Wimbledon R2 previews and picks: Robredo vs. Mahut, Benneteau vs. Verdasco

A pair of all-veteran showdowns is on the Wimbledon second-round schedule for Wednesday. Chris Skelton previews and picks the action featuring Tommy Robredo vs. Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau vs. Fernando Verdasco.

(32) Tommy Robredo vs. Nicolas Mahut

These 31-year-old veterans have not met since 2008, when they occupied higher rungs in the ATP hierarchy than they do know. Buoyed by a Roland Garros quarterfinal appearance, however, Robredo claimed a Wimbledon seed and stands nearly 100 rankings slots ahead of his opponent. Mahut needed a wild card to reach the main draw, probably granted because of his valiant effort at the All-England Club against John Isner in the longest match of all time.

Despite the difference in their rankings, Mahut wields weapons more suited to grass. The Wimbledon courts will slow in the second week, but they have started the tournament in fast conditions. Mahut thus can deploy his retro serve-volley style without fear, daring Robredo to deliver clutch returns and passes. Time has dulled the Frenchman’s explosiveness on most surfaces, but he surged to the ‘s-Hertogenbosch title last week with a stunning upset over Stanislas Wawrinka.

Not unlike Wawrinka in his preference for clay, Robredo never has reached the second week at Wimbledon. His last three losses there came to Dudi Sela, Peter Luczak, and Yen-Hsun Lu; hardly giant-killers of the first order. But Robredo cruised through his first match at Wimbledon this year and he has lost only one match to someone outside the Top 30 since February. As much as Mahut will try to speed up the tempo, the Spaniard will try to slow it down and exploit his opponent’s erratic tendencies. Robredo should prevail if he can negate the Frenchman’s forward movement and pin him behind the baseline on key points.

Pick: Robredo in 4


Fernando Verdasco vs. (31) Julien Benneteau

As in the previous match, this encounter pits a Spaniard most comfortable on clay against a Frenchman who prefers faster surfaces. Famous for his futility in finals, Benneteau has notched his greatest achievements on indoor hard courts with victories over Roger Federer at the Paris Indoors and Rotterdam. He also nearly upset the Swiss star last year at Wimbledon, where the offensively oriented surface allows him to take time away from opponents.

Nevertheless, Benneteau has struggled since February on surfaces both fast and slow. An early loss to the floundering Bernard Tomic in Eastbourne preceded a shaky four-setter to start Wimbledon. The good news for the Frenchman is that he faces a Spaniard who has struggled almost as severely for even longer. Verdasco’s quarterfinal in Eastbourne last week marked his first at any tournament since last October and his ranking recently plunged to its nadir since 2005.

Their previous clashes bear little relevance to tomorrow’s clash, for they have not met on a surface other than clay in seven years. Benneteau won just one total set in those three career meetings, but he enters this match as the favorite based on his surface advantage and his ranking, near the edge of the Top 30. Both men struggle in long, tense matches, often finding their worst tennis when it matters most. Both are also susceptible to dramatic ebbs and flows in form, relying on games that contain little margin for error. Far more comfortable on offense than defense, Verdasco and Benneteau both will need a strong first-serve percentage to take control of points.

Pick: Benneteau in 5


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