What’s at stake at Wimbledon 2021?

 - Alex Sharp

It’s time for the tennis world to zone in on the luscious lawns of Wimbledon in south-west London for the third Grand Slam of the season.

Serena Williams Wimbledon 2019©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Heritage and tradition, immaculately manicured grass, green and white, it can only be Wimbledon.

It’s time for the 134th staging of The Championships in south-west London, with the world’s finest players vying to lift the trophy on Centre Court in two week’s time. 

Wimbledon was cancelled last summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but is back and ready to burst into life on Monday with an abundance of storylines.

Who arrives in form? 

Plenty of players can meander through the pristine grounds at SW19 with a swagger, knowing that they are in a rich vein of form on the grass.

No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev spent last week charging towards the title in Mallorca, road-runner Alex de Minaur triumphed in Eastbourne, as did Jelena Ostapenko.

Over to Germany and 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber enhanced her title tilt by taking home the trophy from Bad Homburg. Just after Roland-Garros, Ugo Humbert managed to dismiss the whole draw to be crowned champion in Halle and Matteo Berrettini served bombs to land the historic Queen’s title in London.

There was also grass court silverware for Marin Cilic (Stuttgart), Ons Jabeur (Birmingham) and Liudmila Samsonova (Berlin). 

Can they transfer their form for a deep run at The All England Club?

Serena still seeking No.24

Three months shy of her 40th birthday Serena Williams continues to strive for history, in particular seeking a record-equalling 24th major. 

The search is getting harder and harder, not that this is deterring Williams.

“I’ve had a big X on my back since I won the US Open in 1999,” stated Serena, knowing the gravitas of the task ahead to clinch a first Grand Slam since 2017.

The No.6 seed can never be counted out in London, triumphing seven times and reaching the final in 2018 and 2019. Serena with momentum, after early round wins, means trouble for the remaining competitors. 

Ladies’ popcorn first rounds

Barty (1) vs Suarez Navarro 

Andreescu (5) vs Cornet 

S. Williams (6) vs Sasnovich 

Swiatek (7) vs Hsieh 

Kvitova (10) vs Stephens 

Buzarnescu vs V.Williams 

20-20-20 vision?

Two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic is recharged after soaking up some rays in Mallorca, playing doubles with long-time friend Carlos Gomez-Herrera.

Rafael Nadal is absent, Roger Federer has question marks over his match-sharpness, so the world No.1 is the hot favourite to land a sixth Wimbledon. 

“I did not allow myself to enjoy that victory too much because four days later, after I won the title, I was on the grass courts training,” stated the Serbian, referring to his recent Roland-Garros triumph. 

Should Djokovic dismiss the field once again, he’ll join Nadal and Federer on 20 Grand Slams top of the all-time men’s standings. 

The stakes are huge – remember a Calendar Golden Slam remains a possibility! 

Barty daring to dream big

Unfortunately, Naomi Osaka didn’t make the trip and 2019 champion Simona Halep has been ruled out with a persistent calf complaint. So world No.1 Ash Barty is the leading light at The All England Club.

The 2019 Roland-Garros champion has recovered from a left hip injury which curtailed her campaign in Paris and is now eager to progress past her best Wimbledon showing of a fourth round two years ago.

"You can dare to dream,” insisted the top seed, who opens against the incredible comeback story of Carla Suarez Navarro. “That's been a lot of my learnings over the last 2 years as a person, putting my dreams out into the universe and chasing them.”

No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No.3 seed Elina Svitolina are pushing for their Grand Slam breakthrough, whilst recent Roland-Garros ruler Barbora Krejcikova’s chances could come down to dealing with the increased spotlight and scrutiny. 

“I cannot really put the good words together because all of this is very new and all of this is really exciting and special,” said the Czech with a chuckle. “Also, it's stressful. I didn't expect this to happen. Now I'm here.”

Men’s notable first round

Djokovic (1) vs Draper (WC) 

Tsitsipas (3) vs Tiafoe 

Federer (7) vs Mannarino 

Hurkacz (14) vs Musetti 

Dimitrov (18) vs Verdasco

Humbert (21) vs Kyrgios 

Basilashvili (24) vs Murray (WC) 

Who can dismantle Djokovic?

Away from the obvious choice, plenty of men will want to steal away the silverware.

No.2 seed Medvedev is in the same half as eight-time winner Federer, which could serve up a delicious quarter-final clash. 

Roland-Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas fell at the first hurdle at SW19 in 2019, but is adamant he’s transformed since then. 

“I was a completely different person than I am now,” stated the No.3 seed. “I will probably say not as confident as I am now. I relied a lot on my confidence back then. Most certainly I didn't really have Plan B or Plan C. I just kind of had my one way of playing.”

A versatile, sky-high Tsitsipas will be a major contender for sure.