Wimbledon is back. The British grand slam begins on Monday with Novak Djokovic out to defend his title and our preview highlights the main storylines to watch out for in the men’s singles.
Novak Djokovic has history in his sights.
Another imperious season from the Serbian has seen him win the opening two grand slams of the campaign, and victory at Wimbledon – where he is the reigning champion – would edge him closer to a calendar Grand Slam.
Djokovic was last on course for one of those in 2021, but Daniil Medvedev thwarted him in the US Open at Flushing Meadows.
Medvedev will be one of the challengers to Djokovic’s crown at the All England Club, after missing out due to a political decision from the organisation last year.
So too will Carlos Alcaraz. He is the heir apparent to Rafael Nadal, who will not be featuring as he continues his arduous return from injury.
Andy Murray could have been seeded but an early defeat at Queen’s leaves the two-time Wimbledon champion with a tougher path in the draw.
Here, we analyse the key storylines in what is the 55th men’s singles competition at SW19 in the Open Era.
Djokovic Hunting Down Federer
Not only is Djokovic aiming to win the British slam for the third successive year and fifth consecutive edition of the tournament, but a triumph would also see the 36-year-old match the great Roger Federer on eight Wimbledon titles – the current men’s record.
Djokovic has won the last four Wimbledon men’s singles titles (2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022 – the tournament was not played in 2020) and victory this time around would see him match Federer’s haul of five successive crowns at the major (achieved between 2003 and 2007).
Federer (12) is in the clear as the only man to have reached double figures for appearances in Wimbledon finals, though Djokovic will play in his ninth should he make it all the way through this time around.
Djokovic has won all but one of his eight Wimbledon finals so far, beating Federer in three of them.
And if he succeeds at SW19, he would become the first player to win the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year on two occasions, having previously done so in 2021. The last player to complete the calendar Grand Slam in men’s singles was Rod Laver, back in 1969.
Among active players who have played a minimum of 20 matches at Wimbledon, Djokovic holds the highest percentage of match wins in the men’s singles (89.6%), while he will match the winning percentage of Pete Sampras (90%) if he progresses to the quarter-finals without a walkover – that would rank him joint-second at the tournament, behind only Bjorn Borg.
Djokovic will reach 100 matches at the tournament should he reach the last 16 in Wimbledon 2023, becoming only the third player to feature in at least 100 matches in the men’s singles after Federer (119) and Jimmy Connors (102). The Serbian will bring up his 400th match in a grand slam should he make the quarter-finals. Only Federer (429) has played in 400+ major matches.
The statistics speak for themselves. He might be seeded second but Djokovic – who is out to win a record-extending 24th grand slam – is still the man to beat at Wimbledon, where he has won his last 28 matches in a row.
Can Murray Mount One Last Hurrah?
A decade on from his first Wimbledon triumph, former world number one Murray is back again and hoping for one more shot at glory. And this time he may have a realistic chance of a deep run.
Matters were made harder by a defeat to eventual finalist Alex de Minaur at Queen’s Club, which ensured he would not be seeded at Wimbledon.
However, the Scot is as resilient as they come. Does he have one more gargantuan effort left in the tank?
Murray is the only British man to win Wimbledon in the Open Era, winning on two occasions – 2013 and 2016. The last player before him was Fred Perry in 1936.
The 36-year-old has had a tough time of it since that 2016 success, having had to take a hiatus and undergo two hip surgeries before forcing his way back to being competitive again the top level, and he heads into Wimbledon as the world number 39 having significantly improved his ranking.
Gilles Simon, whose best performance at Wimbledon came in 2015 when he reached the quarter-finals, believes Murray was unfortunate to come up against the “big three” of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer at the peak of his powers.
Simon told Opta Analyst: “Where I feel sad for Andy is I say that if he played in a different era, he could have 10 [grand slam titles], and then if we take the all-time ranking, there’s Sampras with 14 and maybe [Murray] is about here.
“Sampras has 14 and Murray has three and this is where I feel it’s a bit of injustice for him compared to his level because he would be closer to something like 14 than three, which is already a lot.”
Murray is still a longshot, but as he nears the twilight of his career, don’t rule him out pulling off some surprises with the backing of the Wimbledon crowd.
After all, he has been in good form, winning successive Challenger Tour titles in Surbiton and Nottingham, having also won the Aix-en-Provence in May, in which he beat world number 17 Tommy Paul.
Murray also reached the final of the Doha Open, only to lose to Daniil Medvedev, back in February, while his loss to De Minaur at Queen’s looked more amenable when the Australian went on to reach the final.
Carlos the Conqueror: Alcaraz Just Getting Started
If the days of Djokovic, Murray and Co. are coming to an end, then the era of Alcaraz is only just getting started.
The 20-year-old has already collected 11 ATP Tour titles, including his maiden grand slam success at Flushing Meadows last year and the title at Queen’s last week.
That win sent Alcaraz back to the top of the world rankings and, therefore, sees him take the top seed at Wimbledon.
After a record-breaking 2022 in which he became the youngest ever world number one and the youngest Open Era year-end number one, Alcaraz has gone from strength to strength this season despite withdrawing from the Australian Open due to injury.
He ended Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak to win the Indian Wells Masters, and then reached the semi-finals of the Miami Open without dropping a set, before finally succumbing to Jannik Sinner.
A French Open loss to Djokovic saw him briefly relinquish the world number 1 ranking, yet he comes into Wimbledon on the back of collecting his first tour title on grass. This boy really has got it all.
Alcaraz only turned 20 in May. Just two players in the Open Era have won the men’s singles at Wimbledon before turning 21 – Bjorn Borg (1976) and Boris Becker (1985, 1986).
He is only the fifth player this century to win their maiden ATP final on grass before turning 21, after Lleyton Hewitt (Queen’s 2000), Andy Roddick (Queen’s 2003), Robby Ginepri (Newport 2003) and Richard Gasquet (Nottingham 2005).
Best of the Rest: Medvedev Is Back
Daniil Medvedev has had a sensational return to form in 2023. He has won five titles, including Masters 1000 crowns in Miami and Rome, and is one of the other likely contenders.
The world number three missed Wimbledon last year due to the All England Club’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, but that has now been lifted and Medvedev will be wanting to make up for lost time.
However, he has not had the best time of it on grass this in the last month. Medvedev reached the quarter-finals in Halle but was knocked out of the ATP 250 event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in his first match and does not have the best career record on the surface.
Nick Kyrgios enjoyed a spectacular run to the final last year, where he ultimately fell short against the mighty Djokovic, but the fiery Australian always provides entertainment, one way or the other. However, the 28-year-old has played just once all year due to a knee injury and may not be fully fit.
Holger Rune, who lost to Medvedev in the Rome Masters final, will be out to prove his grand slam credentials after reaching the last eight at Roland Garros, which he followed up with a run to the semi-finals at Queen’s, while the man who beat him Alex de Minaur is also one to watch.
World number five Stefanos Tsitsipas has reached two finals this term, going down to Djokovic in the Australian Open and Alcaraz in Barcelona. The Greek has never got beyond the fourth round in Wimbledon, though.
Casper Ruud has been a grand slam runner-up on three occasions over the past 13 months, and will be hoping his luck finally changes in that regard, though he is yet to get past the second round in London.
Data Slam: Djokovic on Long Winning Streak
- Djokovic’s last loss at Wimbledon came against Tomas Berdych in the 2017 quarter-finals, when he suffered a season-ending elbow injury. He has not lost on Centre Court since he was defeated by Murray in the 2013 final.
- World number two Djokovic is 109-18 in his career on a grass court (85.8% win rate), including 86 victories at the All England Club. He has won four straight finals against a different player each time, beating Kevin Anderson, Federer, Matteo Berrettini and Kyrgios.
- Alcaraz has a 63% (17-10) win record against Top 10 players across his career.
- The top seed of the men’s singles has only lost their first-round match once at the Wimbledon Championships in the Open Era, when Hewitt lost to Ivo Karlovic in 2003.
- Players from the United States have won men’s singles title at Wimbledon 15 times, the most of any country represented at the tournament.
- Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, is the only player in the Open Era to have reached and won the men’s singles final at Wimbledon having entered as a wildcard. He achieved that feat in 2001. Ivanisevic still stands as the lowest-ranked player, and the only one outside of the ATP’s top 100, to win Wimbledon.
- A qualifier or lucky loser has never reached the Wimbledon final in the Open Era. Indeed, only two qualifiers have ever got to the last four – John McEnroe (1977) and Vladimir Voltchkov (2000).