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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, see here in Stuttgart last month, may be smashing more racquets in his Wimbledon match Rafael Nadal. (Silas Stein/dpa via AP)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, see here in Stuttgart last month, may be smashing more racquets in his Wimbledon match Rafael Nadal. (Silas Stein/dpa via AP)|Associated Press

Wimbledon 1st Saturday men: Abrams picks 3rd round matches Federer v Pouille, Nadal vs Tsonga, Fognini v Sandgren, and more

Matches start at 6 am EDT

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Wimbledon 2019
Men’s Singles Third Round picks for Saturday

Jan-Lennard Struff over Mikhail Kukushkin
German Jan-Lennard Struff has beaten Mikhail Kukushkin all three times they’ve played, including matches that the ATP Tour doesn’t count, but each player took out someone last round that I didn’t think they’d beat. Struff beat Taylor Fritz in four hard fought sets, while Kukushkin knocked off John Isner in five close sets. This too should be close, but I’d go with Struff, because the German is an aggressive machine and such a darn good competitor.

Kei Nishikori over Steve Johnson
I’m giving American Stevie Johnson all the credit in the world for making the Third Round here, because he’s got to make his season all on the grass courts of Great Britain and the Continent. Unfortunatley for Johnson, his run should be over as he takes on the dynamic Kei Nishikori. Nishikori is solid as can be, and that’s enough for him to take down the American, against whom he has accumulated a 4-0 lifetime record.

Fabio Fognini over Tennys Sandgren
Fognini is still living off of his improbably dynamic run to the title in Monte Carlo where he beat Nadal in the semis in a match that Nadal acknowledged as being one of his worst in ten years. He seems pretty accustomed to the slick grass here, and his results have showed it, beating Frances Tiafoe and Marton Fucsovics in succession. He shouldn’t have much more trouble with American Tennys Sandgren than either of his first two opponents, even though Sandgren surprised with a five set win over Gilles Simon last round. When Fognini is on, he is a true genius of a ball striker, and a brilliant player to watch. My only question is how long can he keep this level of play up without having enough of a letdown to drop one match?

Matteo Berretttini over Diego Schwartzman
These guys just played a few weeks ago outside on the clay in Rome, where the diminutive Argentinean won their match in two straight sets. But playing on grass at Wimbledon and playing on clay in Rome are close to being polar opposites. And for that reason, and because Berrettini has simply impressed the hell out of me by how he’s been playing this grass court season, I like the Italian over the man who gets to watch women go to the beach in Buenos ‘Aires pretty much any time he’s home. I’m not putting down Schwartzman. I’m just placing Berrettini on a high pedestal.

Roger Federer over Lucas Pouille
Federer has looked his impeccable self, and if someone is going to beat him this year in London it’s going to be someone playing a lot better than Pouille is right now. The Frenchman did destroy countryman Richard Gasquet in straight sets to open up his 2019 Wimbledon, but that means very little when trying to make a projection as to how Pouille would play against Federer. The Fed has simply looked solid, efficient, and confident, and those attributes appear to be enough to handle Pouille.

Rafa Nadal over Jo-Willie Tsonga
In order for Tsonga to beat Nadal, the Frenchman must be in tip-top shape physically, and then be able to draw on all those resources, because playing Rafa is always such a physical endeavor. I don’t think Tsonga is either playing his best, or at his top physical abilities. Certainly Tsonga dominated Bernie Tomic, but the umpire thought Tomic was such a dog that he was fined his entire prize money purse for supposedly not trying as a professional should, so that win bears little resemblance to what a match against Rafa would be. Nadal took out Nick Kyrgios in four very competitive sets in the Second Round, which was particularly physical, and it makes me think that Nadal has enough in the tank to sink Tsonga, while the Frenchman will fall just short. Still, I want to give credit where credit is due, and that’s to Tsonga, who also beat Ricardas Berankis, who was the man who simply destroyed Canadian Denis Shapovalov, in three straight sets. Nonetheless, this match is Rafa’s to win or lose.

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