After two years, we’re finally back at the All England Club.
Wimbledon 2021 kicks off Monday, and even with heavy hitters like Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal not competing, it’s sure to be an entertaining Slam. Serena Williams is chasing her 24th Slam title to tie Margaret Court for most all-time. And Novak Djokovic is looking to win his 20th title to put him in a three-way tie with Nadal and Roger Federer.
With plenty of records on the line, who do our experts predict will come out on top? And who else are they keeping their eyes on?
Who will win the men’s singles title?
Jerry Bembry: Djokovic. With wins in the first two majors, Djokovic is a league of his own in men’s tennis. With no Rafael Nadal in his path as a possible spoiler, Djokovic’s in position to win for the sixth time at Wimbledon.
Simon Cambers: It’s very hard to look past Novak. Five times the champion, on a roll again after winning the first two slams of the season and with a massive carrot to chase, the calendar year Grand Slam. Feels like it will take a big upset, an injury or a Roger Federer miracle to stop him. None of them are likely.
Bill Connelly: Nothing would be more enjoyable than Federer making another run, but he hasn’t gotten past about third gear yet in his 2021 comeback, so it’s hard to believe that might happen. It’s therefore Djokovic vs. the field, and Djokovic might have the advantage. He won the past two Wimbledons when Federer WAS at full strength, and none of the young guns have really shined on grass so far. The threats are minimal.
Cliff Drysdale: Novak Djokovic. After a narrow escape in Paris, he must feel like he is playing with house money. He is in a class by himself and still holding off the next gen agitators.
Brad Gilbert: Djoker’s movement is simply off the charts on grass and his return of serve is strong. He’s halfway to calendar Slam already with Aussie Open and French Open wins. Stefanos Tsitsipas should make a deep run, as well as like Matteo Berrettini.
Sam Gore: Federer. A sentimental pick for sure, but in this current period of unpredictabilities, it’s certainly possible! I’m honestly running out of opportunities to pick Federer, as he is on the doorstep of turning 40 years old.
However, he seems to have set up his entire season around winning this major for a record-tying ninth time, and he has the extra motivation of erasing the horrible memory of his Finals loss to Djokovic in 2019 and not allowing Djokovic to tie his total Grand Slam mark.
Federer is a champion, and champions do things that leave us shaking our heads over their greatness … he’s got one final chapter to write
Tom Hamilton: It’s Djokovic’s championship to lose, as he chases his third Slam on the bounce, having taken the Australian Open and Roland Garros. He knows every blade of Centre Court (having won there in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019) and with Rafael Nadal absent and Roger Federer now three years without a major, Djokovic will fancy his chances of holding off Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Luke Jensen: Easy! Djokovic
Djokovic is set up to settle the debate of who is the greatest player of his generation. The GOAT is Aussie Rod Laver with two career calendar Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969, but Djokovic could own the greatest generation ever with a “Golden Slam” that would include the Tokyo Games Gold medal. Bottom line: There is no player who currently combines the mental, tactical and physical components to challenge those three aspects Djokovic walks into the arena with. What’s so impressive with Djokovic is that if someone is beating him tactically, then Novak digs deeper physically. Djokovic always has a weapon to pull out for all situations.
D’Arcy Maine: It’s hard to see anyone beating Djokovic right now. As the two-time defending champion, he would already be the favorite, but when you combine that with what he accomplished in Paris, Djokovic joining the 20-major club by the end of the fortnight seems all but inevitable.
Patrick McEnroe: My vision is 20/20/20. Djokovic again.
Chris McKendry: Djokovic. As the French Open proved, beating Djokovic in a best of 5-set match is one of the toughest asks in all of sports. He’ll win Wimbledon and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold the first three major titles in a calendar year.
Kathleen McNamee: It’s hard to look past Djokovic as he seeks to join Nadal and Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slams. The ghost of 2016 won’t be far away, but a favorable draw should help settle any early nerves. The way he fought back from two sets down against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open shows he is mentally in a sound space. As well, all that is before you, consider his already impressive five Wimbledon titles.
Alexandra Stevenson: Federer.
Regardless of his 39 young years, Roger Federer is the man to watch at Wimbledon. I pick him for his record-tying ninth win on the grass.
Playing on grass is something that Federer has perfected. Getting out early at Halle gave him more time on Wimbledon grass — and Wimbledon grass plays differently than any grass court in the world. His one-handed backhand plays beautifully on the low bounce of the ball on grass.
Today the groundskeepers grow 100% ryegrass. They used to mix it with red fescue — and the courts played faster — but the surface wasn’t lasting from the first week of tough play on the 18 match courts.
Federer knows all of this — and he plays on Centre Court, a court that plays differently than all others. I played on Centre Court in 1999 — everything felt better. Your feet on the grass. The hit of the ball. There is a low hum in the air — and not from the crowd. Maybe ghosts’ past. Federer understands this atmosphere. His technique and mental toughness will give him the championship.
Renae Stubbs: Djokovic will win the men’s. He’s the best player in the world, and I think he’s going to win the calendar Slam this year.
Pam Shriver: Djokovic will provide men’s tennis a historic and unthinkable 20/20/20 (joining Federer and Nadal at 20 singles majors) and three legs of the men’s calendar year Grand Slam for the first time since Laver in 1969. While it’s always possible for even Djokovic to have a let down or physically not be at 100% opening the door for an upset on grass, how can you not pick Djokovic?
Who will win the women’s singles title?
Bembry: Ashleigh Barty. No Osaka. No Simona Halep. If Barty is fully recovered from the injury that forced her out of the French, she could prevail. But, based on the recent history in women’s tennis, I wouldn’t bet my house — or your house — on Barty winning it all. That’s how unpredictable the game is today.
Cambers: The big problem is to know who’s 100% fit. This is Serena’s big chance, but it still feels like too many people can beat her in the end. If she’s fit, then Barty has the all-round game for grass and the head to get it done. But there could be another surprise finalist.
Connelly: You have to feel for Halep, who suffered the most ill-timed injury possible. She would have been a favorite at the French Open, and she might have been the favorite at Wimbledon. Without her … I have no idea. I was leaning Petra Kvitova, but I hate her draw. Serena’s, too. And Barty’s still working past her hip injury. So let’s spin the wheel and go … back to Kvitova! If she gets past Sloane Stephens in the first round, she could get rolling, and it sure feels like she’s due a run.
Drysdale: Serena Williams. Just when you least expect it. She is not feeling the weight of expectations, and she is enjoying it more. She is still the GOAT.
Gilbert: Can you say completely wide open? I say 25-35 women can win it. I’m thinking will have something happen like Paris, rooting for Serena Williams, but honestly no clue who wins it. Everyone should feel like, “Why not me?”
Gore: Serena: I’m writing a fairytale ending to this pandemic-impacted period! Serena joins her fellow No. 7 Seed, Federer, and they share the last dance as 2021 champions. Serena will finally get her 24th Singles major, while Federer gets his 21st and record-tying ninth Wimbledon crown. Though the early oddsmakers favor Serena, she hasn’t won a major since 2017; this is an excellent opportunity on a surface her game is so good on. Just when some are beginning to doubt her, she will rise up and win the title in a Wimbledon for the ages
Hamilton: I was going to tip Simona Halep until she withdrew early Friday, so Ashleigh Barty is now my favorite to win Wimbledon. She heads into the Slam as the World No.1, and though her form at Wimbledon has been mixed — her best result a fourth-round exit in 2019 — but with a field already without Naomi Osaka and Halep, Barty will fancy her chances of winning a maiden Wimbledon title.
Jensen: Serena: In a tournament with so many unknowns I go with the player with the biggest trophy case that is running out of room for more hardware. Serena still has the best first, and most importantly, second serve in the game. The second serve is mission critical in the WTA game that is dominated by taking control of points right away by returning the opponent’s second serve aggressively. Serena’s secret on grass is when she is effectively hitting her groundies down the line of that Wimbledon grass. With its quick, lower bounce compared to other surfaces, it rewards those big shots and immediately gives control of court position.
Maine: Serena Williams. Yup, I’m calling it. The 23-time major champion didn’t look her best at the French Open and didn’t play in a single lead-in event on grass, but given her favorable draw and her career-long success on the surface, this could be her opportunity to tie Margaret Court’s record. The unpredictable nature of women’s tennis in conjunction with the unfamiliarity on grass of so many of the younger players will be Serena’s gain.
McEnroe: Will Wimbledon be as unpredictable as Roland Garros? I say no. The all-court game and athleticism of top-seed Barty prevails
McKendry: Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion. She’ll benefit from the upset loss to Angelique Kerber in Germany in the tune up. A first-round match against Sloane Stephens will have her focused early at Wimbledon. That being said, 20 other women could win as well. The last 17 Majors have been won by 13 different women.
McNamee: There are opportunities aplenty in the women’s singles tournament. The fate of favorites Serena and Barty could come down to a semifinal meeting. It’s an intriguing set up with No. 1 Barty having played little in the past year. If she can make it past the opening week she’s in good stead for her first Wimbledon title.
Stevenson: Serena Williams will always be my pick for the Wimbledon champion. Having said that, Serena has to perfect her grass strokes. She is a natural baseliner, but she has learned to use her volleys wisely — if not always the way they should be. Serena watches the ball better than anyone on Tour. Her forehand volley and backhand volley can be her weapons at this year’s Championship.
Serena’s backhand is the best of any woman. She is known for her serve — yet it is not always accurate. She has worked on varying it and in the end, relying on her muscle in putting in a big one when she needs it. The forehand is a weapon — but has notably gone off in her career. The grass allows Serena to use her athleticism and get to her forehand. If the forehand and serve are working, Serena is the champion of Wimbledon 2021.
As an added note, toughness is key in all of tennis. You have to understand your opponent’s thinking. Every opponent Serena faces has a target on Serena’s back. Watch the opponents she faces. What is the mood on court? How is Serena reacting to their shots? It’s a fun way to get to the end of the match.
Stubbs: I think Ash Barty is favorite. Her draw is pretty favorable and having to pull out with injury at the French will motivate her. Her game is perfect for grass, and if her serve is firing, she will be tough to beat.
Shriver: The women’s game, as Roland Garros continued to show, is impossible to predict. There are too many injury questions for top players and not enough younger players who have a good track record on grass, therefore I don’t feel overly confident with any of my selections.
Assuming her hip is healthy, Ash Barty will have a great chance to add to her Junior Wimbledon title and win her second major.
Which men’s player currently ranked outside the top 10 could make a surprise run to win?
Bembry: Denis Shapovalov. After reaching the quarter’s in last year’s US Open, you would have expected this would be the year for Shapovalov to make an impact. He won three matches on grass at the recent Queen’s Club tournament, reaching his first semifinal on a surface he claims is his favorite. Perhaps Wimbledon will serve as his launching pad for the 22-year-old to becoming a bigger threat.
Cambers: Anyone who wins the title not named Djokovic or Federer would be a big surprise. But from outside the top 10, it’s going to take something special. Nick Kyrgios could do well, despite his lack of matches, but I’ll go for Shapovalov to have a breakthrough. He can play on anything, and if it all comes together, he can beat anyone.
Connelly: If Federer isn’t going to find fifth gear, the bottom half of the draw is an absolute crapshoot. So let’s go with the No. 21 seed, Ugo Humbert. He won Halle two weeks ago, and if he can get past perma-wildcard Nick Kyrgios in the first round, the draw opens up nicely — he could play Felix Auger-Aliassime (who he beat in Halle) in the third round and Alexander Zverev (ditto) in the fourth. He’s built confidence on grass, and he could get rolling if he solves the Kyrgios puzzle.
Drysdale: John Isner. He played really well on his worst surface in Paris. He uses his serve better than anyone ever. He’s the last player anyone in the draw wants to grapple with.
Gore: Cilic: He was runner up here in 2017, US Open Champion in 2014, runner up at the 2018 Australian Open and he has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the world. He knows what it takes to win big matches here, and though injuries have held him back recently, he’s been getting better and better lately, having won the Stuttgart title on grass and then going straight to the QF of Queens. He snuck into the seeds, and is in Medvedev’s favorable quarter of the draw.
Gilbert: Hoping an American man makes a quarterfinal. Might take a shot on Shapovalov.
Hamilton: Marin Cilic and Ugo Humbert are both long-shots with the bookmakers, but will take heart from their recent triumphs in Stuttgart and Halle, respectively. However, we’re hoping for big things from young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 20-year-old is working with Toni Nadal and is building form. He pushed Cilic in Stuttgart and has a win over Federer to his name this year. He’s hovering just outside the top 10 and could surprise a few at Wimbledon.
Jensen: I’m going with Jannik Sinner. The young Italian is a rising star with not only the physical firepower, but he is emotionally exceptional under pressure. Keep an eye on how he progresses with his balance and movement on the always slick grass courts, especially in the first week when the grass is very green. Footing is much easier as the major moves into the second week with most of the grass worn down around the baseline.
Maine: If Humbert is able to escape Nick Kyrgios in the first round, he could certainly do some damage in this tournament. The two had a memorable five-set clash at the Australian Open which Kyrgios won, but he hasn’t played in a tournament since. Humbert meanwhile put together one of the best weeks of his career at Halle earlier this month, defeating Sam Querrey, Zverev, Sebastian Korda, Felix Auger Aliassime and Andrey Rublev en route to his first ATP 500 title. The 22-year-old made the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019, and now, with confidence and momentum on his side, he could potentially go even further. Not to mention, it doesn’t hurt he’s not in the same half of the draw as Djokovic.
McEnroe: Hubert Hurkacz’s game is well suited for the grass. Look for him into week 2.
McKendry: This is tough. Let’s go with Korda, making a splash in his debut! If he can upset 15th-seeded DeMinaur in the first round, his easy power might help him settle in and pick up a couple more wins.
Mcnamee: Jannik Sinner has had a mixed 2021. On the winning side, he won his second career title — the first came in 2020 and made him the youngest to win one since Kei Nishikori in 2008 — and reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final. The 19-year-old was defeated by Nadal in the fourth round of the French Open (which, let’s be honest is no shame), but the real kicker was a first-round loss to Britain’s Jack Draper. That will have hurt, and the Italian will be looking for a big tournament at Wimbledon to continue growing his reputation.
Stevenson: I’m going with all the young men in tennis. I like No. 21 Auger Aliassime. However, I also like Sebastián Korda, Petr Korda’s son. He’s 6-foot-5, in the top 50 and has been mentored well by his father. What about the other young Canadian, Shapavolv? He’s a lefty with a one-handed backhand. And a John McEnroe favorite to win a Grand Slam.
Stubbs: Seb Korda, if he wins his first round against Alex DiMinaur, I think he can go far. But something tells me whoever wins that match will go far.
Shriver: I am picking the winner of Ugo Humbert or Nick Kyrgios to make a big run to the second week of Wimbledon. Kyrgios is the darkest of wildcards as we have no clear idea of his form. Hubert won a grasscourt lead-up event, and has a solid lefty game that historically causes trouble on grass courts.
Which women’s player currently ranked outside the top 10 could make a surprise run to win?
Bembry: Coco Gauff. My pick to make a surprise run at the French, and my pick to do so at Wimbledon. You get the sense that Gauff’s big moment is coming. Why not at the place, Wimbledon, where she shocked the tennis world with a win over Venus Williams in 2019.
Cambers: Two-time champion Petra Kvitova has the class to reach the final again, but it all depends on how her ankle has recovered from that crazy slip during an interview in Paris. If she’s fit, she’s highly dangerous. But Karolina Muchova, another Czech, who reached the final 16 in 2019, could be inspired by Barbora Krejcikova’s Roland-Garros win.
Connelly: Let’s go with the hot hand who has lots of Wimbledon success on her résumé. Angelique Kerber, the No. 25 seed, knocked out Kvitova to reach the finals in Bad Homburg, and Wimbledon’s her best slam. She could end up against old friend Serena in the third round (and Bencic in the fourth), but she’s landed her fair share of shots against Serena through the years. That sounds like a pretty solid wildcard to me.
Drysdale: Gauff. All around great ball striker. Moves beautifully and she is now showing maturity after a few years honing in on her skills.
Gilbert: Almost a guarantee there will be an unseeded player in the semis, and probably two, which has been happening at every Slam the last handful of years. With so many Americans in the draw, one will definitely make deep run, maybe someone like Madison Keys.
Gore: Gauff: Though she’s in Serena’s quarter of the draw, they wouldn’t face each other until the fourth round.
Hamilton: Belinda Bencic could surprise a few and get into the latter stages of Wimbledon as could Karoline Muchova. Gauff will one day win a Grand Slam — it’s just a case of “when,” rather than “if.” But I am hoping for Petra Kvitova to have a great run at Wimbledon. She’s just outside the top 10 at No. 12, played well in the Hamburg Open, and knows Wimbledon inside out, having won there in 2011 and 2014.
She’s loved by the British crowd after her wonderful debut in 2019. She comes into this Wimbledon with solid momentum, having just reached her first major quarterfinal at Roland Garros (which she lost to the eventual champion) and is playing with a career high ranking inside the top 25. Though she lost early in Eastbourne, it almost seems like she was already so excited to play at Wimbledon again. The world is ready for Coco to win a major, and I think this could be a realistic place to do it
Jensen: Jessie Pegula
Fire power all over the place from the American. She is able to hit winners from all areas of the court, and her natural ground strikes have tremendous depth — a nightmare for any opponent. The Pegula mind is a mountain of toughness. She is also a student of the game. Her eagerness to learn and her use of various tactics under pressure keeps her constantly improving. She has such a great corner man in David Witt, who is one of the brightest minds in tennis, constantly showing her what is possible with her unlimited potential. Do not be surprised if she is holding the gold at the end of this amazing tournament.
Maine: As everyone knows by now, or at least after watching Krejcikova’s incredible run at Roland Garros, there are dozens of women capable of winning a major title, and the Wimbledon champion could very well be someone unseeded and not mentioned by any of us. That said, I’m going to go with someone more tried and true here: Victoria Azarenka.
While she hasn’t made the quarterfinals at the All England Club since 2015, she’s been playing some impressive tennis on grass over the past few weeks. She made the semifinals in Berlin and won the doubles title there, and she saved four match points in an incredible victory over Alize Cornet in Bad Homburg for a second-round victory. She withdrew before her next match, but that was likely to make sure she would be able to play at the same level during the main event at Wimbledon.
McEnroe: Coco defeats Serena along the way to her first major semi final.
McKendry: Cheeky answer is 11th and former champion, Garbine Muguruza. But in the spirit of the question, Gauff. The 20th seed is having a wonderful European spring. I can see her advancing to the fourth round where she’d potentially face Williams. Please, tennis gods.
McNamee: Krejcikova is on a remarkable run of form. After winning six doubles titles — both women’s and mixed — between 2018 and 2021 she finally got her hands on a singles title at the 2021 French Open. While she’s on the same side of the draw as Barty, her run of form into the tournament will be a boost. She comes up against exciting youngsters Clara Tauson and Marta Kostyuk early on, but Wimbledon could be the continuation of a big year for her.
Stevenson: Venus Williams. She’s coming in as a wild card. The grass suits everything about Venus’ game. Sure, she’s not expected to do much by oddsmakers, but the serve is there. The volleys can be pulled out. And her groundstrokes are technically spectacular to watch. Could she be a Goran Ivanisevic?
Stubbs: Jess Pegula, she’s been playing so well and these courts will suit her style of play.
Shriver: My outsider is Maria Sakkari who is proving to have an athletic game that translates to all surfaces. She works hard and is winning more matches in majors with each passing year.
The sentimental pick is Serena for her 24th singles major but having watched her practice courtside on Friday, I just don’t see her winning seven matches in two weeks. If she can get to the second week and play her way into better, more confident form, then we might be in for more history being written.