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Wimbledon 2021 preview with Mats Wilander


Wimbledon 2021 preview with Mats Wilander

Ahead of this year's Wimbledon at the all England club, three-time grand slam winner Mats Wilander previews the oldest championship in the tour and arguably the most famous with players to keep an eye out for, as well the keys to winning this prestigious event. Read on to inform your 2021 Wimbledon predictions.

What does Wimbledon mean to the players?

For me, Wimbledon was always the tournament that I felt I’d be unlikely to have success at. It is, in most players’ minds, the most important tournament in terms of prestige and I think for most players, it’s the tournament that you least expect to win. You’ve got to deal with the pressure of walking out to Centre Court or Court No.1  against the best in the world, knowing that you are in the limelight - on the TV and across social media.

Wimbledon is just so much more well-known than every other tennis event and if you are in front of your home support and you beat someone like Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer, you can turn into a national hero and earn millions of dollars overnight, a lot like an Olympian in a host nation can do.

It doesn’t matter if you go into that tournament as the favourite because you always have this part of you that had dreamt you would get to play at Wimbledon one day but winning it is a place that your imagination would never take you to.

Wimbledon is not like any other tournament. Where a player might think “I could win the French Open this year” or “I’ve got a good chance of winning the US or Australian Open in my career”, Wimbledon always feels like it is out of reach and you don’t even want to think that you can win Wimbledon, you just wish for it to happen. So, I think it is the most special tournament for all of the players and for all of the fans.

Another thing that sets Wimbledon apart is the fact that it is played on grass, which is the most difficult surface to play and feel comfortable on because hardly anyone plays or trains on grass during the rest of the year.

What attributes are required to be successful at Wimbledon?

The most important shot for 95% of the players is the serve. The serve is the shot that you can obviously control and is the easiest because it is made on your terms. It’s also the most unknown variable because you can win matches at Wimbledon by serving games out but sometimes, when you don’t serve great, you lose.

You can make 90% of your first serves or you can make 50% of your first serves. It’s uncontrollable and you only find out on the day. I don’t know why it happens at Wimbledon but you can feel the eyes of the fans looking right at you and the pressure hits you in a different way.

You can’t blame anyone else for not serving great though - you can’t blame your opponent, for instance - but you live and die by your first serve at Wimbledon, more so than on other surfaces.

Wimbledon 2021: What impact might the schedule have?

We’re now back to having just a two-week break between the French Open and Wimbledon which was the same recovery time we were given when I played. It will really affect someone like Djokovic who doesn’t rely on his serve but on returning and moving and, ultimately, by not making too many mistakes. This year he has a week less preparation and recovery time after making the final.

The grass is quicker and balls bounce lower at the beginning of Wimbledon (until it turns brown and dries out a little bit). So, for someone like Djokovic, it makes a huge difference but if you take someone like Federer, who relies on his serve these days, he’ll have an easier time adjusting to the grass because he’ll just play the same game that he does on other surfaces - because his serve is his biggest weapon.

It all depends on what type of player you are but at the same time, most players will have had three weeks of recovery time because only eight players made the second week of the French Open. Therefore, some of the favourites will have less time to adjust, meaning the next thing that is vitally important to success at Wimbledon 2021 is the draw.

It is really important that you’re not drawn against a big server in the early rounds because you’re not going to be used to that bounce and the movement through the air in what could either be a day of glorious 28-degree sunshine or quite a cold day with clouds overhead. But if Djokovic survives the first two matches then it’s going to be very difficult to stop him.

A week can mean 20+ hours of practice which is a lot of time to get adjusted so it’s a huge, huge disadvantage for players like Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas and, on the women’s side of the draw, the likes of Maria Sakkari and Iga Swiatek who made the latter stages of Roland-Garros.

Wimbledon 2021 predictions: Can Djokovic be stopped?

It’s very difficult to look past Novak Djokovic (1.877)*. He’s the clear favourite to the point where I’d say that Djokovic vs. the rest of the field is a very even bet. I don’t think we’ve seen this level of favourite at Wimbledon since Federer in the years 2003-2007 when he was more of a favourite than the rest of the field.

For Djokovic, the first few rounds are crucial for winning the whole tournament and it’s important that he doesn’t lose too much confidence by playing four-set or five-set matches in the first few rounds. Grass is the surface I feel he is most vulnerable on but with Federer’s age and Rafael Nadal pulling out of the tournament, I can definitely see him equalling their 20 titles.

There are at least 20 guys who on any given day could turn up on a grass court and beat Djokovic in a best-of-five set match. However, I would say there are four or five guys that I would predict to be very successful on the grass.

That would include Roger Federer (10.250)*, Stefanos Tsitsipas (8.340)*, and Matteo Berrettini (15.520)*. He’s just played amazingly well at Queens, winning the competition and beating the Brits Andy Murray, Dan Evans, and Cameron Norrie along the way. He will take a lot of confidence from that and he’s got an 83.15% first serve win percentage on grass. The second-highest amongst all of the men.

Wimbledon 2021 predictions: ATP outsider bets

My outsider bet for this year’s Wimbledon is Andrey Rublev (34.000)*. He is not the biggest server but he’s got 33 ATP wins under his belt this year, the second-most of all of the men. I predict him to at least reach the quarter-finals stage and who knows just how far he can go with a favourable draw. He’s hitting the ball very well and he’s got youth and energy on his side.

Meanwhile, it all depends on the draw for Andy Murray (48.710)*. He’s in with a chance against most players but he can’t play several long matches in a row. It’s all about how his body recovers because potentially playing a long and hard match on Monday and then facing someone like Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev (9.140)* or, even worse, Djokovic on Wednesday with such little recovery time could be too much for his body.

It would be an amazing story and so great for the fans if his body can take the strain of the tournament. What I would say is that grass is by far his best surface and he does manage to harness the energy from the home crowd to fire himself up.

Wimbledon 2021 predictions: WTA tournament

World number one Ashleigh Barty (6.000)* is the favourite but she’s not necessarily head and shoulders above the rest of the draw and definitely not feared in the locker room.

She likes grass courts and grew up in Australia, so would have played on them growing up. She has reached a Wimbledon final in the doubles, but has not played any tennis this summer, and I'm sure she'll be aiming to be fully recovered from the injury that made her pull out of Roland-Garros. Being the number one seed going into Wimbledon entails a lot of pressure, and speaking from experience I know the expectations surrouding you can get in your head.

The grass is also Serena Williams’ (7.500)* best shot at another title. There were encouraging signs of a return to form at the French Open and she still has a thunderous serve and the ground game for grass court tennis. She’s not as feared as she used to be but she’ll feel at home at Wimbledon with seven singles titles already to her name. She’ll definitely use that experience in the first three or four rounds playing against women who have not played at Wimbledon before.

What will dent her confidence is the fact that in two of the finals she has been in at Wimbledon she gave two of her worst performances: the 2018 final against Angelique Kerber (51.000)* and the 2019 final against Simona Halep (13.000)*.

Petra Kvitova (10.000)* has won twice at Wimbledon and will feel very comfortable on the grass. She will be able to draw on that experience and that hammer of a backhand. She has the third-highest first serve percentage (65.9%) across the top 20 ranked women and I think that being left-handed will give her an advantage at Wimbledon. She is really able to move well and open up the court with that left hand when it has that aforementioned low bounce.

*Odds subject to change

 


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