Wimbledon 2021 Preview – Can Anyone Stop the Djokovic Juggernaut?
After being cancelled in 2020 for the first time since World War Two, Wimbledon is gearing up for its long awaited return to the tennis tour on Monday. Alex Grant looks ahead to the upcoming fortnight of tennis action.
The grass is cut, the lines are drawn, the strawberries pristine. But for Novak Djokovic, he enters SW19 as the overwhelming favourite with one goal in mind – a third straight major and 20th grand slam title. If Djokovic were to achieve such a feat he would pull level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a record haul of 20 grand slam singles crowns and would be far and away the favourite to end his career with the most majors.
The world number one has been vocal of his desire to complete an unprecedented golden slam in 2021 of winning all four majors and Olympic gold in Tokyo and will start his latest Wimbledon campaign against British wildcard Jack Draper, who enters Wimbledon full of confidence after a surprise run to the quarter-finals at Queen’s.
The top seed’s draw is littered with potential banana skins, however, with big serving South African and former Wimbledon and US Open runner-up Kevin Anderson potentially waiting in round two. Elsewhere along Djokovic’s route could be Roland Garros breakout star Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, unpredictable Frenchman Gael Monfils and high-flying Russian Andrey Rublev, perhaps in the quarter-finals. All ahead of a possible rematch of the French Open final with Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last four.
Behind the number one seed is a very youthful line up of stars with Daniil Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Sascha Zverev rounding out the top four seeds. Despite all three having lost grand slam finals within the last year, they will all be hopeful of stopping Djokovic’s momentum and breaking through to win their maiden major crown.
Eight-time former champion Roger Federer comes into this year’s event seeded sixth but with very little in the way of game time after his recent return from long-term injury.
The Swiss superstar withdrew from last month’s French Open ahead of the fourth round in order to best prepare for the grass court season, but saw his preparations fall flat as he lost his second round match in Halle, an event he has won on 10 previous occasions, to young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The 20-time grand slam champion will begin his quest for a record 21st crown with a first-round clash with French left-hander Adrian Mannarino. Assuming he gets through that unscathed, Federer could face another Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, in round two before a potential third round clash with soaring Brit Cameron Norrie. Spanish 11th seed Pablo Carreno-Busta could await in round four, before a quarter-final clash with world number two Medvedev.
Zverev may well be the opposition in the last four, and were the Swiss to reach Wimbledon Sunday, he could face a rematch of the 2019 epic final against familiar foe Djokovic – A match in which Federer heartbreakingly saw two championship points slip away before Djokovic finally came out the victor 13-12 in a final set tiebreak.
Elsewhere, two-time former champion and fan favourite Andy Murray will make his return to Wimbledon singles, for the first time since limping out of a quarter-final against Sam Querrey four years ago, in a first round clash with world number 30 Nikoloz Basilashvili. It’s a difficult quarter of the draw for the two-time Olympic gold medalist, including a potential third round meeting with Canadian 10th seed Denis Shapovalov.
Current British number one Dan Evans will start his Wimbledon campaign with a tricky opener against big-serving grass court expert Feliciano Lopez.
Wimbledon will, however, be without world number three and two-time former champion Rafael Nadal, as well as defending US Open champion Dominic Thiem. Nadal, who recently saw his bid for a record 21st grand slam title fall flat at his beloved Roland Garros, has pulled out of both Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, citing physical and mental exhaustion as he continues to battle niggling back and foot injuries. World number four Thiem injured his wrist in the opening set of his first round match at the Mallorca Open warm-up event and now faces a prolonged period on the sidelines.
The Austrian star will wear a wrist splint for five weeks, potentially throwing onto doubt his US Open title defence.
The women’s draw has also seen a handful of withdrawals including world number two Naomi Osaka, who continues to take time away from the game for mental health reasons, and defending champion Simona Halep, who was a late withdrawal with a calf problem.
Sixth seed and seven-time champion Serena Williams will begin her latest bid to level Margaret Court’s all time record haul of 24 grand slam singles crowns against Belarusian star Aliaksandra Sasnovich, but could face a tricky third round clash with 2018 champion Angelique Kerber.
Wimbledon gets underway on Monday 28th June and will run through until the men’s final on Sunday 11th July with the women’s final held the day previous on Saturday 10th July. As ever, the event will be shown live exclusively all day, every day on the BBC and on the BBC iPlayer.