The most famous Grand Slam starts tonight as the men start to qualify for the Wimbledon Championships in Roehampton.
Compared to other tournaments, which hold their qualifying in the same venue, qualifying is held 15 miles away – 24 kilometres – at the Roehampton National Tennis centre.
The main reason for this is to protect the grass courts at Wimbledon for the two weeks of the event.
Qualifying is also different to other tournaments – for the men – with the last round being a best of 5 sets to qualify for the main draw.
In all matches – three sets and five – there is no tiebreaker for the final set.
Australia is represented by five players in the main draw with John Millman the only seeded player to compete for the green and gold.
He is the 15th seed.
The event also sees Jason Kubler play on grass for the first time in 3 years. Kubler, who has problems with his knees, can only play on clay.
It will be interesting to see how he goes on the surface. He tried to play on it last week, in a Challenger, but was forced to play on hard courts after rain moved play indoors in Ilkley.
128 players are in the field with 16 spots in the main draw available. Here is a look at the Aussies involved and a wrap of the draw.
JOHN-PATRICK SMITH vs MAXIME AUTHOM
Grass might be a surface suited to Smith’s game but the Queenslander has struggled at Wimbledon so far.
Two appearances, for two first round qualifying losses, doesn’t bode well for the left hander who went to college in America.
Smith, who is 160 in the world, is a serve volley player whose game is suited well to the surface.
He faces a Belgian who has made the final round of qualifying for the event twice in his career.
Maxime Authom, who is 174 in the world, made the final round in 2012 and 2013.
Two years ago he would lose 7-5 in the final set to fall agonisingly short.
If Smith can get past Authom, he has a draw that could allow him to qualify. He could face potential match-ups against Bjorn Fratangelo and Alejandro Gonzalez in the final two rounds.
Both haven’t played on grass this year with Smith making the quarter finals at Surbiton. I favour him to come close to qualifying if he can get past Authom tonight.
JOHN MILLMAN (15) vs CHRISTIAN LINDELL
If wins were based on ranking then John Millman would qualify from this section to make the main draw at Wimbledon.
We all know that isn’t the case but the Australian has an excellent chance of making the main draw.
First up he plays a player who hasn’t played on the surface in his professional career. Lindell, who was born in Brazil but plays for Sweden, is a clay court specialist who qualified for the French Open last month.
Millman would be a short favourite and I don’t see him having any problems against Lindell.
He would then face either Tristan Lamasine or Chase Buchanan in the next round and should get past either of them with no real problems. Both have limited experience just like Lindell.
Millman’s biggest test could come in the last round from either Niels Desein or Albert Montanes.
Montanes, who made the third round here in 2009 and 2010, would be a stern test for Millman. While his form isn’t as good as five years ago, experience counts for a lot, and it would come to the fore in a 5 set battle.
Millman has an excellent chance to qualify but the final round will be the important match for him.
LUKE SAVILLE vs NICOLAS JARRY
2014 was a wonderful Wimbledon for Luke Saville. He qualified for the event, and then made the second round, losing to Grigor Dimitrov on centre court.
Now he looks to do that again and has a draw that could allow him to repeat the feat.
First up he plays Chilean, Nicolas Jarry, who has only played one match on grass in his short career so far.
Saville, who made the final at the Manchester Challenger this month, should defeat Jarry comfortably as he uses his experience on the surface to beat the 19 year old.
The South Australian could then face Ante Pavic or Thiemo de Bakker in the next round.
Pavic, who is a big server, would pose more problems to Saville if he gets past his Netherlands opponent. His game suits the surface better.
Saville though should make the final round and face either Konstantin Kravchuk or the second seed in Luca Vanni.
The 2011 Wimbledon junior champion has beaten both in recent weeks and would favour his chances of qualifying this week.
This week is the time to shine for the South Australian and he will get close to qualifying.
BEN MITCHELL vs REMI BOUTILLIER
Mitchell has an excellent chance of winning his first match at Wimbledon when he takes on Frenchman Remi Boutillier.
The Frenchman has never played at Wimbledon before and has only won 4 matches on the surface.
With Mitchell not in great form himself, after losing in qualifying for the Surbiton Challenger, this could be a match that starts a run for the Queenslander.
He has a draw that could open if Maximo Gonzalez, the 9th seed, loses in the opening round to Marton Fucsovics.
Fucsovics, who is inconsistent on the Tour, can cause the upset with his game more suited to grass than Gonzalez.
How Mitchell’s attitude is in the event will indicate how far he goes. He has the talent to qualify for the main draw. Whether his heart, and head, is there, is another question.
I predict a win and then a loss in either the 2nd or 3rd round. If he gets confidence then anything could happen.
JASON KUBLER vs RUI MACHADO
As mentioned earlier this is Kubler’s first appearance on grass in 3 years. He faces Portugal’s Rui Machado who competed in the main draw in 2012.
How Kubler’s knees hold up will be the key. If he is fine on this surface, and serves well, then he can defeat Machado and progress to Round 2.
That’s as far as he goes unfortunately, with this draw littered with players who are in form, or good on grass.
Gaining experience, and confidence, on the surface will be the big win though if he plays a full match or two.
The draw itself:
Kimmer Coppejans is the number 1 seed for the event with the Belgian youngster on the cusp of the top 100.
Former 4th rounder at the event, Jurgen Melzer, will face his brother Gerald in the opening round. That will be an interesting match.
France has the most entries in the draw with 13, with Germany having 11.
Shanejonessport will take a look at the women’s qualifying draw tomorrow and preview the men’s second round matches involving Australians.