By David Arkow
With 120 singles matches completed on the men’s side of the draw, that provides a great opportunity to look back at some of the best matches so far as well as look forward to the exciting matchups to come in the final weekend. At the start of the tournament, we simulated the original draw to give all players a probability not only to win the whole tournament but also to reach a specific round. For example, at the start of the tournament, No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic had a 67% chance of reaching the quarterfinals given that he had to win four matches to get there. Now that Djokovic has reached the quarters, along with 7 other players, we can run a new simulation to give updated probabilities for each of the remaining players to advance. Obviously, all of their current probabilities to win the title will be greater than their original as there are only 8 players remaining (3 rounds) as opposed to the initial 128 players (7 rounds).
Having a draw with 128 players, there is pretty much guaranteed to be some big upsets. Using the initial simulation, we can quantify exactly how rare certain upsets are rather than just looking at the ranking differential between the players. Grass courts, as opposed to hard and clay, likely have the most upsets as it is the most unfamiliar for the players. Especially this year with so few warm-up tournaments between the French and Wimby, players weren’t as fine tuned for the sharp transition from the slowest to the fastest surface. There was also no grass court season held in 2020 so some players were playing their first match on grass in over two years. It also greatly advantages certain playing styles (big servers, volleyers, slicers) more so than other surfaces. At the French, only five of the total 32 seeds were less than 60% favorites in the first round compared to 12 seeds at Wimbledon. After the first four rounds of the tournament, here are some of the most surprising upsets.
On paper, it might seem that the first round upset of French Open runner-up and No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas was the most surprising. While the biggest upset in terms of seeding, it is not as unlikely as fans might think. Grass is historically his weakest surface winning 50% of his matches (75% on clay and 64% on hard) on it. Now in four Wimbledon entries, he has only made it out of the first round once. The Greek chose not to play any grass warm-up tournaments, likely needing rest from his deepest and most physically taxing Slam run of his career. On the other hand, he faced one of the toughest first round opponents among seeded players against Frances Tiafoe. The American played three grass warm-up tournaments, winning the challenger in Nottingham, giving him the 24th highest grass Elo (despite ranking 48th overall). Tiafoe had a 34% chance of pulling off the upset and did it in dominant straight-set fashion. Tsitsipas will look to rebound at the U.S. Open where he has also had similar struggles (never made it past the third round).
One of the most surprising upsets by probability was to American veteran and No. 28 seed John Isner. Isner arguably has the best serve on tour ranking first in hold percentage (91.3%) and grass has always been his preferred surface. His opponent Yoshihito Nishioka had never won a Wimbledon main draw match and ranks third lowest in hold percentage (67.8%). It was a five set battle between the tallest player in the ATP Top 100 (6’10’’) and the shortest player (5’7’’). After his shocking first round defeat, Isner will look to rebound at the U.S. Open in front of his home crowd.
On grass, some matches that appear to be upsets from the seeds weren’t actually when looking at the math. Playing in front of his home crowd, Andy Murray knocked off No. 24 Nikoloz Basilashvili in his first Wimbledon win since 2017 yet he was still the 59% favorite. Nineteen year-old and No. 19 seed Jannik Sinner was technically the underdog against Marton Fucsovics since Sinner had never played at Wimbledon and never won a grass court match. Players with a specific style - baseline counter-punchers - were also victims of early round exits. None of them had high odds in the original simulation (all less than 25% to make the second weekend) and the math was proven correctly. No. 11 Pablo Carreno Busta (who has never won a Wimbledon match in six attempts) lost to big-serving American and former semi-finalist Sam Querrey in the first round. No. 9 Diego Schwartzman lost to Fucsovics in the third. No. 12 Casper Ruud (who has also never won a Wimby match) lost to Jordan Thompson - an opponent he had never lost to before. All of these baseline counter-punchers had made at least the third round at Roland Garros showing how their games are much better suited for clay than for grass.
Predicting the Rest of Wimbledon
Unsurprisingly, the No. 1 seed has had the widest margin of victory over his opponents, only dropping a single set and winning 73% of his games. Novak will have the easiest quarterfinal matchup facing the only non-seed remaining in No. 48 Marton Fucsovics and is the heavy favorite at 87%. Fucsovics has earned his spot in the quarters defeating No. 19 Sinner, No. 9 Schwartzman, and No. 5 Andrey Rublev. Djokovic will continue to be favored the rest of the tournament facing either No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov or No. 25 seed Karen Khachanov in the semis. Statistically speaking, Djokovic is equally likely to face either No. 7 Matteo Berrettini or No. 6 Roger Federer in the final (~ 37% chance) but many fans will be hoping for a 2019 rematch with Federer in a GOAT showdown (Djokovic would be the 74% favorite). Since the start of the tournament, the odds have only increased for Djokovic to tie up the Big 3 race at 20 Slams as he now has a 57% chance.
In a battle of the “ovs”, Shapovalov will have more rest of the pair. Despite pulling through a tough five-set first round, the young Canadian received a walkover in his second and cruised through Andy Murray and No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut in the third and fourth. On the other hand, Karen Khachanov is coming off a five-set four-hour thriller against young American Sebastian Korda. At the outset of the tournament, the original simulation gave Khachanov one of the best improvements from the field based on his seeding. While he was seeded 25th, he ranked 14th in probability with a 14% chance of making the quarters. This is one of the tightest matchups with the Russian slightly favored at 55%.
Despite having one of the easiest draws (average opponent rank of 85), No. 7 Matteo Berrettini has dominated his competition only dropping a single set. He will now face his toughest opponent in No. 16 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had high expectations to begin with as he was the 10th ranked player by grass Elo despite being 23rd overall. This could be the breakout tournament for Canada’s young superstars as they boast the two youngest remaining players in the draw in Felix (20) and Shapovalov (22). Auger-Aliassime just pulled off a big five-set upset over No. 4 Alex Zverev (against whom he was 0-3 in his career). Berretini defeated Auger-Aliassime in 2019 in the finals of the grass tournament in Stuttgart (Auger-Aliassime lost in the finals of Stuttgart again this year and is 0-8 in career finals). Due to this, Berretini is the slight favorite with a 61% chance of advancing. Berrettini would have the slight 55% edge over Federer despite losing in straight sets in 2019 in the fourth round. He has the highest ranked remaining Elo of the field and would have the best shot (31%) at taking down Djokovic.
Federer has now won 105 Wimbledon matches (the most in the Open Era) and has reached his 18th quarterfinal. If he defeats No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz (76% chance), he will pass Rafael Nadal (who holds the record at Roland Garros) for the most wins at any Slam tournament. In only one year since his first Wimbledon championship in 2003 has Federer failed to make the quarterfinals. Fans were dubious of his prospects after pulling out of Roland Garros in the fourth round, losing in an early round in one of his best career grass tournaments at Halle, and going down two sets to one in his first round against Adrian Mannarino. Federer has put those doubts to rest in what looks like a return to form. He also greatly lucked out as Hurkacz (the weakest remaining player in the field by grass Elo) pulled off one of the biggest upsets (19% chance) of the tournament over No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. Federer should advance to his 15th Wimbledon semifinal, but his odds to win the whole title are lower at 14%.
While Djokovic seems poised to win his third consecutive Wimbledon (sixth total) and knot up the Big 3 Slam race, there will be strong competition that stands in his way. Federer has his best shot at winning his career Slam in what could be his last Wimbledon. The younger generation like Berrettini and Auger-Aliassime will challenge for their first.Slam. The final weekend at the All England Club promises to be one for the history books.
David Arkow '24 is an economics major and member of the Harvard Varsity Men's Tennis Team. He also serves on the board of HSAC. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach out to him firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out his original preview of the men's draw along with his updated preview of the women's draw.