Stefanos Tsitsipas leads pack hoping to stop Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon march

·3-min read

With Rafael Nadal absent and concerns over the form and fitness of Roger Federer, the hunt is on for someone to challenge Novak Djokovic’s seemingly inevitable march towards a 20th grand slam title.

It says a lot about the paucity of competition for world number one Djokovic that the third seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, has won only three matches in his three visits to the All England club.

But the 22-year-old did lead Djokovic by two sets before falling to defeat in this month’s French Open final, and he insisted: “I’m looking forward to the grasscourt season.

“I see opportunities there for me. I like the grass. I like playing on grass. I didn’t have the best results few years ago, before Covid, when I last played on grass.

Tsitsipas fell just short in Paris
Tsitsipas fell just short in Paris (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

“I’m going to try and adapt my game to this surface. I think I have the game to play good on grass, too. I just need to be open-minded and adapt my game to this surface.”

Russian world number seven Andrey Rublev has won an incredible 33 matches this year and reached the final at Halle last week to underline his grasscourt credentials.

Meanwhile, Matteo Berrettini’s victory at Queen’s Club will mark him out as another major threat.

The 25-year-old Italian, ranked ninth in the world, became the first debutant to triumph at Queen’s since Boris Becker in 1985. Becker, of course, went on to win Wimbledon a couple of weeks later.

Berrettini reached the second week of the Championships two years ago where he was beaten comprehensively in the last 16 by Federer.

He said: “I had the chance to play Roger on Centre, it was my dream as a kid and I really enjoyed it, despite losing. I saw my idol over the net and I was overwhelmed.

“But that match really helped me in the next few slams. Now I have a lot of confidence, I know I’m playing well, I’m pushing myself in these conditions, I’m happy with my mindset and I know I can play good in Wimbledon.

“All the players have extra motivation going into a slam but I couldn’t think of anything better than this going into Wimbledon.”

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With Naomi Osaka having withdrawn and doubts lingering over the fitness of Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep, the women’s draw is one for the pinstickers, as evidenced by the appearance of four first-time semi-finalists at Roland Garros.

There will be high hopes for Polish teenager Iga Swiatek, last year’s French Open champion, but even she admitted: “I don’t know if I even remember how to play on grass.

“I’m not putting any expectations or any pressure on me because really I just want to learn how to play on it. Probably I’m going to say that for few more years.”

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