By Ricky Dimon
Rafael Nadal is safely through to the Wimbledon third round, but he will be eager to raise his level when he takes the court against Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday. Botic van de Zandschulp and Richard Gasquet are also aiming for a place in the second week.
Here are my previews and predictions for the two matchups.
(27) Lorenzo Sonego vs. (2) Rafael Nadal
Nadal did enough to reach the third round at Wimbledon, but he will have to raise his level substantially if he wants to win a third straight Grand Slam title. In fact, he may require dramatic improvement if he simply wants to get past Sonego on Saturday. From the standpoint of offensive firepower and general grass-court prowess, Sonego is a much more dangerous opponent than Nadal’s first two foes in Francisco Cerundolo and Ricardas Berankis—both of whom took a set off the Spaniard. Two of the 54th-ranked Italian’s ATP final appearances have come on the green stuff, including the 2019 Antalya title. He reached the fourth round at the All-England Club last summer and so far this fortnight he has taken out grass-court specialist Denis Kudla in five sets and Hugo Gaston in straights.
Surprisingly, Nadal dropped the third set against both Cerundolo and Berankis and even trailed the fourth set of his opening match by a break. It has hardly been impressive by the 22-time major champion, but those were his first two grass-court matches since 2019. You have to think improvement is coming sooner rather than later, plus it’s never easy facing Nadal for the first time—which is the case for Sonego in this contest.
Pick: Nadal in 4
Richard Gasquet vs. (21) Botic van de Zandschulp
Van de Zandschulp and Gasquet will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers and for the second time at a major this season. They previously faced each at the Australian Open, where it was one set all before Gasquet retired. The Frenchman had lost 10 games in a row at the time. Gasquet has been plagued by injuries throughout his career and at 36 years old things are not getting any easier. The world No. 69 was forced to play nine sets in his first two rounds, too, so he is definitely a question mark heading into the last 32.
Whereas Gasquet had to work hard against both Joao Sousa and Mackenzie McDonald, Van de Zandschulp mostly cruised past Feliciano Lopez and Emil Ruusuvuori—dropping just one set to the Finn. The 25th-ranked Dutchman has been in great form dating back to the summer of 2021 and this is his fourth consecutive appearance in at least the third round of a Grand Slam. Now he has a golden opportunity to reach the Wimbledon second week for the first time.
Pick: Van de Zandschulp in 4
Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.