Wimbledon preview: Winner winner, Jannik Sinner?

An aerial view of the WImbledon grounds

Wimbledon continues Great British summer of sport

The traditional Wimbledon logo, two white tennis rackets crossing with a white tennis ball underneath on a green background

It’s that time of year again when a green, leafy London suburb bursts into life with the hum of excitement and the distant thwack of tennis balls.
The world’s best tennis players descend on a sleepy corner of the capital for the 137th edition of the sport’s oldest and most prestigious championships.

Wimbledon gets underway on Monday for the zenith of the grass court season and the third major of the year.

For all the drama of the Euros, where else can you buy strawberries and cream for £8 a pop and a pint of Pimms for twice that. Where else can you do what us Brits simply do better than anyone else and stand in a queue for hours?

Speaking of fruit, whose name will be etched on to the pineapple-topped trophy to go down in the annals as a Wimbledon champion?

Familiar faces, new champions…

Jannik Sinner, Italy’s first ever no.1 singles player, has four titles under his belt this year (a win/loss record of 38-3) and will start as favourite in the men’s draw. Defending champion and fellow ‘young’un’ Carlos Alcaraz has added the Roland Garros title to his resume since his triumph last year in SW19 and is a strong contender again.

At the time of going to print, we don’t yet know whether Novak Djokovic will be fit enough to go for an eighth crown on the hallowed turf of Centre Court. But – if he is – you can be sure he won’t be far away. The Serb will be seeded second, so if all goes to plan would face Alexander Zverev in the semis and then Alcaraz or Sinner in the final. Should the 24-time major winner opt to skip SW19 and instead focus on the Paris Olympics (the one big title missing from his collection), this will be the first Championships without Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer since the turn of the century.

Other names to watch out for include Poland’s powerful seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz, American dark horse Taylor Fritz and recent King of Queen’s Tommy Paul.

Jack Draper’s breakthrough fortnight – a first ATP title in Stuttgart and a win over Alcaraz at Queen’s – has raised excitement levels among British fans. The emerging 22-year-old has usurped Cameron Norrie as the nation’s no.1 player and will be seeded at SW19. Draper has found consistency and his strong grass court game makes him an outside bet for the title.

Despite the fact both are more at home on the European clay, perennial second weekers Stefanos Tsitsipas and French Open runner up Zverev, both bidding for their first majors, cannot be ruled out.

A fond final farewell

We can’t move on without a word to Sir Andy Murray on what will almost certainly be his final Wimbledon. We really hope he recovers from his latest injury in time to earn a richly deserved swansong. To bow out fittingly as one of Britain’s finest ever sportsmen at the place he loves – and is loved – so much. He’s earned the right to choose when he hangs up his racket, and will no doubt be roared to the rafters as he brings down the curtain on a glittering career.

Swiatek not so Iga

Andy Murray lifts the Wimbledon title in 2013 on Centre Court

Not since the great Serena Williams (2015&2016) has there been a successful defence of the ladies singles. Since then, Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Ash Barty, Elena Rybakina and Marketa Vondrousova  have all got their hands on the Venus Rosewater Dish and this year’s field looks as much of a ‘free for all’ as ever.

Iga Swiatek, fresh from her fourth French Open title in Paris, will start as the world no.1 and top seed. But she has consistently failed to convert her considerable clay court dominance into tangible success on grass. Swiatek has never gone beyond the quarter finals at Wimbledon and does not adapt well to the switch in surface.

Vondrousova was a shock winner last year as the unseeded Czech defied the odds to topple hot favourite Ons Jabeur under the Centre Court roof. Ranked sixth this time, she will again be among the leading contenders, especially with injury and illness doubts surrounding big hitting Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka and Kazakh Rybakina.

Coco Gauff catapulted herself into the national spotlight with a record breaking run to the last 16 aged 15 in 2019. Now the world no.2, she had a US Open under her belt. French Open finalist Jasmine Paolini won her first WTA 1,000 title earlier this year and, having never gone beyond the first round here, will be expected to fare significantly better this time around. Don’t rule out the trio of top-20 Americans, either, in the form of Jessica Pegula, and former Grand Slam finalists Danielle Collins and Madison Keys.

Raducanu returns

Emma Raducanu is back in business having been awarded a wildcard spot for the Championship. Her third Wimbledon and, incredibly, only a ninth major, it’s easy to forget she’s still only 21. Raducanu’s life has been changed from promising youngster to the next big thing in the British game after her historic US Open victory in 2021. It hasn’t been easy with increased pressure, media attention and a catalogue of injuries, resulting in her dropping outside the world’s top.100. But Raducanu is raring to go and is well placed to go deep into the second week of a major for the first time since THAT fortnight in New York. If she can return to that form and level, then Raducanu could be, whisper it, a dangerous ‘floater’ in the draw.

So bring it on. Two weeks of sun (and rain, too, surely, this is Wimbledon after all), strawberries, serves, seeds and Sinner. Ready? Play…