Wimbledon storylines: Canadians face tough roads

Canada's Denis Shapovalov has a tough road ahead at Wimbledon. (Tim Ireland/AP)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the land of tennis as the slam of all grand slams, Wimbledon, takes centre stage for the next fortnight.

The sport will be thrilled to have Roger Federer return, but will unfortunately be missing Andy Murray after he decided to pull out at the last minute. Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic returned to Grand Slam tennis at the French Open and will be looking to build on their performances there.

Here are some of the things to look out for at the 2018 Wimbledon:

Déjà vu at SW19?

It’s hard to believe with these two still at the top of the sport, but it’s now been a decade since Roger Federer fell to Rafael Nadal 6–4, 6–4, 6–7, 6–7, 9–7 in what many consider to be the greatest match ever played.

There is a special two-hour documentary “Strokes of Genius” being aired on July 1 to commemorate the battle between the two legends, and one can’t help but feel that the air of nostalgia could help spur reality. Federer and Nadal have claimed each of the past six grand slams, but only met in the final of one of them, the 2017 Australian Open.

It would be absolutely fitting to see those two duke it out on the 10-year anniversary of that epic clash.

In case you’re wondering, Venus Williams defeated sister Serena 7-5 6-4 to successfully defend her title and claim a fifth Wimbledon trophy 10 years ago.

Zverev and the Yorkshire accent

A funny little thing happened at Roland Garros after Alexander Zverev came back from two sets to one down against Dusan Lajovic to win his second-round match. A reporter from Yorkshire asked the German a question, and he was instantly mesmerized by the accent.

The love affair continued through to the quarter-finals, where the Yorkshireman was able to put a smile on Zverev’s face even after a straight-sets defeat to Dominic Thiem.

Who is this mystery reporter? He is none other than British journalist Jonathan Pinfield and we can only hope we hear more from him over the next two weeks.

Quick exits for the Canadians?

Denis Shapovalov has steadily progressed up the ATP Rankings this season — currently 26th — but has failed to muster up an extended run in each of the first two Grand Slam events of the year. He fell in the Round of 64 to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open, and then suffered a shock defeat to John Millman at the same stage of the French Open.

Hate to break it you, but he’s staring at another early exit at Wimbledon. Two Frenchmen in World No. 46 Jeremy Chardy and No. 48 Benoit Paire should present difficult challenges in the first two rounds, but if he manages to get past the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time this year, it’s World No. 4, Juan Martin Del Potro, most likely, in the third round.

Eugenie Bouchard will be up against it from the get-go, but that’s not stopping her from channeling all the good vibes possible ahead of her first-round match.

She will always have the fond memory of having played a final at this prestigious event, but the fact that she had to get through qualifiers just to arrive at this stage shows how distant a memory that is.

Bouchard opens the tournament against local Gabriella Taylor and what should be a boisterous crowd, and while she should have a good chance to win that, 17th seed Ashleigh Barty will likely await her in the second round. The Australian won their only meeting in three sets at the 2017 Miami Masters.

Milos Raonic on the other hand has looked quite good since returning from injury, winning five of the six matches he played on grass, with his only loss coming to Federer. He should be favoured to make the third round, but faces a daunting task against No. 3 seed and last year’s finalist Marin Cilic if all plays out as it should.

Wimbledon did the 27-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., a favour by using his grass court record to give him a higher seeding. Raonic is the 32nd ranked player according to the ATP but is assigned the 13th seed for this tournament.

Cibulkova cast aside for Serena

Whereas the French Open granted Serena Williams a wild-card entry into the main draw, Wimbledon factored in the weight of her accomplishments more heavily to grant her the 25th seed at the tournament.

Granting her seeding to help avoid a heavyweight battle in the first two rounds meant someone was going to suffer for it, and it is Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia who misses out. Cibulkova would have been the 32nd and final seed at the event, and was understandably disappointed with the decision.

“I have the right and I should be seeded,” Cibulkova told journalists at Eastbourne in additional statements following her press conference. “My opinion about it is that I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.

“It’s a really different thing if they change the seeding. Why should I not be seeded when I have the right to be?”

Cibulkova now faces the prospect of facing top seed Simona Halep in the third round, but it’s not like things would have got much better. Thirty-second seed Agnieszka Radwanska could potentially play No. 2 seed Wozniacki in the third round.

Press conferences during World Cup matches could get tricky

World Cup fever has taken over, and Murray was first to make it clear where his attention is focused, at least during press conferences.

Making an appearance during the France-Argentina Round of 16 match on Saturday, Murray was asked a question about his opponent but quickly flipped the script and said, “I can’t believe I’m missing this match.”

The Scot missed a thriller, won 4-3 by France, and we can only imagine how he or any of the other players with rooting interests would feel about answering questions from reporters during World Cup matches, which will only be of higher stakes as the tournament progresses.

Among the top players, you have Federer cheering for Switzerland and Marin Cilic for Croatia on the men’s side, and defending champion Garbine Muguruza for Spain and Caroline Garcia for France on the women’s side. Both Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki will be feeling some pain when Wimbledon begins after their respective countries were eliminated in penalty shootouts.

Things could get really interesting for the men’s final, which is scheduled to be played on the same day as the World Cup final on July 15.

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