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Wimbledon 2021 preview

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Roar Guru
21st June, 2021
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After last year’s Wimbledon Championships were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the attention of the tennis world once again turns to the All England Club where tennis immortality will be at the mercy of men’s world number one, Novak Djokovic.

The Djoker emulated his 2016 feat of winning the Australian and French Opens back-to-back, by coming from two sets to love down to outlast Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic five-set final at Roland Garros, the first time in 17 years that a French Open men’s singles final went the distance.

This has not only put him halfway through a calendar Slam, but he has also cleared two (out of six) hurdles in his bid to achieve the first calendar Super Slam in history – which includes winning all four Majors, as well as the Olympic Gold Medal in singles and the ATP Finals.

Also at stake for the 34-year-old is the chance to join his contemporaries Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Major men’s singles titles, with his task made slightly easier by Nadal’s withdrawal from the tournament due to fitness issues.

On the women’s side, this year’s championships shapes as Serena Williams’ final chance to salute at SW19 before she turns 40 later this year, but this is by no means her final chance at equaling the all-time record of Margaret Court’s 24 Major singles titles.

Reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka will be absent, meaning she will not get her chance to improve a poor record at Wimbledon, where she has not progressed past the third round, and lost in the first round in 2019.

The number one ranking will therefore be contested by Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, who by winning the title (and also relying on an unexpected poor showing from Barty) could become the second woman from Belarus to top the tennis rankings, after Victoria Azarenka.

After missing the French Open due to injury, 2019 champion Simona Halep returns hoping to win a second Wimbledon title, while all eyes will be on French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova to see if she can emulate her clay court feats on the faster grass courts in London.

As always, we preview the men’s contenders first, starting with the defending champion from 2019, Novak Djokovic.

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[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Wimbledon history
Best result: Won five times (2011, 2014-15, 2018-19)
2019 result: Champion (defeated Roger Federer in the final)

Australian Open result: Champion (defeated Daniil Medvedev in the final)
French Open result: Champion (defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final)

Titles so far in 2021: Australian Open, French Open

With Rafael Nadal sitting out this year’s Wimbledon Championships, and doubts hovering over Roger Federer’s fitness, world number one Novak Djokovic has tennis immortality at his mercy, with a record-equaling 20th Major men’s singles title and a calendar Slam at stake.

By virtue of winning the French Open over a week ago, the Djoker became the first man in Open Era history to achieve a double career Grand Slam, further staking his claim in the long-running greatest-of-all-time debate in men’s tennis.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The 34-year-old displayed extraordinary mental toughness in the final, coming from two sets down to overhaul Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets to win his 19th Major title and again expose the gulf between himself, Federer and Nadal, and the up-and-comers in men’s tennis.

It also brought him to within one of the men’s joint-record of 20 Major singles title held by Federer and Nadal, and should he salute at Wimbledon for a third consecutive time it would create a subplot to what should be an intriguing US Open in August.

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The Serb now has the chance to become the first man in over 50 years to win the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in a calendar year, and the first man since Nadal in 2010 to win majors on three different surfaces in the same calendar year.

Further, winning at SW19 would also put him halfway to a calendar Super Slam, which entails winning the four Majors, the Olympic Gold Medal in singles and the season-ending ATP Finals.

Only one man – Andre Agassi – has achieved a Super Slam, but not in the calendar fashion that Novak Djokovic is trying to achieve this year.

Djokovic and Federer are both missing an Olympic Gold Medal in singles, while Nadal has yet to win the ATP Finals despite reaching the championship match twice in 2010 and 2013, where he lost to Federer and Djokovic respectively.

At his last appearance at Wimbledon, Djokovic saved two championship points to edge out Federer in a classic championship showdown in which the final set went to 13-12, a tiebreak being invoked at 12-all in a bid to ensure that long matches were completed promptly.

It showed that, of tennis’ “Big Three”, the Djoker was (and still is) the most toughest of them mentally, having twice saved match points against Federer at the 2010 and 2011 US Opens, while also coming from two sets to love down in so many matches throughout his career.

History, however, will be against the 34-year-old if he is to lift the holy grail at SW19, as no man has been able to achieve the French Open-Wimbledon double since Nadal eleven years ago.

Despite the hoodoo facing him and the short turnaround from his successful French Open campaign, I think Djokovic can reign on the grass courts.

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Prediction: Champion

[7] Roger Federer (SUI)
Wimbledon history
Best result: Won eight times (2003-07, 2009, 2012, 2017)
2019 result: Runner-up (lost to Novak Djokovic in the final)

Australian Open result: Did not play
French Open result: Fourth round (withdrew before match vs Matteo Berrettini due to fitness concerns)

Titles so far in 2021: None

For Roger Federer, this is just about his final chance to add to his tally of 20 Major men’s singles titles which has remained stalled since the 2018 Australian Open.

A knee injury he picked up at last year’s Australian Open, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which caused havoc on the tennis calendar, means he has not played as much tennis as he would’ve hoped in the past eighteen months.

After bypassing Australia in February due to fitness and quarantine concerns, Federer contested the French Open, where he reached the fourth round only to withdraw before his match against Matteo Berrettini due to fitness concerns.

Roger Federer in action at the US Open

Roger Federer of Switzerland (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

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His withdrawal drew plenty of criticism from some tennis corners, though it could also be argued that his focus was on the All England Club, where he has won eight Majors, including his very first Major here in 2003.

He could’ve won more titles here if not for heartbreaking losses to Novak Djokovic (2014, 2015 and 2019) and Rafael Nadal (2008) in other championship matches.

His last appearance at Wimbledon, in 2019, saw him hold two championship points before he was eventually beaten by Djokovic 13-12 in the final set.

Last week, Federer made his return to the grass courts in Halle, where he fell in the second round to Felix Auger-Aliassime, further prompting more questions about his fitness as he gears up for quite possibly his final visit to SW19.

Despite the fitness concerns, I think the grass courts of London should bring out the best in 39-year-old Federer, and I can again see him doing well – just not reaching the final.

Prediction: Semi-finals

[3] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
Wimbledon history
Best result: Fourth round (2018)
2019 result: First round (lost to Thomas Fabbiano)

Australian Open result: Semi-finals (lost to Daniil Medvedev)
French Open result: Runner-up (lost to Novak Djokovic)

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Titles so far in 2021: Monte Carlo, Lyon.

One player with the potential to do well on the grass courts of Wimbledon is Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Greek star very nearly struck a blow for the so-called Next Gen by leading Novak Djokovic by two sets to love in the French Open final earlier this month, only to lose the final three sets as he buckled under the pressure of playing in the biggest final of his fledgling career.

Afterwards, the 22-year-old put the defeat into perspective, revealing that his paternal grandmother had died just five minutes before taking to Court Philippe Chatrier.

This, more than anything, should motivate him to make a deep run at SW19, where his best result was reaching the fourth round in 2018. In his most recent appearance, however, he crashed out in the first round in 2019, losing to Thomas Fabbiano.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece

Stefanos Tsitsipas. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

Earlier in the year, he reached the final four at the Australian Open, while he also claimed titles in Monte Carlo (his first at Masters 1000 level) and Lyon, bringing his career title haul to seven.

He may have yet to make an impression at the All England Club, but he did produce some strong results as a junior, winning the boys’ doubles event and reaching the semi-finals in the boys’ singles in 2016.

It now remains to be seen whether he can break through for a personal-best performance at the tournament, and I think he can make a good run at it in 2021.

Prediction: Semi-finals

Other notable contenders: Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini.

Notable withdrawals: Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka.

We now swing our focus to the women’s side of things, where, with Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal, the battle for top spot in the rankings could come down to how current world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka fare at the All England Club.

Neither player has done particularly well on the grass courts of Wimbledon, with Barty’s best result being reaching the fourth round in 2019, and Sabalenka having not yet reached a Major quarter-final.

2019 champion Simona Halep also returns hoping to win a second consecutive title, while this year looms as Serena Williams’ final chance to add to her haul of Major singles titles, which since 2017 has remained stalled at 23.

Also of particular interest will be whether French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova can quickly transition from the clay courts to the grass courts, and whether we could see another unexpected Major champion as has been the case in recent years.

We start our preview of the women’s contenders with Barty.

[1] Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
Wimbledon history
Best result: Fourth round (2019)
2019 result: Fourth round (lost to Alison Riske)

Australian Open result: Quarter-finals (lost to Karolina Muchova)
French Open result: Second round (retired hurt vs Magda Linette)

Titles so far in 2021: Yarra Valley Classic, Miami, Stuttgart.

Australia’s best hopes of a first female Wimbledon champion since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980 rests on Ashleigh Barty, whose fitness remains a concern after being forced to abort her French Open bid in the second round.

The Queenslander had performed well since the Australian swing, defending her title in Miami as well as winning the Stuttgart Open before losing to emerging rival Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the Madrid Open in May.

She then suffered a training mishap at Roland Garros, where she was forced to pull the pin midway through the second set of her match against Magda Linette so as to avoid the risk of further serious injury, which could have seen her ruled out of Wimbledon.

This year will mark the tenth anniversary of her title win in the junior division, but since then she has mostly struggled at SW19, her best result being reaching the fourth round in 2019 where she lost to Alison Riske after winning the first set.

That saw her miss out on what would’ve been an inter-generational quarter-final clash against the mighty Serena Williams, but going by their current world rankings, the earliest they could face each other would be in the quarter-finals.

If there’s ever a time for Ashleigh Barty to fix her poor record at Wimbledon, it’s here and now.

Ashleigh Barty plays a backhand slice

Ashleigh Barty plays a backhand. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Prediction: Quarter-finals

[2] Simona Halep (ROU)
Wimbledon history
Best result: Won (2019)
2019 result: Champion (defeated Serena Williams in the final)

Australian Open result: Quarter-finals (lost to Serena Williams)
French Open result: Did not play

Titles so far in 2021: None

Making her return to the All England Club after being denied the opportunity to defend her title last year due to COVID-19 is the 2019 champion, Simona Halep, who also returns to action after a calf injury suffered at the Italian Open forced her to sit out the French Open.

To this point of the season, the 29-year-old has yet to win a title, let alone reach a final, but did reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in February where she was defeated by Serena Williams.

While she has not yet saluted anywhere this year, she did reach the semi-finals in Stuttgart only to be beaten by Aryna Sabalenka.

Now she returns hoping to emulate her stunning performance in the championship match in 2019, where she handed the legendary American her worst defeat in a Major final, her win also complimenting the French Open title she won the previous year.

Perhaps a return to the British capital might be the spark Halep needs to revive her fortunes, ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo followed by the US Open swing.

Prediction: Semi-finals

[7] Serena Williams (USA)
Wimbledon history
Best result: Won seven times (2002-03, 2009-10, 2012, 2015-16)
2019 result: Runner-up (lost to Simona Halep in the final)

Australian Open result: Semi-finals (lost to Naomi Osaka)
French Open result: Fourth round (lost to Elena Rybakina)

Titles so far in 2021: None

For Serena Williams, time is running out on her chance to equal Margaret Court’s long-standing record of 24 Major singles titles.

Since giving birth to her daughter in September 2017, which came seven months after she won her 23rd Major singles title at the Australian Open earlier that year, the American has fallen short several times in her bid to cement herself as the greatest player of our generation.

Approaching the age of 40, and having not yet won a title for the year, the 39-year-old has produced some modest results this year, reaching the semi-finals at Melbourne Park in February and then reaching the fourth round at the French Open.

Her loss to Elena Rybakina at Roland Garros has again raised questions about whether she still has the hunger to do well at the Majors, but given her history at Wimbledon, you can bet she will hit back with a vengeance as she tries to add to her Major tally before she retires.

Serena Williams

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The American’s record speaks for itself – seven titles, as well as runner-up showings in 2004, 2008, 2018 and 2019, where she lost to Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, respectively.

Williams goes into this year’s Wimbledon Championships knowing that this could be her final appearance at the tournament, and she will want to make the most of it and salute for one final time before hanging up the racquet for good, whenever that may be.

Prediction: Huge call, but despite her age and her recent poor performances at the Majors I think she can go all the way.

Other notable contenders: Aryna Sabalenka, Elina Svitolina, Bianca Andreescu, Barbora Krejcikova.

Notable withdrawals: Naomi Osaka.

Wimbledon gets underway this Monday evening (28 June) at 7:30pm (AEST). Coverage is through 9Gem and the Nine Network.

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