Three-time former champion Novak Djokovic will look to continue his resurgence when he takes on Argentinian Horacio Zeballos in second round action at the All England Club. Djokovic struggled badly for much of the early part of the season with his form and fitness, but the wins have started to come his way since surgery on his elbow and reuniting with his former coaching team. But Zeballos has claimed some big scalps before, including Nadal on clay, and will want to do so again. Who will win?
Djokovic and Zeballos have met just once before despite both men being firmly established in their status as veterans. That match came last year in the second round at the Qatar Open where Djokovic was defending champion. It proved to be a comfortable victory for the Serbian, one of few in a year racked by injury problems, as he defeated Zeballos 6-3 6-4. He is also the more experienced of the two at Wimbledon, with 59 victories at the tournament compared with Zeballos’ one.
Path to the second round
Djokovic arrived at Wimbledon off the back of a tournament at Queen’s Club where the positives surely outweighed the negatives. Although he failed to win the title, despite holding a championship point in the final against Marin Cilic, his level was high and he looked sharp once again in defeating Tennys Sandgren. Sandgren was making his Wimbledon debut although he did reach the Australian Open quarterfinals earlier this season. But he was outclassed by Djokovic who won 6-3 6-1 6-2.
Zeballos, who exited the French Open in the round of 64, surely a disappointment after his run to the fourth round last year, elected not to play a grass court warm up event ahead of this year’s Wimbledon. He began his tournament against his compatriot Guido Andreozzi, who was making his Wimbledon debut, and had only played his first Grand Slam match at this year’s Roland Garros. His inexperience showed despite a fine start as he narrowly lost in four sets 6-4 6-7 4-6 4-6.
How do they match up?
Though Djokovic does not have the obvious strengths of Federer and Nadal, he is also almost entirely without weaknesses. Nor is he short of weaponry. His forehand is lethally accurate, and his rock-solid two-hander is surely one of the best in the game, particularly down the line. He also served superbly in his first round victory, losing just four points on serve across the first two sets, although Sandgren did manage to break him in the third, albeit when already trailing by a double break.
The left-handed Zeballos is far more comfortable on the slower clay courts than he is on grass, although the ball is bouncing higher this year due to the hot conditions which will help his cause. Though short of huge power, his forehand is the more dangerous of his two groundstrokes. He will need to serve well to stand much chance in this match, with Djokovic breaking Sandgren seven times in the first round. That is ominous for the Argentine, who would probably count Sandgren a better server than himself.
Stranger things have happened than a Zeballos win in this match, particularly with Djokovic still not quite back to his ruthless best. But he is getting there, and fast. When the Serbian is focused and playing well it takes a grass-courter of the first order to stop him, and with all due respect to Zeballos, he is some way from being in that category. Djokovic will have far too much for the Argentine and expect him to advance a straight sets winner.