Carlos Alcaraz vs. Jannik Sinner

“Every day that I pass, I feel more ready, let’s say, on grass.”

Alcaraz is not just a top tennis player; he can make his answers rhyme in press conferences, too.

He’s also correct in his assessment. The 19-year-old Spaniard has proven to be an exceedingly quick study on a fairly foreign surface. Alcaraz took five sets to beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round, but he hasn’t dropped one since. On Friday he made quick work of grass-court specialist Oscar Otte.

What has he learned along the way?

“On grass you have to play aggressive, you have to go to the net, you have to try to play more aggressive than the opponent,” Alcaraz says. “That’s my idea that I try in every match, to don’t let the opponent dominate the game, dominate the match.”

Now that he’s in the second week, that task won’t be as easy. Alcaraz’s opponent, Sinner, is one of the tour’s hardest hitters on a normal day, and he seems to be especially dialed in at the moment. The Italian dropped a set against Stan Wawrinka and Mikael Ymer, but he didn’t have much trouble breaking John Isner in a straight-set win two days ago.

Alcaraz won his only prior meeting with Sinner, in two close sets on indoor hard courts in Bercy last fall. Sinner may have the advantage in the serving department, and the raw power department, but grass isn’t just about aggression. The surface also rewards speed and athleticism, which means it should keep rewarding Alcaraz a little more each day. Winner: Alcaraz


Who's playing the Paris Olympics?

Who's playing the Paris Olympics?

The Wimbledon champions and finalists, plus both world No. 1s are among those chasing gold. 🏅

Novak Djokovic vs. Tim van Rijthoven

“I’m happy to be playing well also not in my home country,” Van Rijthoven said after his win over Nikoloz Basilashvili on Friday.

Until this week, it was something of a question as to how Van Rijthoven, after winning the Libema Open in one of his first ATP main-draw efforts, would do when he was forced to leave his native Netherlands. But after getting a wild card into Wimbledon, the 25-year-old overnight sensation has picked up where he left off. Most impressive was his four-set, three-tiebreaker win over 15th seed Reilly Opelka in the second round.

As you can probably tell from that score and result, Van Rijthoven has been serving up a storm during his winning streak; he’s hardly been broken over the course of eight matches.

“Because of the serve I can set up my game very well,” he says.

If he’s going to have any chance of making it nine straight wins on Sunday, he’ll obviously have to serve as well, or better, than ever. Djokovic, the top seed and three-time defending champion, has improved with each match, and hasn’t dropped a set since the first round. He’ll also be infinitely more comfortable in his Centre Court surroundings than Van Rijthoven, who will be making his debut there. Even when the crowd shouts “C’mon Tim!”—which they will—they’ll be referring to someone else.

But after years of struggling just to make the tour, it doesn’t sound like Van Rijthoven will mind.

“Before the tournament started, it was a dream for me to play [Djokovic] basically,” he says. “So to be able to have that chance and to maybe even play on Centre Court or Court 1 is beautiful and magical.” Winner: Djokovic


WATCH: ZipRecruiter Player Resume, Ons Jabeur


Ons Jabeur vs. Elise Mertens

We had a feeling that Jabeur, the world No. 2, would make it to the second week. But Mertens’ presence here is one of the bigger surprises of the tournament. While she is seeded 24th and has been this far at Slams before, there wasn’t much about her grass-court season, in which she went 1-3 and lost her last two matches, that would have pointed toward a successful Wimbledon. And it very nearly wasn’t successful: Mertens had to save two match points to survive her second-rounder against Panna Udvardy.

Saving match points early in a major has a way of leading to bigger and better things down the road. A player can begin to feel as if they’ve got a little less to lose than their opponents. In her last match, Mertens beat former champion Angelique Kerber in two sets.

“I didn’t expect to play like this,” Mertens said. “But I felt like today was a good win, today was a good day. I think my level today was way better than the last couple days.”

“I’m definitely more confident with this win.”

Mertens won’t go in as the favorite, but she did beat Jabeur in their only meeting, at the US Open last year. And she may be happy that this match has been scheduled on No. 1 Court; Jabeur has talked a lot about how comfortable she is in Centre. Still, Jabeur is in the finer form overall, and with Iga Swiatek’s exit on Saturday, she should feel like a first Grand Slam title is within her grasp. Let’s see how she reacts to that. Winner: Jabeur