kawa despite serving for the match in the third set.

The only Canadian left at the All England Club is Gabriela Dabrowski, who is through to the mixed doubles quarter-finals with John Peers.

Dabrowski and Peers, the fourth seeds, won their opening match in straight sets before mounting a second-round comeback against Bruno Soares and two-time singles grass titlist in 2022 Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round.

However, it was not all smooth sailing for Dabrowski, as she and partner Giuliana Olmos were upset in the third round of the women’s doubles by unseeded Danielle Collins and Desirae Krawczyk.

COVID wreaked havoc on the men’s draw on the eve of the tournament, with three seeds, Marin Cilic, Roberto Bautista Agut, and 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini, all being forced to pull out of the tournament after testing positive for the virus. Berrettini was widely considered a title favourite, having won two titles on grass in June.

Those withdrawals were huge boons to Rafael Nadal’s Calendar Slam bid, as all three were on his side of the draw.

After a shaky first-round win, where he dropped the third set and had to rally from a break down in the fourth, the Australian and French Open champion has gotten better with every match, reaching round four with a beatdown of Lorenzo Sonego.

On the top half of the draw, top seed Novak Djokovic seems well on his way to a fourth straight Wimbledon final, and possibly title, as he is through to the quarter-finals. It has not been entirely smooth sailing for the Serb, who has dropped a couple of sets, but has finished strong in each of his matches.

Overall, the men’s draw was a mess, with only seven of the top 16 seeds getting past the second round and only seven of the 32 seeds overall reaching the second week. Notable upsets included Halle champion Hubert Hurkacz going down in round one and French Open runner-up Casper Ruud, the third seed, losing in round two.

The women’s draw was blown wide open on Saturday as world No. 1 Iga Świątek’s 37-match winning streak came to an end at the hands of Alize Cornet. Świątek had set the record for the most consecutive wins by a woman in the 21st century by winning her first-round match.

Like the men’s draw, chaos reigned on the women’s side, with only five seeds still in the draw on Monday.

Ons Jabeur is the highest seed remaining (No. 3), followed closely by No. 4 Paula Badosa. 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep is the only former major champion left in the women’s draw.

Serena Williams made her return to singles action at the All England Club a full year after her last singles match, also at the AELTC. However, it was not a victorious return as she lost a thrilling first-round encounter to Harmony Tan in a third-set tiebreak.

What to Watch: Is Nadal-Djokovic LX inevitable?

The Canadian focus will be exclusively on Gabriela Dabrowski and the mixed doubles in week two of Wimbledon, as she and John Peers will meet the sixth seeds Mate Pavic and Sania Mirza in the quarter-finals.

Dabrowski could get a shot at revenge in the semis as she and Peers could meet Desirae Krawczyk, who beat Dabrowski in women’s doubles, and Neal Skupski, the second seeds.

Most of the world’s attention will be on the man from Majorca and his bid for the Grand Slam.

Nadal plays 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp on Monday for a spot in the quarter-finals. The highest-ranked player left standing between Nadal and a first Wimbledon final in over decade is world No. 14 Taylor Fritz, a potential quarter-final opponent. The in-form Nick Kyrgios, who upset fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a wild and controversial third-round match, could be a threat in the semi-finals.

Not only would a win at Wimbledon put Nadal within a US Open title of completing the Grand Slam, he would also extend his lead in the men’s Grand Slam singles title race and would tie Serena Williams for the most major singles titles in the Open Era with 23. It would be Nadal’s third Wimbledon title and first since 2010.

Of course, the biggest obstacle is likely the three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, who plays Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals and will meet the winner between Cameron Norrie and David Goffin in the semis.

Djokovic is looking for a bit of history of his own. A win at Wimbledon would be his seventh, tying him with William Renshaw and Pete Sampras for the second-most men’s singles titles at the All England Club. He would also move into sole possession of second place on the men’s Grand Slam singles titles list with 21, moving one ahead of Roger Federer.

Ons Jabeur is now the overwhelming favourite for the women’s title. Should she be victorious, she would be the first player from Africa since 1981, and the first woman from Africa ever, to win a Grand Slam singles title.

There are no seeds standing between Jabeur and the final, as she will meet Marie Bouzkova in the quarter-finals and then a German opponent, either Tatjana Maria or Julie Niemeier, in the semis.

Andreescu’s conqueror Elena Rybakina is the only seed left in the top quarter of the draw. The winner of the round of 16 clash between fourth seed Paula Badosa and former champion Simona Halep will likely emerge as the favourite in the top half.

Harmony Tan turned her win over Serena Williams into momentum as she will look to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final when she takes on 20th seed Amanda Anisimova.

Under the Radar: Another win for Zhao

While the Canadians were struggling at the All England Club, Carol Zhao was keeping her strong 2022 going on the ITF circuit.

After ending a four-year title drought last month, the Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team member claimed her second title of the year at the W100 event in Charleston, rallying from a set down to beat Himeno Sakatsume in the final.

It is Zhao’s second career W100 title, the highest level of tournament she has won in her career.

Over in Europe, Canada’s Juan Carlos Aguilar picked up the doubles title in Bern, Switzerland with Swiss partner Jeffrey von der Schulenburg. It was Aguilar’s first title since 2017 and his first as a Canadian, having switched allegiances from Bolivia to Canada in 2020.

Other strong Canadian results included semi-finals in ITF events for Katherine Sebov and Marina Stakusic. On the ATP Challenger Tour, Steven Diez reached the quarter-finals of the Malaga Open.

You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.




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