Isner Leads Off for Empire in Men’s Singles, Bouchard & Maria Headline Ladies’ Singles
Skupski and Martinez Sanchez Look to Go the Distance in Doubles
The Empire will begin their last major tournament before the start of the WTT season at the All-England Club, where the annual Wimbledon Championships get underway this Monday.
American no. 1 John Isner will lead off for the Empire in men’s singles on opening day.
Isner will be the overwhelming favorite to win his first round match against German qualifier Yannick Maden. The 134th ranked Stuttgart native has yet to record a win at a major tournament. Isner, on the other hand, has reached the third round or better at every Slam multiple times, and just this March won his first Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open. But as the no. 9 seed, Isner is in the top half of the draw with a very challenging adversary, eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.
The good news for Isner is that he is in the lower-top section of the draw and would likely encounter world no. 6 Grigor Dimitrov or no. 5 Marin Cilic, before ever facing Fed. But he’s got a good shot at setting up the match. Isner leads Dimitrov in their career head-to-head, 2-1, and took their last match at the Paris Masters last fall. And while Cilic leads Isner in their head-to-head, 7-3, Isner has won 3 out of their last 4 meetings, including most recently in Miami.
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On the women’s side, 2014 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard will look to extend her stay at the All-England Club this year. The Empire superstar is in the lower-top section of the draw and will play 20-year-old Gabriella Taylor from Southampton, England, in the first round. Bouchard is expected to win this match, but the British crowd could very well give Taylor the inspiration she needs to push Genie to the limit. Should Bouchard prevail, she’ll have to contend with some of the best players in the world to advance to week two of the Championships, including Daria Kasatkina, Garbine Muguruza, and Caroline Garcia, among others.
The Empire’s new singles starter Tatjana Maria will have her work cut out for her this year. Positioned in the bottom section of the draw, she faces world no. 5 Elina Svitolina in the first round, one of the toughest players in the game, but will be prepared. To claim her first WTA title at the Mallorca Open last month, Maria had to beat a string of top-20 players. Should she pull off the upset, Tatjana would rapidly find herself on a collision course with a resurgent Serena Williams, 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys, and no. 2 seed and reigning Australian Open champ Caroline Wozniacki. But since when does a champion ever back down from a good
Elsewhere for the Empire, Neal Skupski will compete in his fifth Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Doubles Championship with his brother Ken. The Skupski brothers arrive at this year’s tournament having won their first ATP World Tour doubles title at Montpellier this winter and having reached the semis of Queen’s Club. They’ve been rewarded for their labors. They’ll play unseeded Bosnian-Serbian duo Damir Dzumhur and Ilija Bozoljac to open their 2018 bid. But positioned in the top half of the draw, the brothers could soon face no. 9 seeds Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer in the second round or no. 1 seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in the quarters.
In women’s doubles, Empire rookie Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez might have the best chance to go this distance this year. The world no. 13 just won the Mallorca Open doubles championship on grass and has been playing her best tennis in years. Martinez Sanchez and partner Andreja Klepac (Orange County Breakers) are the no. 4 seeds. They face Irina Bara and Alize Cornet in the first round and are the favorites to reach the semifinals in the bottom half of the draw.
Tatjana Maria will also compete in women’s doubles. Pairing with Britain’s Heather Watson, Maria will play Chinese duo Zhang Shuai and Liang Chen for a spot in the second round in the top section of the draw.
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