I remember watching a Davis Cup tie between Great Britain and the Ukraine several years ago and catching a glimpse of their now number one player, Alex Dolgopolov. Back then I thought nothing of him, especially after he was comfortably dispatched in straight sets by Andy Murray. That was way back in 2006, a whole five years ago, and since then the little Ukrainian has blossomed into a very useful tennis player, one capable of causing an upset in Grand Slams, as he did with aplomb at the Australian Open earlier in the year.
Victories over several useful individuals at the Aussie Open, including hugely impressive wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling – who were 13th and 4th in the world, respectively, at the time – not only propelled the Ukrainian up the rankings to a career-high 20 but also to prominence, especially with the English public, after he pushed Briton Andy Murray all the way in a thrilling four-set encounter, which he eventually lost 5-7, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6.
The point I’m trying to make is that Dolgopolov is a player to look out for at Wimbledon, with his ferocious groundstrokes too much for most. His recent form, however, has gone a little array and that is why he could perhaps be susceptible on Tuesday against a player not too dissimilar in style.
Fernando Gonzalez was an exceptional player at his peak, reaching the final of the Australian Open in 2007, as well as many other forages into the latter stages of Grand Slams.
Unfortunately, age and injuries are creeping up on the Chilean – he has competed in just three events since the 2010 US Open, and in his last two events he has been forced to withdraw. He has already stated that retirement from the game looms large but that he wants to go out on a high, and if the niggling injuries can refrain from making an appearance in his opening round clash with Doglopolov, we could be in for a real ding-dong clash between two huge hitters.
Backing Gonzalez just to make it through to the end of the match would be a huge gamble in itself, but a huge achievement for him and that is why he’ll be doing his utmost to finish what could be his last ever match at The All England Club. To take a set would also be massive for him, personally. I don’t see the latter occurring, as it should be a fairly simple assignment for the Ukrainian against a former great of the game; a player who has recorded wins over the very best, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but is seriously on the wane.
Fernando Gonzalez has slipped down to 478 in the world after an injury plagued nine months which has seen him compete in just three events since last year’s US Open, though he was forced to pull out of two because of injury.
However, the 30-year-old Chilean is a former Australian Open runner-up (2007), a French Open semi-finalist (2009) and a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2005.
Alex Dolgopolov is ranked 454 places higher in the ATP Rankings than his opponent, with the Ukrainian number one surging up the rankings to 24 after reaching the quarter-finals at this year’s Austrlian Open.
The 22-year-old was also victorious in the only previous meeting, winning in straight sets in the First Round of the 2010 French Open (6-3, 6-4, 6-3).