This will be the most wide-open Wimbledon when it comes to the elite level, with the No. 1 rankings in both the ATP and WTA up for grabs. On the men's side, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka or Novak Djokovic each could take over the top spot from Andy Murray. Among the women, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and even Caroline Wozniacki could end up No. 1 if Angelique Kerber falters.
But the matches that will decide those outcomes are a long way off. Here are three that ought to please on Day 1 of the tournament.
No. 1 Andy Murray vs. Lucky Loser 134 Alexander Bublik (first meeting)
On paper, it looks like a match made in heaven. But in reality, you have to wonder: For which player?
Sure, Bublik has won exactly one main-draw Grand Slam match in his career. His ranking speaks for itself. He lost in the qualifying tournament, but got through as a lucky loser while ensconced at Starbucks, crying into his latte after taking a 12-10 in-the-third loss in the final round of qualifying.
But then there's this: Bublik is a loose cannon, a flashy 6-foot-4, 20-year-old Russian who boasts about his penchant for trick shots. He has a healthy disdain for the Big Four (because of their endless rallying, he says) and fancies himself part of the new generation. Bublik's lone Grand Slam win occurred at the Australian Open, where he upset No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille. That's a quality win.
Murray has struggled all year. He's dealing with a slight hip injury. His fellow British subjects adore and inspire him, but that also creates tremendous pressure.
Did we mention that Murray has lost the last two times he has faced lucky losers?
No. 10 Venus Williams vs. Elise Mertens (Williams leads series 1-0)
The first round of the women's draw has a number of intriguing Day 1 matchups, including American upstart CiCi Bellis' clash against former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. But given the unpredictable nature of WTA competition these days, and the remarkable longevity of Williams, how could we not highlight the 37-year-old, five-time champion's start in what could become a historic tournament?
Sure, this one ought to be a smooth ride for Williams. But she's at the age when those inexplicable bad days are more frequent. And just days ago Williams learned that she was deemed at fault in a fatal traffic accident. That has to be painful, as well as distracting.
In their only meeting, Williams rolled over Mertens just weeks ago in the fourth round of the French Open, 6-3, 6-1. Williams far prefers grass courts to clay, but Mertens is a fast-rising 21-year-old Belgian, who already has two WTA finals under her belt this year, including a win on hard courts in Hobart. That one took the 5-foot-11 right-hander over eight hurdles, as she started in qualifying.
Last year at this time, Mertens was ranked No. 131. She had played just two top-10 players before she met Williams in Paris. Mertens will feel more comfortable battling the icon this time around. Caution is advised.
No. 4 Rafael Nadal vs. John Millman (first meeting)
If anyone is playing with house money at Wimbledon, it's Nadal. Just weeks ago, he completed a deeply satisfying resurgence, reasserting his "King of Clay" credentials with his 10th singles title at the French Open. He's got two Grand Slam finals on his résumé already this year.
Nadal lost to a player ranked No. 100 or lower the last four times he's played Wimbledon, so no pressure there.
Perhaps those murmuring about another Nadal vs. Roger Federer Wimbledon final aren't so outrageous after all. A 6-foot, 28-year-old Aussie, Millman has been in the main draw of a major only nine times (5-9), but he made the third round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year. It's clear he likes faster surfaces and is well aware that Nadal has been beaten in recent years by players who attacked, chipped, charged and volleyed on the slick grass.
But this truly is a different Nadal. When you factor in his spectacular early-career success at Wimbledon, it's clear that nothing is out of the question. Those rally and passing shots of Nadal's are breathtaking once again, and perhaps most importantly, he is healthy.
Nadal certainly earned a long rest after his tremendous clay-court season, but lack of match play on grass combined with the fact that he has lost to a player ranked outside the top 100 in his past four appearances at Wimbledon could spell more bad news.