Get set as here comes ‘Wimbledon 2021’
Monday: Wimbledon 2021; (BBC Two, 10.30am, BBC One, 1.45pm)
Last summer, for the first time since the Second World War, there was no play possible at Wimbledon, and that fallow year has left British tennis fans even more excited than ever as action returns to SW19’s hallowed grass courts.
But while strawberries and cream, Pimm’s in the sun, and world-class sport is back at the All England Club, it won’t be a ‘normal’ Wimbledon.
For spectators, the tournament organisers have already confirmed there will be no queue, but they are hopeful of welcoming at least 10,000 fans a day.
For the players, the Grand Slam is taking place just a fortnight after the French Open (rather than the usual three weeks), leaving them with reduced grass-court preparation time.
The winner of the men’s singles title at Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic, will begin the defence of Wimbledon crown he won after defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 2019 final on Centre Court this afternoon.
Already this year, the world No.1 has stormed to victory at the Australian Open, and staved off elimination numerous times in Paris to end up on top there.
And few would bet against the 34-year-old Serb, who has now won seven of the past 11 major events, triumphing in London and setting up a chance to win a calendar Grand Slam at the US open.
That feat that has only been achieved three times in men’s singles – Don Budge did it in 1938, and Rod Laver accomplished it in both 1962 and 1969.
If anyone is going to beat Djokovic, history would favour former champions Roger Federer or Andy Murray.
However, there are concerns, injury or otherwise, regarding Djokovic’s perennial rivals heading into the tournament.
Of course, there could always be a first-time Wimbledon winner, and Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem could all be legitimate contenders.
In the women’s draw, Czech Barbora Krejcikova recently hung on during the final set to beat Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the French Open final to secure her first Grand Slam title.
But unlike in Paris, when 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams suffered an upset in the fourth round at the hands of 21-year-old Elena Rybakina, and Naomi Osaka withdraw after citing concerns for her mental health, the field at tennis’s premier event will be very challenging.
World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who had to pull the plug on her run at Roland Garros because of a left hip injury, should be in contention as she hungrily searches for her first win in London.
Before Djokovic and co get the action under way on the show courts this afternoon, Sue Barker will be presenting tennis features and action from the outside courts, where there will be plenty of British interest and even the chance of an early upset.
On day one in 2019, there was a straight-sets victory for home favourite Kyle Edmund over Spaniard Jaume Munar, while 15-year-old American Coco Gauff demonstrated her enormous potential when she prevailed against five-time champion Venus Williams.
Sports fans are spoilt for choice at the moment, with the Euros, Tour de France and cricket season in full swing, and the British & Irish Lions tour and the Olympics still to come.
The sporting summer is back with a bang, and last year just wasn’t the same without the sights and sounds of Wimbledon.
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