Players up their grass game at All England Club
Not since a German bomb hit Centre Court in 1940 have the Wimbledon Championships not been held. But that changed last year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shuttering of many sporting events, including tennis’ signature grass court tournament.
But it is with much anticipation that the sport’s third Grand Slam event of the year returns Monday, June 28, with first-round action on ESPN and ESPN2 (and culminates with the men’s final on ABC July 11). And probably as many questions as to who might break out this year at the All England Club.
On the men’s side, the conversation has to begin with two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic. The five-time Wimbledon champ, 19-time Grand Slam victor and World No. 1 loves the grass, with an 88 percent win rate on the surface as well as a penchant for eating it after every Wimbledon win. And who can forget his thrilling victory over Roger Federer in the 2019 final? In short, he’s the favorite.
Not to be disregarded is Rafael Nadal. Though he’s known for his credentials on clay (he’s the 13-time French Open champ), the man dubbed “Rafa” is no slouch on grass either, owning two Wimbledon titles and a 78 percent win rate on grass. He was eliminated in the semifinal at this year’s French Open (by Djokovic) but his form is solid and he should be a factor here.
Also to be considered is Stefanos Tsitsipas. He has multiple wins over Djokovic and Nadal and a 61 percent win rate on grass. He also pushed Djokovic right to the edge in a thrilling five-set loss to him in the French Open final earlier this month. He may not win but he could make trouble for the big guys. And don’t sleep on Matteo Berrettini. He’s one of the most improved players on the ATP Tour, with impressive outings at Belgrade, Rome and Madrid, and could go far if he gets lucky with the draw. As for nine-time champ Roger Federer, he may be the sentimental favorite but his injuries and recent track record make it hard to see him doing much in what may be his final appearance in London.
The women’s side is more wide open, though Serena Williams’ power game and history (she’s a seven-time Wimbledon champ) make her the favorite, especially given Naomi Osaka’s uncertain status and 2019 Wimbledon titlist Simona Halep’s injury. The 39-year-old is also very motivated to win her first Grand Slam since becoming a mother.
Petra Kvitová also is a factor. Though she hasn’t won a Slam since 2014, she always seems to play her best at Wimbledon (she won in 2010 and 2014) and has been making a lot of quarter- and semifinals recently. An area of concern is the ankle injury that forced her out of the French Open earlier this month.
And though she’s yet to win a Slam, Karolina Pliskova has been knocking at the door. Supremely talented with a powerful, accurate serve, forceful ground strokes and an aggressive net game, she’s a former World No. 1 and has made at least the semifinals in every major except Wimbledon. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her make a run here.