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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, June 25, 2021


Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer both play for history at Wimbledon. We assess their draws, top contenders, dark horses and first-rounders to watch.

Photo credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport

The thrill of the chase helps fuel Novak Djokovic to historic heights.

A devastating Djokovic will be driven by front-runner's dominance—and his shot to make a major statement—when Wimbledon begins on Monday.

More: Champs Back Djokovic For Golden Slam

Two-time defending champion Djokovic is playing for his 20th Grand Slam championship to match the men's major mark shared by rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who has opted out of both Wimbledon and next month's Olympic Games.

If Djokovic captured his sixth Wimbledon title next month he will take a major step forward in his quest to complete the calendar Golden Grand Slam winning all four majors plus the Olympic gold medal.

The Wimbledon's men's draw was conducted today and both world No. 1 Djokovic and eight-time champion Federer were major winners without striking a shot.

See the Gentleman's Draw here.

Our Top 5 Takeaways from the men's draw.

Djokovic is Massive Favorite

Riding a 14-match Wimbledon winning streak into his title defense, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic should enjoy the view from the top of the draw.

The All England Club also provides a more serene scene than New York City where, even without fans in the stands, Djokovic blew up inadvertently hitting a lineswoman with a ball incurring a US Open default last September. At Roland Garros, Djokovic nearly lost it during his quarterfinal conquest of Matteo Berrettini, winding up as if about to splatter his Head racquet against the back wall before soothing himself.

The mental strength Djokovic showed dethroning 13-time Roland Garros champion Nadal in an epic four hour, 11-minute French Open semifinal then rallying past Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Roland Garros final was truly remarkable and it put the 34-year-old Serbian halfway to the Grand Slam and within touching distance of major history.

Traditionally, Djokovic has kept his cool at Wimbledon and will need to continue to master immense pressure of his historic chase and spiking stress with his PTPA clashing with the ATP over its 30-year plan. 

Playing for his sixth Wimbledon crown, Djokovic opens vs. British wild card Jack Draper, who upset Jannik Sinner at Queen's Club last week, with 2018 finalist Kevin Anderson a potential second-round opponent. No. 30-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, whom Djokovic crushed in Rome last month is the 34-year-old Serbian's first possible seeded opponent.

Grass rewards athleticism; Djokovic's speed around the court, his contortionist's body control and flexibility, his ability to take the ball on the rise even on unruly surfaces clay and grass and of his return game are all assets on lawn.

If the seeds hold true to form, Djokovic would face fifth-seeded Russian ripper Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals followed by a potential semifinal clash vs. third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in what would be a rematch of the five-set Roland Garros final Djokovic won for his second French Open title.

On paper, it's a manageable draw for the world No. 1, who has combined with rival Rafael Nadal to win 10 of the last 11 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic has reached the Wimbledon semifinals or better in eight of his last 10 appearances at the grass-court Grand Slam—his lone lapses in that span a third-round loss to Sam Querrey in 2016 and a retirement vs. Tomas Berdych in 2017—and the top seed looks poised to continue that impressive run as he drives toward Grand Slam history.

Recall at Roland Garros, Djokovic unleashed his most imposing serving at critical stages against Nadal and Tsitsipas. If Djokovic can summon that level of serving when it matters most on the Centre Court lawns, you have to stake him as a massive favorite to continue his march to major history.

Federer's Field of Dreams

The good news for Roger Federer is he resides on the bottom half of the draw opposite Djokovic, who denied two championship points handing the Swiss superstar a gut-wrenching five-set loss in the 2019 final.

Further, Federer will not have to face three other men who have beaten him at SW19 as Nadal is out, Milos Raonic, who surprised Federer in the 2016 semifinals withdrew and Kevin Anderson, who upset Federer in the 2018 quarters, could play Djokovic in round two.

Since undergoing a pair of right knee surgeries in 2020, Federer has been limited to just eight matches this season and will arrive at SW19 with just two grass-court matches since he reached the 2019 Wimbledon final.

In the past, the lawns have been revitalizing for Federer, who is playing for a record-extending 13th final and 21st Grand Slam crown.

The sixth-seeded Swiss, who carries a 6-0 lifetime record against Adrian Mannarino into their opener, should have time to try to find his form as his first potential seeded opponent is tricky British lefty Cameron Norrie in round three. If seeds hold true to form, Federer would face 11th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta in the round of 16 followed by a quarterfinal vs. second-ranked Russian Daniil Medvedev with the winner advancing to a possible semifinal vs. fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev.

Though Federer looked frustrated and out of sorts in the final set of his Halle loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime, former Wimbledon champion and ESPN analyst John McEnroe believes Federer will make a second-week run at Wimbledon.

"I don't think he's worried about he lost second round in Halle as long as he's feeling good," McEnroe said. "The bottom line is, it's no question that Roger's best chance is here.

"I believe he's out of a handful of guys. Obviously Novak is a huge favorite. After that you would put him in the mix of the next five, six guys in my book still to make a run."

At the 2019 Wimbledon, a fearless Federer moved forward with conviction conquering archrival Rafael Nadal, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, soaring into his record-extending 12th Wimbledon final before bowing to Djokovic in the first fifth-set tiebreaker in Wimbledon men's finals history.

Top Contenders Not Named Djokovic or Federer

During the past 17 years only four men—reigning champion Novak Djokovic, eight-time champion Roger Federer, two-time champion Andy Murray and two-time winner Rafael Nadal—have raised the Wimbledon title trophy. Nadal has opted out of Wimbledon and Murray is continuing to try to regain his level of play.

If defending champion Djokovic and 2019 finalist Federer falter, here are top contenders to watch.

(3) Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE): The Greek's all-court game, smooth movement, imposing forehand and his stinging serve make him an all-surface threat. The question is how will Tsitsipas, who built a two-set lead over Djokovic before falling in his first major final in Paris, recover from the physical and emotional rigors of Roland Garros where he learned his beloved grandmother passed away minutes before playing the final. Tsitsipas has all the skills to be a superb grass-court player, but has limited experience on lawns with three wins in three appearances at SW19.

(2) Daniil Medvedev (RUS): Most at home on hard courts, the Australian Open finalist is coming off his best Roland Garros run, reached the Mallorca semifinals and possesses the potent serve and laser drives that should play well on grass. The question is how will Medvedev's preferred court positioning well behind the baseline play out at Wimbledon where his best showing is successive third-round performances.

(7) Matteo Berrettini (ITA): Though the Rome resident often does his best work on red clay, Berrettini showed he's a danger on all surfaces winning his first grass-court title at Queen's Club. The 2019 US Open semifinalist made history with his Roland Garros quarterfinal run becoming the first Italian man to reach the fourth round or better at all four Grand Slams. Berrettini's massive forehand understandably gets a lot of attention, but he's an authoritative serve, moves well, owns an expansive reach and has fine feel on the drop shot. Berrettini has improved his backhand as well though that's the shot opponents will attack.

(10) Denis Shapovalov (CAN): The 22-year-old Canadian missed Roland Garros resting a sore shoulder. A stunning shot-maker, who can annihilate the forehand, the left-handed Shapovalov won the Wimbledon boys' championship in 2016, but has managed just one pro win at SW19. Among the challenges Shapovalov faces: a tough first-rounder vs. German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, a sometimes erratic service toss that can see double faults spike and a big backswing on his one-handed backhand return that can leave him vulnerable to big servers.  "I think both Denis and compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime] are going to win majors at some stage in the not-too-distant future," Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst John McEnroe says. 

5 Dark Horses to Watch

We're defining dark horses as players ranked outside the Top 10.

(16) Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN): Many focus on the Canadian's 0-8 finals record, but remember he's only 20 years old and arrives at Wimbledon fresh off a productive grass campaign including reaching the Stuttgart final and beating Roger Federer en route to the Halle semifinals. In an intriguing twist of the draw, Auger-Aliassime is on course for a third grass-court clash in four weeks vs. Ugo Humbert in the third round.

(21) Ugo Humbert (FRA): When he's on his game, the lefty shot-maker can displace opponents with his slice serve on the ad side and finish with the first strike off his forehand or his flatter backhand, which he can place just about anywhere. Humbert showed power and poise knocking off Auger-Aliassime and Andrey Rublev to win his first grass-court crown in Halle and reached the Wimbledon fourth round in his lone appearance two years ago.

(27) Reilly Opelka (USA): The American No. 1 is 8-11 on the season, lost in the opening round of Queen's Club and has a tough opener against left-hander Dominik Koepfer, who tested Roger Federer at Roland Garros. However, the 6'11" Opelka can dictate on serve against virtually anyone, reached the Wimbledon third round in his lone pro appearance in 2019, won the 2015 Wimbledon boys' title and is sixth on the ATP in service games held in 2021 (88 percent). 

(32) Marin Cilic (CRO): The excessive ball-bouncing before serving is a sign the 2014 US Open champion can still get jittery serving on pivotal points. Since his run to the 2017 Wimbledon final, Cilic has won just two matches at SW19. But he's athletic, his flat drives play well on grass and remember Cilic warmed up for Wimbledon winning his third career grass-court title in Stuttgart three years after he beat Djokovic in the 2018 Queen's Club championship match.

Sam Querrey (USA): Given the fact Querrey has failed to survive the first round in five of his last six majors and has the misfortune to draw 11th-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, you might view this as a reach pick and you may well be right. However, Querrey crushed 25 aces knocking off former Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut en route to the Mallorca semis after opening grass season making the final four in Stuttgart. In his last four Wimbledon appearances, 2010 Queen's Club champion Querrey has reached two quarterfinals and the 2017 semifinals.   

Tennis Express

5 First-Round Matches to Watch

(2) Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs Jan Lennard Struff (GER)
Head-to-head: Medvedev leads 3-1

Another tough opener for Medvedev, who lost to Struff, 7-6(6), 6-3 in his Halle opener last week. The 45th-ranked German is coming off a career-best fourth-round showing at Roland Garros. Australian Open finalist Medvedev has yet to surpass the Wimbledon third round in three appearances.

(6) Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
Head-to-head: Federer leads 6-0

The pair square off at Wimbledon for the third time. Eight-time champion Federer dropped just nine games to Mannarino in the 2018 fourth-round. The 39-year-old Swiss is more explosive, owns more shots and has dominated this match-up, but conceded frustration with the final set of his Halle loss last week. Left-handed Frenchman Mannarino has used his flat strikes to reach the Mallorca semifinals.  

(21) Ugo Humbert (FRA) vs. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Head-to-head: Even 1-1

If their last clash is a blue-print, this could be a buzz-worthy opener. Kyrgios edged Humbert 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 at the Australian Open in February. Since then, the left-handed Humbert roared to his first grass-court title in Halle last week defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime and Andrey Rublev along the way. Meanwhile, 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kyrgios has not played a Tour-level match since losing to Dominic Thiem in Melbourne. Who knows what Kyrgios has been up to during the lapse or how prepared he is for The Championships, but if he's engaged he can deliver major excitement on grass.

(WC) Andy Murray (GBR) vs. (24) Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO)
Head-to-head: First Meeting

Two-time Wimbledon champion Murray offered a mixed bag of results at Queen's Club, defeating Benoit Paire in his opener before falling to Matteo Berrettini in straight sets. The 28th-ranked Basilashvili qualified for Halle and made it all the way to the semifinals. Basilashvili has one gear: Go Nuclear with rocket ground strokes, while Murray will try to employ his finesse and angles to defuse the bigger hitter.

(14) Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)
Head-to-head: Musetti leads 1-0

It's been a momentous spring for the 19-year-old Musetti, who made a magnificent Roland Garros main-draw debut and built a two-set lead over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic before bowing in five sets. Musetti followed that up graduating high school and now gears up for his second major main-draw appearance. A superb shot-maker with a wondrous one-handed backhand, the Italian teenager beat Miami Open champion Hurkacz in Rome last month. The 24-year-old Pole has more experience on grass.

ESPN 2021 Wimbledon TV Schedule

Date Time Event Network  
Monday, June 28 6 a.m.-11:30 a.m.; 6 a.m.-2 p.m. First Round ESPN, ESPN Deportes Live
  11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. First Round ESPN2 Live
Tuesday, June 29 6 a.m.-11:30 a.m.; 6 a.m.-2 p.m. First Round ESPN, ESPN Deportes Live
  11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. First Round ESPN2 Live
Wednesday, June 30 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Second Round ESPN, ESPN Deportes Live
Thursday, July 1 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Second Round ESPN, ESPN Deportes Live
Friday, July 2 6-11:30 a.m.; 6:35-8:50 a.m.; 10:05 a.m.-2 p.m. Third Round ESPN, ESPN Deportes Live
  11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Third Round ESPN2 Live
Saturday, July 3 7-8 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon ESPN Live
  7:05-8:55 a.m. Third Round  ESPN Deportes Live
  8-11:30 a.m. Third Round ESPN Live
  10:15 a.m.-2 p.m. Third Round ESPN Deportes Live
  11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Third Round ESPN2 Live
  2-5 p.m. Third Round ESPN Live
Sunday, July 4 3-6 p.m. Highlights of Week One ABC Tape
Monday, July 5 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Round of 16 ESPN Deportes Live
  8 a.m.-4 p.m. Round of 16 Centre Court ESPN Live
  6 a.m.-4 p.m. Round of 16 Court No. 1 and other Courts ESPN2 Live
Tuesday, July 6 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Ladies Quarterfinals, Centre Court ESPN Live
  8 a.m.-4 p.m. Ladies Quarterfinals, Court No. 1 ESPN2 Live
  8-11:30 a.m. Ladies Quarterfinals ESPN Deportes Live
Wednesday, July 7 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Men's Quarterfinals, Centre Court ESPN Live
  8 a.m.-4 p.m. Men's Quarterfinals, Court No. 1 ESPN2 Live
  8 a.m.-1 p.m. Men's Quarterfinals ESPN Deportes Live
Thursday, July 8 7-8 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon ESPN Live
  7:45-11:30 a.m. Ladies' Semifinals ESPN Deportes Live
  8 a.m.-1 p.m. Ladies' Semifinals ESPN Live
Friday, July 9 7-8 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon ESPN Live
  7:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Men's Semifinals ESPN Deportes Live
  8 a.m.-2 p.m. Men's Semifinals ESPN Live
Saturday, July 10 8-9 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon ESPN Live
  8:45-11:30 a.m. Ladies' Championship ESPN Deportes Live
  9 a.m.-3 p.m. Ladies Championship ESPN Live
  9 a.m.-3 p.m. Men's Doubles Championship ESPN Live
  9 a.m.-3 p.m. Ladies Doubles Championship ESPN Live
  3-6 p.m. Ladies Championship ABC Encore
Sunday, July 11 8-9 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon ESPN Live
  8:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Men's Championship ESPN Deportes Live
  9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Men's Championship ESPN Live
  9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mixed Doubles Championship ESPN Live
  3-6 p.m. Men's Championship ABC Encore


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