Recently crowned French Open champion will hope to continue that form on grass when he faces Japan’s Yuichi Sugita in the first round of Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Despite his world ranking of 2, Nadal will be the third seed heading into the tournament. Wimbledon adopts a different technique to seed the players, which puts more value on the performance of the players on the grass in recent competitions. That has resulted in Roger Federer being named as the second seed behind top seed Novak Djokovic. Kevin Anderson’s inclusion as the fourth seed is another byproduct of the formula. Nadal was displeased by his seeding, but he will have no option but to accept it.
The Spaniard dropped just two sets at Roland Garros as he clinched his 12th title in Paris. He now has 18 Grand Slam titles to his name, which is only two short of the record held by Federer. Considering the age difference between the two, Nadal has a fair chance of going ahead of his great rival. But that is easier said than done, especially on grass.
Nadal is not weak by any means on grass, but the majority of his success has come on clay. He has won at the Championships twice, in 2008 and 2010. Since then, he has failed to perform at Wimbledon consistently. He reached the final in 2011 and reached the semi-final last year. In all the years aside from that, he did not participate or got knocked out before the quarter-finals. The first round loss in 2013 was arguably the lowest point for Nadal at SW19. He will hope to better last year’s run to the semi-final this time.
Unseeded Yuichi Sugita will stand in Nadal’s way in the first round. This is the fifth time the 30-year-old Japanese has made it to the Wimbledon main draw. The second round is the farthest he has reached thus far, which he managed to do once. He won all three of his qualifying games to enter the main draw. Sugita beat Lucas Rosol in the last qualifier, who famously upset Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012.
Sugita has a single ATP title to his name in his career thus far. That title came in 2017 when he defeated Adrian Mannarino to win the Antalya Open in Turkey. He failed to reach the main draw of the Australian Open in January. Sugita’s highest ranking ever is 36th, which he achieved in 2017. The Japanese are ranked 187th in the world heading into the Championships. Nadal and Sugita have not met before in a professional game.
Rafael Nadal vs Yuichi Sugita Prediction
Nadal will be the heavy favorite to beat Sugita and get his tournament off to a winning start. The Spaniard has not played any warm-up games before Wimbledon, but he should shake off any rust. Nadal should claim a comfortable victory in straight sets. His experience and ability are by far higher than that of Sugita, and the game will be an easy one for the third seed.