The business end of the third Grand Slam tournament, Wimbledon is here. Three-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic has been enjoying himself at SW19, and he fancies his chances of clinching a 13th Grand Slam singles title. The second seed is currently on a seven-match winning streak after claiming his first grass court title outside of Wimbledon in Eastbourne. The 12-time Grand Slam champion's progress through to the fourth round has been serene. However, his draw has disintegrated before his very eyes, as he was projected to have some intriguing third and fourth round encounters all the way.
The former world number one was supposed to face 29th seed Juan Martin del Potro in the third round but the Argentine lost to a resurgent Ernests Gulbis instead. Djokovic's fourth-round opponent on Manic Monday will be Adrian Mannarino, instead of 15th seed Gael Monfils or 19th seed Feliciano Lopez, who were both beaten by the Frenchman.
Mannarino was formerly ranked at 27 in the world, two years ago which he achieved back in July 2015. The 29-year-old has struggled over the past couple of years, and he is now ranked at 51 in the world. He had a poor start to the year as he lost his first five matches in Auckland, the Australian Open, Sofia, Memphis and Delray Beach. Nonetheless, he dropped down to play some Challenger events in order to find some confidence. He won the titles in Noumea and Quimper but he slowly improved at the Masters 1000 events as he made the last 16 in Miami and Monte Carlo.
His grass court season got off to a poor start as he lost early in 's-Hertogenbosch and at the Queen's Club. Moreover, he reached his third ATP final of his career. Unfortunately, it was more misery for the Frenchman as he lost to Yuichi Sugita in the final.
Djokovic won their solitary meeting last year, and it took place in the second round of Wimbledon on Centre Court. It was a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5) victory for the Serb who lost in the following round to Sam Querrey.
Mannarino's route to Manic Monday
The unseeded Frenchman benefitted from 19th seed Feliciano Lopez's unfortunate retirement in the first round. The Spaniard was in a rich vein of form on grass as he reached the final in Stuttgart and won the title in 's-Hertogenbosch. Despite trailing a set, Mannarino booked his place in the second round with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, 4-3 ret. victory over the ailing Spaniard. Furthermore, the former top 30 player endured two back-to-back five-setters to reach this stage of the tournament. He gained his revenge over Sugita in the second round, and he ousted countryman Gael Monfils, who has still not reached the second week at SW19.
Djokovic's route to Manic Monday
Under the watchful eyes of Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic in his revamped coaching team. The former world number one's downfall began at Wimbledon last year when he suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Sam Querrey. The second seed began his quest for a fourth Wimbledon title against Martin Klizan. The Slovak was unable to finish off the match due to injury. Nonetheless, in his second round match, he trotted across to No.1 Court, where he played Adam Pavalasek. It was a straightforward 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory for the 12-time Grand Slam champion. In the third round, the second seed was tested by a resurgent, Ernests Gulbis. The Latvian reached the semifinals in Paris in 2014 and was a former top ten player shortly afterward. The Serbian dispatched Gulbis, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(2) advancing to the fourth round for the 10th time.
Who reaches the quarterfinals?
The lefty does not possess the firepower and does not have the weapons to trouble the three-time champion. Mannarino will be feeling the effects of his two back-to-back five-set matches, and playing Djokovic will be the last thing he needs. On the other hand, the 29-year-old is playing some good tennis to keep things competitive.
Finally, the 30-year-old will serve well against the Frenchman, and his movement on the lawns at Wimbledon has been exceptional. However, there is a slight glimmer of hope for Mannarino as Djokovic has had some tough matches on No.1 Court in the last three years. The Serbian survived Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson in five-set encounters in 2014 and 2015 but he was dethroned by Sam Querrey. It is also the first time since 2011, that all members of the Big Four will be playing on Manic Monday. The former world number one will be hoping for another straightforward match on No.1 Court without too much drama, and reach the quarterfinals.
This is the final match scheduled on No.1 Court. The prize for the winner of this fourth round clash will be the eighth seed Dominic Thiem or 11th seed Tomas Berdych, who reached the semifinals last year, and the final back in 2010.
Prediction: Djokovic in straight sets