It’s that time of year again. The day before the start of Wimbledon. Requests have already started to come in for my annual top five first round upset picks at SW19. After two successive years of 1-4 records in the prognosticating business I thought I’d give it a rest. Popular demand dictates that I can’t. So here goes. After perusing the men’s draw on Friday, I selected eight first round contests with likely upset potential. Unlike last year, however, the matches didn’t just jump out at me. Truth be told, they didn’t last year either. There’s a lot of hunch involved here in reality. But I must say I’m more confident in my picks this year than last. First up is probably the biggest stretch, crafty 37-year-old Czech Radek Stepanek over No. 18 seed Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios won his first ATP Tour-level title earlier in the year at Marseille, and was 0-1 in his solo grasscourt tuneup at Queen’s. Stepanek went 2-1 on grass, making it to the quarterfinals at Stuttgart. The Czech had French Open finalist Andy Murray down two sets in the opening round at Roland Garros last month before succumbing. Stepanek’s unorthodox and varied game could drive Kyrgios nuts. Kyrgios leads the Czech 1-0 for his career. Next on the docket is Marcos Baghdatis primed to topple No. 19 seed John Isner. Isner lost to Gilles Muller in the round of 16 at Queen’s, while going 1-1 on grass this spring. Baghdatis went 4-3 in three tuneups on grass, including a first-round upset of Tomas Berdych at Halle. Based on his current smooth and flowing form, Baghdatis is ready to pull off the shocker. If nothing else, the Cypriot, 0-6 career versus Isner, is due. Free-swinging Lukas Rosol (pictured), always a floater who no one wants to meet in the first round, should have his way with No. 28 seed Sam Querrey in the third upset. Everybody remembers Rosol’s second-round ouster of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012. Querrey has had a good June, posting a 4-3 record in his three grasscourt warmups. Rosol was 0-1, losing the past week at Nottingham, but when the majors come around look out. The Czech had Stan Wawrinka down two sets to one in the first round at Roland Garros last month before faltering. This will be the first meeting between the two. No. 4 on the list is Fernando Verdasco taking out the No.18 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia. Tomic has gone 4-2 this month on the grass, reaching the quarterfinals at ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the semis at Queen’s. Verdasco was 2-2, advancing to the round of 16 at both Queen’s and Nottingham. The 32-year-old Verdasco has looked strong during the grass campaign. Tomic often goes off the track during majors, but has a 4-1 head-to-head record against the Spaniard. My last pick has Ernests Gulbis playing like the real Ernie can and knocking off No. 27 seed Jack Sock. Sock didn’t play any of the pre-Wimbledon tuneups and Gulbis won two qualifying rounds at Halle before losing in the first round. The two have never played each other, but I think Ernie will shine in their first meeting. So there you have it.
First Round Upset Picks at Wimbledon 2016
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