Federer, Djokovic in opposite sides of Wimbledon draw

Wimbledon has had a few high-profile withdrawals including Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Dominic Thiem
Roger Federer (left) and Novak Djokovic could face off in the final of the Wimbledon again this year. (AP)
Roger Federer (left) and Novak Djokovic could face off in the final of the Wimbledon again this year. (AP)
Published on Jun 25, 2021 08:35 PM IST
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By HT Correspondent, Mumbai

Breathe easy, Federer fans. Unlike the French Open which had the “Big Three” of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the same half, world No. 1 Djokovic and 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer are on opposite sides of the Wimbledon draw announced on Friday.

Wimbledon has had a few high-profile withdrawals including Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem. It saw another one minutes before the start of the draw when women’s defending champion Simona Halep pulled out due to a calf injury. The withdrawals helped fillip Federer’s seeding to sixth, and it means the only stage he can meet Djokovic—one Slam away from No. 20 and two from a calendar sweep—is in the final which would be a repeat of 2019.

Also read | Defending champion Simona Halep pulls out of Wimbledon 2021 with calf injury

Tsitsipas in Djoko’s half

Still, Federer’s path to the final is far from being a sail. The Swiss has a straightforward opener against Adrian Mannarino—whom he has beaten six times—but has second seed Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and the dangerous Matteo Berrettini in his half. Medvedev could be Federer’s potential quarter-final opponent, although the Russian isn’t quite as threatening on grass. Djokovic has a seemingly less taxing route after opening against unheralded British teen wild card Jack Draper. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the French Open runners-up to Djokovic, shares space in his section alongside fifth seed Andrey Rublev who could be the Serb’s last-eight opponent.

Serena’s tricky road

Serena Williams’ continued pursuit of Slam No. 24 will see challengers aplenty. Williams could meet the southpaw German Angelique Kerber in the third round in what would be a repeat of the 2016 and 2018 finals. Then there’s fast-rising teen Coco Gauff and third seed Elina Svitolina as a potential quarter-finalist. Her half also has world No. 1 Ash Barty, the Australian who too faces a steep task for a deep run because she could meet in-form local hope Johanna Konta and two-time semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka.

Also read | Ramkumar fights hard but yet again fails to enter Grand Slam main draw

First-round crackers

There are some first-round encounters worth a watch. Fancy Tsitsipas manoeuvring the unpredictable American Frances Tiafoe? Or the mercurial Nick Kyrgios battling 22-year-old Frenchman and Halle Open champion Ugo Humbert? Or Andy Murray taking court in front of his home fans for the first time since 2017 against Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili? The women’s section has some more: Barty will feature in a likely emotional match against Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, playing her final Wimbledon after recovering from cancer, and two former Grand Slam champions will clash first up when Petra Kvitova meets Sloane Stephens. The power-packed Iga Swiatek versus the unorthodox Su-Wei Hsieh could be a fun watch too.

India watch: Sania’s return

Having skipped the Australian and French Open, Sania Mirza will return to the Grand Slam stage after over a year and at the Wimbledon after 2017. With the 34-year-old having only one Grand Slam left to enter with her protected ranking of world No. 9, she chose Wimbledon, where she will partner American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Though they crashed out in the opening round of the WTA Eastbourne earlier this week, the experienced duo has been successful in the past. Also in the draw is Ankita Raina who will partner Lauren Davis of USA.

It’ll be an all-Indian combo in men’s doubles with Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan continuing their partnership for Wimbledon The last time the Indians paired up in a Grand Slam was at the 2019 Australian Open where they lost in the opening round.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021