Dominant Djokovic and women’s big three among 10 to watch at Wimbledon
Wimbledon will miss the star presence of Rafael Nadal this year but several other high-profile names will be raring to go for the third major of 2023.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic will aim to extend his 28-match winning streak in SW19 and 2022 winner Elena Rybakina returns as one of the most prominent figures in the women’s game.
Here, the PA news agency looks at 10 players who will hope to light up the championships at the All England Club this summer.
There is a degree of deja vu for the former Wimbledon junior champion who again arrives as world number one and fresh from winning at Roland Garros. The four-time grand-slam champion has been top of the WTA rankings since last April, but has made no secret of how “uncomfortable” she finds grass. After exiting in the third round in 2022, Swiatek will hope she can adjust to the lawn this time.
The unassuming Rybakina was the surprise package last year, keeping a calm head to win her first major at the age of 23. Victory occurred amid controversy given that while she represents Kazakhstan, she is Moscow-born and Russian state media celebrated her triumph. It has not affected Rybakina, who backed up her grass exploits by reaching the Australian Open final before winning Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Rome to prove her credentials as part of a new big three in women’s tennis.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka is the third member of the trio and will be out to make up for lost time following her enforced absence last year due to the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes. It was a run to the semi-finals at the All England Club in 2021 that showed Sabalenka had the game to win a grand slam and the Belarusian ended her wait for major success in Melbourne back in January. She will be a formidable force in SW19.
Jabeur’s love for the lawn is matched by her results on it. Last year’s finalist will be a fierce competitor in the battle to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish. The Tunisian’s style of play, with drop shots and deft touches aplenty, has earned grass-court titles in Birmingham and Berlin while in 2021 she made the last eight of the Championships, beating Garbine Muguruza and Swiatek.
A wild card for the 43-year-old veteran will continue the long tradition of a Williams sister featuring in the main draw at Wimbledon. You have to go back to 1996 for the last time neither Venus nor Serena were involved in the ladies’ singles. And Venus, a finalist at the All England Club in 2017, showed last week in Birmingham with two gutsy displays against top-50 players that she can still push the best and will be a star attraction in SW19.
After titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, the calendar slam is on for defending champion Djokovic and who would bet against him? Djokovic has won the last four tournaments in SW19, is a seven-time Wimbledon winner and crucially will have no Rafael Nadal in his way this time. Djokovic dropped only one set in Melbourne, two at the French Open and the only thing left for him to achieve is winning each major in the same year, having achieved the non-calendar year slam across 2015 and 2016.
One of the main rivals to Djokovic will be US Open champion Alcaraz. The all-action Spaniard won at Flushing Meadows in Djokovic’s absence before he lost to the Serbian while suffering with cramps at Roland Garros in May. Alcaraz has limited experience on grass and exited Wimbledon in the last 16 in 2022, but his impressive victory at Queen’s showed his potential and took him back to world number one. If he is to deny Djokovic, he will have to find a new level.
With Jannik Sinner a potential injury doubt, Rune will hope to further push his cause as the star of the next generation. An impressive run to the Queen’s semi-finals showed his capability on grass after exiting in round one on his Wimbledon debut last year. Better known for his clay-court displays, having made the last eight at Roland Garros twice in the past 12 months, Rune will aim to keep his emotions in check and show his class in London.
The Russian will be involved after last year’s ban on his compatriots and Belarusians. Despite being unable to compete in 2022, he still made two finals on grass and triumphed in Halle. Medvedev has never made it beyond the fourth round at the All England Club, but his 6ft 6in height and big serve make him a candidate for the title. He also stopped Djokovic achieving the calendar slam by beating him to win the US Open two years ago.
Norrie’s big breakthrough at a major occurred at his home grand slam during a memorable run to the semi-finals in 2022. Djokovic stopped the British number one but the 27-year-old will have gained a huge amount of belief. The world number 13 should receive a favourable draw and continues to look more at ease on this surface, having made the Queen’s final two years ago. Backed again by the Wimbledon crowd, he will eye another unforgettable summer.