Wimbledon 2021: The major sub-plots to keep an eye on as grass court Slam makes return to calendar

The excitement around Wimbledon 2021 is palpable and here we look at the major talking points ahead of the grass court tournament.

Wimbledon 2021 is sure to be a thrilling Grand Slam. (Image: Wimbledon website)

The return of Wimbledon to the 2021 tennis calendar is something fans have looked forward to for a long time. As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the world, many sporting events got cancelled in 2020. Wimbledon was one of them. But the grass court Slam is back on track, and will commence on Monday (June 28) at the All England Tennis Club. Perhaps positively for players, the event will also take place in front of fans. Playing in empty stadia became the norm across 2020 but one of Wimbledon’s USP is the passionate and knowledgable fanbase it draws. Even in a limited capacity, they will make a world of difference.

Of course, the tournament will be without some star power. Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are two notable absentees from the Grand Slam. And in a blow for home fans, Johanna Konta will also not be there.

Nevertheless, the excitement around Wimbledon 2021 is palpable and the quality of tennis is sure to deliver. With that in mind, we look at the major talking points ahead of the tournament.

Last Wimbledon hurrah for Roger Federer?

Roger Federer and Wimbledon go together like cream and strawberries. Yet it is plainly evident that the Swiss maestro is on the last legs of his career.

His French Open came to an end as he pulled out and decided instead to preserve his body for Wimbledon. Yet the fact he had to do that at all shows that he is focused on maximising his time left on the court.

His previous appearance in the tournament saw him narrowly lose out to Novak Djokovic in 2019 during a final that defied all logic. But since then, he’s aged two years and has had double knee surgery.

Federer would like to go out on a hurrah, which would mean winning the Slam. That, however, looks easier said than done given the man who is expected to be his biggest obstacle is in the form of his life. Oh, and speaking of him…

Novak Djokovic eyes record haul

The French Open win saw Novak Djokovic’s career Grand Slam haul reach 19 – one less than Federer and Nadal’s joint record. A win at the Wimbledon final will see him equal that number.

Given that Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams stood for years, it shows how lucky fans are to have witnessed three players surpass that record – and all four being from the same era, no less.

Still, Djokovic won’t be happy merely equalling that number – he would want to surpass it. And given both Federer and Nadal are getting up there in years, few would bet against him doing just that.

Of course, miracles can happen in sport and Federer fans would be hoping for just that. But it is clear that Djokovic is the firm favourite in the men’s singles draw.

Can Serena Williams finally equal Margaret Court’s record?

That Serena Williams is one of the best – if not the outright best – in the history of the game goes without saying. Yet in her all-conquering career, there is one major record she hasn’t broken – and would desperately want to.

Williams has won 23 singles Grand Slam titles, one behind all-time record holder Margaret Court. However, the last of those Grand Slam wins came in Australia in 2017. Since then she’s lost an astounding four finals.

It’s fair to say that both records can’t be compared – Williams won all her titles in the Open era, whereas most of Court’s titles came at a time when only amateurs competed in Slams.

Nevertheless, records and statistics do mean something to players and Williams would be keen to get this particular albatross off her neck.

Will the next generation please stand up?

Much has been made of the “next generation” branding of the ATP and WTA. Yet there is an element of truth to the fact that there are a number of promising youngsters on the circuit currently.

Of course, promise only counts for so much – it is titles that determine the true greatness of a tennis player. But in that sense, there are few who are showing signs of consistency.

Women’s tennis has seen the emergence of Naomi Osaka, Iga Swiatek, Bianca Andreescu and more recently Barbora Krejcikova. Osaka won’t be at Wimbledon but the other three – as well as the likes of Ashleigh Barty and Sloane Stephens – would like to stake a claim as the next ace of women’s tennis.

On the men’s side, Stefanos Tsitsipas lost the French Open final but fought valiantly till the end. Then there’s the likes of Janik Sinner, Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. All have shown promise but will they stand up to their older, more illustrious opponents? Only time will tell.

Shayne Dias

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