Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are looking to cement their legendary status at Wimbledon, but six new names are in the last eight with their own goals.
As has become customary at Grand Slams in recent years, at least two of the sport’s big three will be in action on quarter-final day at Wimbledon on Wednesday, as the championships welcome a capacity crowd to the show courts for the second day in a row.
As sport approaches normalcy, the presence of Federer and Djokovic in the last eight – particularly at Wimbledon – could hardly be more normal; the pair have 30 quarter-finals between them in SW19, while the other six players have none.
In fact, Marton Fucsovics, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Hubert Hurkacz are making their Grand Slam quarter-final debuts, Denis Shapovalov and Karen Khachanov each have one Slam quarter-final appearance, and Matteo Berrettini leads the way with two appearances.
The first hurdles that the pair will face are probably the most unlikely of the other six quarter-finalists.
Federer will face Hubert Hurkacz, an unheralded Pole who may not have a Grand Slam pedigree but has risen to a career-high 18th in the world during a season in which he won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami. Despite winning just one game between his victory in Florida and Wimbledon, the 14th seed had not dropped a set on his way to a showdown with world No 2 Daniil Medvedev, where he rallied from 2-1 down to shock the Russian and continue his best major performance.
While Hurkacz can draw on some high-profile progress, Hungary’s Fucsovics does not have the same growing pedigree, at least not until this week, when he becomes the first man from his country to reach the quarter-finals in 30 years.
Another player having his best Slam performance, the world No 48 has defeated Jannik Sinner, Diego Schwartzman, and Andrey Rublev – all top 20 players in the world- on his way to the last eight.
The other two quarter-finals represent the ultimate opportunity for four names who, like Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, represent the next generation, those who were supposed to dethrone the big three about five years ago.
Karen Khachanov and Matteo Berrettini, both 25, are on the older end of the scale, while the Canadian duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are the most talented.
As a wild card in 2017, Shapovalov produced a brilliant performance as a teenager to reach the semi-finals of the Montreal Masters. He wowed the crowd, defeated Nadal, and ultimately fell short.
Despite flashes, progress had stalled until now. He reached the US Open quarter-finals last year, and now the 22-year-old has repeated the feat at Wimbledon, where he has blown away his last two opponents, including Andy Murray.
The 10th seed has all the shots and a much improved serve, and he’ll be a favorite to beat Russia’s Khachanov, who has regained the form that earned him a Masters title in 2018.
He survived a grueling match with Sebastian Korda on Manic Monday, but the prize is a first Grand Slam semi-final if he can continue his run after reaching the last eight at Roland Garros in 2019. Auger-Aliassime, the other Canadian in the draw, is only 20 years old and is seeded 16th; he is the youngest quarter-finalist since Nick Kyrgios in 2014. He defeated Kyrgios in their third-round match after the Australian had to retire, and he followed that up by winning his first-ever five-set match to advance to the last eight.
Auger-Aliassime won the first two sets against fourth seed Alexander Zverev before holding off a storming Zverev to set up a showdown with Berrettini, who proved his pedigree on grass by winning the title at Queen’s.
Berrettini’s massive serve and massive forehand may be too much for Auger-Aliassime, and the Italian seventh seed is rightly regarded as the biggest threat to Federer in the bottom half of the draw – and the most likely to stop Federer or Djokovic.