After winning his second French Open and 19th Slam a few weeks ago in Paris, World No.1 Novak Djokovic has been making headlines for all the right reasons. After a stellar clay season, the Serb will turn his attention to Wimbledon, where he is already a five-time Champion.
In fact, many experts and former players have already billed Djokovic as the strong favourite to defend his Wimbledon title. Moreover, he is also eyeing the record-equaling Grand Slam tally of 20, which will put him in the same bracket as his rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Recently, Djokovic was seen warming up on the grass courts of Mallorca to get ready for the Championships, and it appears that the draw too is likely to be smooth for the defending champion.
The 34-year-old will kick off his 2021 Wimbledon campaign against Draper of United Kingdom. Despite, any match practice on the grass, one would still expect the Serbian superstar to prevail without much trouble. Going into the second, third and fourth round too, Djokovic should have little problems in dismissing potential opponents – Jack Draper, former finalist Kevin Anderson and either of Andreas Seppi or Davidovich Fokina.
It is also to be noted that Djokovic has not faltered at Wimbledon in the early rounds, unlike many leading current and former players. Therefore, Djokovic making the second week of Wimbledon is probably a foregone conclusion at this stage. That said, things will get tricky in the last three rounds.
With potential opponents in Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Federer, and Alexander Zverev, it will be interesting to see how Djokovic wades through the draw and get his hands on the coveted Wimbledon trophy for the sixth time.
As the 19-time Grand Slam champion gets ready to open the Centre Court on Monday, let’s glance through a few names who can pose a serious threat to Djokovic’s title defense at the All England Club.
Even today, the Swiss maestro is the second best grass court player after Djokovic. Federer is an eight-time champion at Wimbledon and is arguably one of the greatest ever to play on the lawns of the All England Club. We must also remember, it’s only Federer who posed a threat to Djokovic in the past with his skill and variety. Although Federer currently trails Djokovic 1-3 at Wimbledon, he is perhaps the most naturally gifted player to challenge the Serb.
Back in 2014, Federer went toe-to-toe with Djokovic for five-epic sets, before the latter eventually prevailed. In the following year too, Federer lost in four setter to Djokovic in the finals. But perhaps, his biggest disappointment came in 2019, where he was two match points up, only to squander them both to lose the title. Although Federer is struggling with the recent slump, confidence and age, if he can get past the first week unscathed, then anything can happen. While a repeat of 2019 finals looks improbable at this juncture, it would be a folly to completely rule it out.
The young German is showing great progress in the last few Grand Slams. Having made deep runs at the US Open, Australian Open and French Open, Zverev looks poised to continue his good fortune at the Grand Slams. Moreover, he has a decent draw where he can pretty much get through the first week without much hiccup. The 23-year-old Zverev also has relatively more experience of playing on the grass as compared to many other guys from the next generation.
It is also not to be forgotten that Zverev has even stunned Roger Federer on the surface. Given Zverev’s serve, which will aid him on grass, he can use it to good effect. The German also likes to flatten his shots of both flanks, which will only cause more damage to his opponents on grass. With two big weapons and recent run in the Major tournaments, Zverev can certainly give Djokovic a run for his money, if the two meet in the finals of Wimbledon.
While Tsitsipas too is enjoying a great run on the tour, owing to which he has also progressed ahead in the ATP rankings, the Greek could find adapting to the grass tricky. In the past, Tsitsipas has reached till the fourth round of Wimbledon. That said, the fresh grass in the early rounds can challenge the World No.4. In comparison to his rivals, he is likely to encounter a tougher draw in the lead up to the second week of Wimbledon. Therefore, given the time he has spent on court lately and the physical and emotional demands ahead, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 2021 French Open finalist gets knocked out before he meets Djokovic in the finals.