By Ricky Dimon
Novak Djokovic’s first seeded opponent of the Wimbledon fortnight comes in the form of fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic as they prepare for a third-round battle. Friday’s order of play also features Jannik Sinner and John Isner.
Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.
Wimbledon – Grass Court Resting Grass
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (25) Miomir Kecmanovic
Djokovic vs. Kecmanovic was supposed to be a first-round match at the Australian Open. It never happened, and both Serbs’ seasons have been pretty much defined by its cancellation. Djokovic was infamously deported out of Australia before the tournament began and both his unvaccinated status and some disappointing losses have resulted in a borderline disastrous 2022 campaign so far. Kecmanovic capitalized on his countryman’s exit from Melbourne to make a fourth-round run, propelling him to what has been by far his best year on tour.
That’s not to say their third-round encounter at Wimbledon on Friday is expected to be competitive. Djokovic is the three-time defending champion and he picked up some momentum by destroying Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday following a lackluster four-set victory over Soonwoo Kwon in round one. Kecmanovic is coming off four-set defeats of John Millman and Alejandro Tabilo, but the world No. 30 is still just 10-10 lifetime on grass. Although Kecmanovic pushed Djokovic to three sets on the red clay of Serbia in April, Djokovic is obviously a much different kind of player and competitor at Grand Slams so it’s hard to see the underdog having much of a chance.
Pick: Djokovic in 3(10)
Jannik Sinner vs. (20) John Isner
Bigger favorites have already crashed out of the All-England Club for various reasons, but Andy Murray’s exit made the most on-court news. In a spirited, high-quality second-round showdown on Wednesday night, Murray tried his best to come back against Isner in front of the home crowd on Centre Court but the 6’10’’ American held on for a 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 6-4 victory. Success on grass is nothing new for Isner, who went all the way to the Wimbledon semis in 2018 before losing a five-set marathon to Kevin Anderson. Even though the world No. 24 may no longer be in his prime at 37 years old, his serve remains as lethal as ever and continues to make him extremely dangerous every time he takes the court.
Next up for Isner on Friday is a third meeting with Sinner after they split a pair of hard-court contests in 2021. Sinner has advanced this fortnight with four-set wins over Stan Wawrinka and Mikael Ymer—his first-ever main-tour wins on grass, in fact. Only one thing is certain in this match: Isner will become the all-time ace leader at some point before it ends (he currently trails Ivo Karlovic by four). But the No. 20 seed has a great chance to win it because he has a ton of momentum from the Murray match and Sinner is still inexperienced on this surface.
Pick: Isner in 4
Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.