Wimbledon Preview 2021

How great will it be to see tennis at the All England Club again?  The pandemic forced the cancellation of Wimbledon last year, the first time since World War 2, but now 12 months later organizers are hoping for a full 15,000 Centre Court on finals weekend, barring government intervention.

Lets start with the Ladies; world number on Ash Barty hasn’t played since withdrawing from her second round match in Paris, and that hip injury has prevented her from playing any lead in grass events.

The top half of her draw is loaded with Serena, Nottingham Champion Jo Konta, Roland Garros Champion Barbora Krejcikova, Eastborne Champion Jelena Ostapenko, former Wimbledon Champion Angie Kerber, former US Open Champ Bianca Andreescu and multiple Slam winner Victoria Azarenka. Crikey!

The Australian even has a tough first round against gritty Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, but if Barty can win a few rounds and her hip holds up the grass suits her game perfectly.  A big fortnight could be a possibility.

Defending Champion Simona Halep withdrew days ago with a calf injury and Naomi Osaka isn’t playing as the world number two is dealing with mental health issues, which gets me to the bottom half of the draw, it’s really anybody’s.  Any number of players could emerge and get to the final.  Sabalenka (2), Muguruza (11), Ons Jabeur (21), Kvitova (10), Swiatek (7), the big serving Madison Keys (23) or the unseeded Sloane Stephens.

So, who ends up lifting the trophy?  I’m turning this into a Barty Party, if the hip holds up the Navarro match will play her into form, as she’ll hit a lot of balls because the Spaniard won’t overpower her. Getting through the top half is a big ask but she knows how to win a Slam.  In two weeks it will be party time.

Now lets go to the men.  Djokovic is chasing his 3rdconsecutive Slam and vying to keep alive the unthinkable calendar year Grand Slam, the Serb is also looking to equal Rafa and Roger’s 20 Slams.  That’s a lot of Slam talk.

His part of the draw seems seamless, albeit there is a potential uncomfortable second round against big serving South African Kevin Anderson.

(Photo by Carl Recine- Pool/Getty Images)

If the seeds line up a semi final against Tsitsipas is likely, but I doubt the Greek star will make it that far, he’s never gone beyond the 4thround and traditionally losing finalists from the previous Slam have underperformed at the next one.

Nine times Champion Federer has had a scratchy return from knee surgery, although he unexpectedly won 3 matches in Paris his loss to talented Frenchman Felix Auger-Aliassime at Queens was a blow.  I’m sure he’d have wanted more matches on grass.

The draw gods have done him no favors with a very tricky first round against another Frenchman, the lefty Adrian Mannarino, who is very good on grass.  Survive that and a likely 3rdround could be Queens finalist Cam Norrie, who all of Britain will get behind.

Other seeds in the Federer half are Berrettini (7), Zverev (4) and Medvedev (2), who has never made it past the 3rdround, lost early in Halle but did win his first grass title this week in Mallorca, Spain, but I still doubt we’ll see the Russian on finals weekend at SW19.

If Federer survives week one he could make the final, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a bad match in there somewhere, if he scrapes through that he’ll play himself into form and Fed fans will get delirious wishing him to a 21stSlam.

Any hope of the 119 ranked Andy Murray winning another slam have diminished with multiple hip surgeries but watch out for the Scotsmen if he wins a few rounds, the further he goes the more the locals will whip themselves into a frenzy.  Rafa is out as he’s in preservation mode and won’t return until the US hardcourt season.

Ok, so who wins it all?  This year in the Slams Novak has done a great job winning tight matches (3rdround 5 setter in Melbourne over Taylor Fritz) and (RG final 5 setter over Tsitsipas).  This best of 5 set format allows him to dig his way out of trouble, regardless if players have long stretches of stellar play.

In this format even on grass I can’t see him losing, it would have to be a monumental collapse in form on his part and a career match from at least one of the seeds in his half, Monfils (13), Schwartzman (9), Khachanov (25), or Rublev (5).

If he makes the final he will be heavily favored, even against Federer, so I’m picking Novak to win and hit the Star Wars number of 20 Grand Slams.

 

 

 

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