Wimbledon Preview

In lieu of a podcast episode, we have decided to make this blog post to give a thorough preview of The Championships, Wimbledon 2021, the first edition in two years.

NB Men’s Bracket
NB Women’s Bracket

Men’s Favorite

Nathan Boles: Novak Djokovic – This is an easy choice. Not only is the five-time Wimbledon champion in peak form, no one else really seems like they can challenge him on the grass. Roger Federer is arguably the greatest grass-court player ever, but he’s almost 40 years old and is coming off multiple knee surgeries. Rafael Nadal withdrew, Andy Murray is outside of the top 100 in the world, and young guns like French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas are inexperienced on grass. Djokovic should run away with his 20th Grand Slam title and tie Nadal and Federer’s all-time record.

Sean Daugherty: Novak Djokovic – Novak Djokovic is a five-time Wimbledon champion. He is the current reigning champion, and he will be successful in his bid for a sixth Wimbledon title. There is not a player that is close to Djokovic’s level. His fitness, agility, and natural ability on clay is unlike any other current player. Obviously random injuries can occur throughout the tournament, but barring any out-of-control events, Djokovic will dominate the playing field. Nadal’s withdrawal practically solidified Djokovic’s position. An aged Federer will not be enough to stop Djokovic, and I do not believe that the next generation has acclimated to grass well enough to challenge the Djoker.

Women’s Favorite

Boles: Ash Barty and Serena WilliamsThis is MUCH, MUCH less clear-cut than the men’s favorite and could very easily turn out like the French Open with four first-time Grand Slam semifinalists. Barty is in the toughest quarter of the draw that I’ll explain below, but she should still be able to use her versatile all-around game, vicious backhand slice and good serve to go all the way. But her road could include Serena Williams in the semifinals, and she has a slightly easier draw and maybe as good a chance as ever to win that elusive 24th Grand Slam title. Angelique Kerber and Coco Gauff could be tough third- and fourth-round opponents, but the grass is much more suited for Serena, especially as many players are still trying to get used to the surface that no one has played on in two years due to the pandemic. She can flip a switch and solidify her status as the G.O.A.T. if she can find her peak form at SW19.

Daugherty: Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber – The women’s draw is incredibly wide open and unpredictable. Simona Halep would probably be the favorite, as she won the title all the way back in 2019. Unfortunately, she is still recovering from her calf injury, so I believe one of the favorites will be Garbine Muguruza. Although she had a less-than-stellar clay-court season, her experience with grass, as well as the confidence that she has from winning Wimbledon in 2017, gives her a slight edge over her competitors. Her quarter lacks experience on grass from the younger competitors. She has the ability to use her experience to outplay her younger competitors, which could give her confidence to beat the more experienced veterans later in the tournament. Since the women’s draw is so unpredictable, I have a second favorite that could do well. Angelique Kerber, like Muguruza, has won Wimbledon before. She has always had great form on grass that derives from her natural ability to get low on the surface. However, she has a much tougher quarter than the likes of Muguruza. She will potentially have to face the great Serena Williams in the third round, which could be a daunting challenge in such an early part of the tournament. Kerber has also struggled to put together consistent play in a Grand Slam tournament since her 2018 Wimbledon title. Regardless of her struggles, she certainly has the potential to bring back her 2018 form and win another Major.

Men’s Toughest Quarter

Lee: Federer and Medvedev’s Quarter (4th)No part of the draw is extremely lopsided (except maybe Djokovic’s quarter, go figure), but this one will probably not be a fun one. Although he’s coming off two knee surgeries, Federer still got to the fourth round of the French Open, and he made the Wimbledon final two years ago; what’s to say he can’t make a magical run as many of the best players are still learning the surface? But the Brit Cam Norrie could play Federer in the third round and is someone who looks very natural on the grass and is coming off a final run at Queen’s where he pushed Matteo Berrettini to three sets. Sam Querrey seems to have found a groove as he made his first ATP final in two years  at Mallorca. If he gets past a tough test in 11th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round, he could play Federer in the fourth round and possibly make another run like he did in 2016 and 2017. In the Mallorca final, Querrey lost to World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who now has his first grass-court title. His penetrating flat shots should be perfect for the grass, and the French Open showed he isn’t just a hard-court specialist. He’s never gotten past the third round of Wimbledon, but this is as good a time as any to breakthrough and get as far as the final (sorry, none of y’all are beating Djokovic). Regardless, between this and the quarter with Berrettini and Zverev, some wild results could happen.

Daugherty: Berrettini and Zverev’s Quarter (3rd) – I think that the toughest men’s quarter is the third quarter of the draw. The top seed in the quarter is the young German Alexander Zverev, but he is far from the most dominant player. The quarter also has Matteo Berrettini, the young Italian who has a dominant backhand slice that can throw off his opponents to go along with his powerful forehand that can force his opponents to feel rushed. Felix Auger-Aliassime is another young player from Canada who has proven that he can last on grass. He recently had a deep run in the Halle Open, where he beat the great Roger Federer. He has a powerful game that is suited well to grass, but he sometimes lacks mental consistency to win in a three-out-of-five-set match. Other players like John Isner, Nick Kyrgios, Taylor Fritz, and Ugo Humbert all pose threats, making this quarter the toughest in the tournament.

Women’s Toughest Quarter

Lee: Barty and Andreescu’s Quarter (1st) – Although I think Barty is the co-favorite, she will have far from an easy draw. Brit Johanna Konta could be tough in the third round coming off a title in Nottingham, and reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejickova has never been in a Wimbledon main draw, but she should be able to do well on the grass. The quarterfinals won’t be easy no matter how you slice it. In the adjacent eighth of the draw, you have experienced 2-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, 2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu who is as good as anyone when healthy, 24th seed and Eastbourne finalist Anett Kontaveit who is particularly dangerous on the grass, 31st seed Daria Kasatkina who is due for a breakthrough, and 2017 French Open champ and 2018 Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Ostapenko, who has quietly had a decent 2021 and took advantage of a wildcard in Eastbourne to win her maiden grass-court title. Whoever makes it out of that eighth of the draw has as good a chance as any to take the title, and that combined with Barty’s possible road makes this the quarter of death for the women.

Daugherty: Svitolina and Serena’s Quarter (2nd) – The toughest quarter in the women’s draw seems to be the second quarter. Serena Williams is by far the scariest opponent in this quarter. She is the greatest of all time and can bring the same intensity that has won her 23 Grand Slam titles to any match she plays. Although she has struggled to keep her consistency throughout a tournament, no player would ever want to play Serena this early in a tournament. Kerber, who is one of my favorites, could find her confidence by winning this tough quarter and help lead her to another title. Coco Gauff is only 17 years old, and she has already proved herself at Wimbledon. Her dominant game can be challenging to any player early in a tournament, which only adds to the difficulty of this quarter. There are so many tough players in this quarter like Elina Svitolina, Paula Badosa, and Belinda Bencic just to name a few. I feel bad for any player that goes out early in this quarter.

Men’s Biggest Breakthrough

Lee: Felix Auger-Aliassime – Auger-Aliassime has not had the greatest 2021. He could very well lose in the first round and it wouldn’t be the most shocking upset in the world. But in my mind, he could take advantage of an Alexander Zverev loss (or even beat Zverev himself) and make his first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal. The 20-year-old has the all-court game more versatile than many of his peers, and he easily has the talent to make a great run. In 2019, he did well in the grass-court tuneups before a third-round showing at Wimbledon, and this year, he beat Roger Federer in Halle on his way to the semis there. There’s no reason that this can’t be the Grand Slam where Auger-Aliassime puts his talent together and makes his first final eight appearance.

Daugherty: Daniil Medvedev – I think Daniil Medvedev will be the biggest breakthrough in the men’s draw. Going into the French Open, I thought Medvedev would continue to struggle on clay and lose early in the tournament. He managed to show his improvement on the surface and even make the quarters. He has already shown improvement by winning the Mallorca Open, a grass-court tournament in the short season before the start of Wimbledon. He is a challenging player to play, and he is the number two seed, which is a helpful advantage, although he has a few tough opponents, including his first-round opponent Jan-Lennard Struff. I think Medvedev is looking to prove that he is not just a hard-court pusher but someone who can succeed on all three surfaces. I think he is in for a successful Wimbledon tournament.

Women’s Biggest Breakthrough

Boles: Jelena Ostapenko – No player that I believe will make the fourth round is someone that we’ve never heard of. Danielle Collins is a close runner-up because I have her making a shock run to the quarterfinals, but she’s made crazy runs in majors recently. Ostapenko won the French Open in 2017 and followed that with a Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance, but mostly fell off after that. She did make a run to the semis at the All England Club in 2018, but that was an anomaly as she fell outside the top 40 and has had trouble getting back near the top. She’s quietly been playing better tennis in 2021, and she capped it off with a title in Eastbourne. Grass may be her best surface, as she is also a former junior Wimbledon champion, so I think a fourth-round appearance is very, very possible for her, and maybe even more.

Daugherty: Iga Swiatek – Iga Swiatek will have one of two things: a deep Wimbledon run, or a first-round exit to Su-Wei Hsieh. Swiatek is a very good player, but she has not made it past the first round on the grass at Wimbledon despite being a junior champion. She has shown improvement in the past year, and even won the French Open in 2020. She did not have a successful showing in Eastbourne, but she has shown that she can compete. All she needs is some confidence on the surface to get her game going. It will be a difficult task, especially with such a difficult first-round competitor, but the competition may be just what she needs to prove herself on grass.

Men’s Dark Horse

Boles: Matteo Berrettini – Literally anyone is a “dark horse” since Djokovic is such a heavy favorite, but Berrettini is an interesting pick with a backhand slice that could be annoying for Djokovic if he gets to the final, and he is coming off a title in Queen’s and has usually done better than some of his peers on the grass. He’s my pick to get to the final, and if anyone besides peak Federer (which would be magical) can beat Djokovic, it would be Matteo Berrettini.

Daugherty: Roger Federer – Roger Federer is an eight-time Wimbledon champion, and he is considered by many to be the greatest of all time. However, he is almost 40 years old. He is just coming back from a knee surgery that kept him out for more than a year, he is still trying to maintain his fitness without causing more harm to his body, and he has to face two different generations of youth that can outlast him with fitness alone. Yet despite every factor that is against him, he is one of the greatest of all time and will always be a potential winner of this tournament. His chances are rather slim, slimmer than in years past. He will have to win efficiently in all of his early matches in order to save his energy for later opponents. Every match will be gradually harder for him to win and the longer his matches are, the less of a chance he has to win the tournament. However, Federer is a god on grass and has shown that age is just a number time and time again. He will look to win a 9th Wimbledon title, but it will be a very dark horse moment.

Women’s Dark Horse

Boles: Garbine Muguruza – What a “dark horse” is can be subjective. Maybe delving into the 20 and below seeds is more what this should be, but why can’t it be someone like Muguruza, who played lights out at the start of the year but hasn’t quite hit that form since? The 2017 champ and former World No. 1 is streaky, and she’s obviously comfortable with her aggressive game on the grounds of Wimbledon. I have her losing in the quarterfinals to Aryna Sabalenka, but that would be Sabalenka’s first ever Major quarterfinal, so who’s to say Muguruza can’t win that? When Muguruza won Wimbledon, she was coming off a rough French Open that pushed her out of the top 10, so being in this position and winning it all isn’t new to her.

Daugherty: Coco Gauff – I believe Coco Gauff is the dark horse of the women’s draw. Gauff is a very young player, but her age has not stopped her from already having considerable success on the professional circuit. She just made her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open, and she will look to continue her success on the grass. She is a good grass court player, who has shown inconsistency at times. She already knows she can make a deep run in the tournament from her fourth-round result in 2019. She is going to have play within herself throughout this tournament in order to have a chance at making a deep run, but she has the game to do so. I am not a huge fan of hyping up younger players, but it is impossible to ignore the potential that Gauff has at this tournament. 

First Top 8 Seed to Lose (Men’s)

Boles: Alexander Zverev – Although Roberto Bautista Agut could definitely challenge Zverev here due to his less-than-stellar form, Bautista Agut is probably very motivated to defend his 2019 semifinal points, and he’s proven himself on the grass. Zverev has never looked very comfortable at Wimbledon, with just one fourth-round appearance. His game also doesn’t seem suited for grass, with volleys that are still a work in progress and a serve that can leave him at the worst moments. Zverev is my pick to be the young gun that isn’t comfortable on the grass just yet (or just generally choke), losing to Taylor Fritz in the third round, although if that’s a bit too early, I have him losing to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round. I would be extremely surprised to see Zverev get past the quarterfinals.

Daugherty: Roberto Bautista Agut – Unfortunately for Roberto Bautista Agut, he has been struggling with his form recently. If Dominic Thiem had not hurt his wrist, he would be in this position. Both players are struggling to find their confidence. Looking at Agut, he has had very good grass court success, and even had a competitive match with Djokovic in 2019. However, he has completely lost his form. His eighth seed is a mere illusion to what his performances have been recently. It is unfortunate to see because I really like him as a player, and it is difficult to see someone struggle this much to find confidence. I do not think that he will last long in this tournament. The only positive for Bautista Agut is that he has an easier quarter compared to the other quarters, but he will have to make some changes in order to have success this year at Wimbledon.

First Top 8 Seed to Lose (Women’s)

Boles: Karolina Pliskova – Pliskova is not in the form worthy of a top eight seed. Although she made the final in Rome, that has been an outlier in a rough year where she just can’t string matches together. Pliskova should be better on grass with a big serve and attacking game, but 0-2 on grass coming into Wimbledon is never ideal, and I’m not sure she has the confidence to put it together. Add that to a possible second-round match with the dangerous Donna Vekic, and there is an upset waiting to happen.

Daugherty: Sofia Kenin – Sofia Kenin is the fourth seed, but I truly believe she will be the first top eight seed to lose in this tournament. Wimbledon is, by far, the Major she has struggled with the most. She has never made it past the second round, and her game just does not transition well to grass. She lacks the necessary variety to have consistency on grass, which leads to a lack of confidence. Kenin’s recent performances at other tournaments may also hinder her ability to show improvement this year at Wimbledon. She had a disappointing clay court season, which could carry over into Wimbledon. She may be one of the highest seeds, but I think she will be one of the very first upsets of the tournament.

Women’s Other Notes:

Aryna Sabalenka is the second seed even though she has not made it past the fourth round of a Major, but her attacking game should be hard to deal with on the grass, especially considering she’s No. 4 in the world for a reason…many of Petra Kvitova’s biggest achievements have come at the All England Club, from a shock 2010 semifinal run to her two titles in 2011 and 2014, and I have her slated to make the final…Barbora Krejickova has never been in a Wimbledon singles main draw, and has only won one QUALIFYING match, but I think the doubles World No. 1 can overcome that and the typical “first-time champion letdown” with her net game and experience of three Major doubles titles, including one at Wimbledon in 2018.

Nathan Boles’s Top 5 Men:

  1. Novak Djokovic
  2. Matteo Berrettini
  3. Daniil Medvedev
  4. Stefanos Tsitsipas
  5. Roger Federer

Nathan Boles’s Top 5 Women:

  1. Ash Barty
  2. Serena Williams
  3. Petra Kvitova
  4. Aryna Sabalenka
  5. Garbine Muguruza

Sean Daugherty’s Top 5 Men:

  1. Novak Djokovic
  2. Stefanos Tsitsipas
  3. Matteo Berrettini
  4. Daniil Medvedev
  5. Roger Federer

Sean Daugherty’s Top 5 Women:

  1. Garbine Muguruza
  2. Angelique Kerber
  3. Serena Williams
  4. Ash Barty
  5. Petra Kvitova

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