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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Wimbledon 2017: Murray, Halep, Cilic, Verdasco and Svitolina the games to watch on Day 1

The men's No 1 seed Andy Murray and the women's No 2 Simona Halep both have potentially awkward first-round matches at the All England Club on Monday.

Andy Murray has had a laboured build-up to his Wimbledon title defence with injury worries and a loss of form. Alastair Grant / AP Photo
Andy Murray has had a laboured build-up to his Wimbledon title defence with injury worries and a loss of form. Alastair Grant / AP Photo

Wimbledon, the third grand slam of the season, begins Monday in London. Here is a look at five matches to watch out for.

Andy Murray (1) v Alexander Bublik - opening match on Centre Court at 4pm UAE time

You have to go back to 1939 for the last time a Briton was the No 1 men's seed at Wimbledon. Andy Murray will hope to fare better than Bunny Austin did that year, where he reached the quarter-finals, as he starts his bid for a third title at the All England Club. Murray has had a poor year by his standards and looked very ordinary in his second-round loss at Queen's Club to Jordan Thompson last week. The uncertainty of his form, aligned to his hip problems that have limited his preparation time on court, make this match against the world No 134 Alexander Bublik more intriguing then it otherwise would have been.

Marina Erakovic v Simona Halep (2) - second match on Court 2

After the disappointment of missing out on her first major title at the French Open last month as she failed to win after being a break up in the final set of the final against Jeļena Ostapenko, how quickly the Romanian Simona Halep recovers will be imperative. Given the openness of the women's draw, with expectant mother Serena Williams absent, represents a great chance for Halep to win that elusive first major. But Marina Erakovic is capable of springing a surprise. The world No 129 beat Jelena Jankovic, seeded No 22 at the time, in the second round last year.

READ MORE: Five players set to take advantage of Serena Williams' absence

Philipp Kohlschreiber v Marin Cilic (7) - third match on Court 2

Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, has momentum behind him after winning Queen's last week. But facing Philipp Kohlschreiber, the German who was once as high as No 16 in the world, is a tough opening match. Kohlschreiber can play on grass, as his run to the last eight in 2012 highlighted, and while Cilic on current form should have too much for his opponent, he cannot afford to start slowly or he could face a long afternoon.

Ashleigh Barty v Elina Svitolina (4) - second match on Court 3

Elina Svitolina is one of the rising stars of women's tennis, and has built on winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February with a good run at the French Open, where she reached the quarter-finals. The Ukrainian has never been beyond the second round at Wimbledon, but she should have the confidence to go deep into this tournament. Ashleigh Barty showed she should not be underestimated with her run to the third round in Australia in January, but it will be a real shock if she sends Svitolina packing today.

Fernando Verdasco (31) v Kevin Anderson - second match on Court 18

This has the potential to be game of the day. Fernando Verdasco has the durability on court to be a handful for anyone, and the fact he is back in the top 32 at the age of 33 is testimony to that. Kevin Anderson, with that huge serve, can be a real force on grass. The South African gave Novak Djokovic a real scare at Wimbledon in 2015, and then went on to beat Andy Murray at the US Open, so this should be a fascinating encounter.