Wimbledon: The very first match drawn out of the bag pitted in the 2021 Wimbledon is Novak Djokovic, gunning to complete part three of a calendar year Grand Slam, against the 19-year-old British wild card Jack Draper, who had such a splendid run to the quarter-finals at Queen’s.
And it is likely that Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer who are placed on opposite sides of the bracket in Friday's draw, could meet in the final, which would be a rematch of their epic 2019 title showdown.
The top-seeded Djokovic will have a lot at stake when play begins at the All England Club on Monday, a year after the grass-court tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
He seeks a 20th major title, which would tie the men's record shared by Federer and Rafael Nadal; he can move closer to a calendar-year Grand Slam after winning the Australian Open in February and the French Open this month; he will be trying to win his third consecutive trophy, and sixth overall, at Wimbledon.
Two years ago, Djokovic edged Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker after saving two championship points in the final.
The potential women's quarterfinals based on seedings are No. 1 Ash Barty vs. No. 5 Bianca Andreescu, and No. 3 Elina Svitolina vs. No. 6 Serena Williams in the top half; No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 7 Iga Swiatek, and No. 4 Sofia Kenin vs. No. 8 Karolina Pliskova in the bottom half.
The possible men's quarterfinals are Djokovic vs No. 5 Andrey Rublev, and No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut in the top half; No. 2 Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 6 Federer, and No. 4 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 7 Matteo Berrettini in the bottom half.
Among the noteworthy first-round men's matchups are Djokovic against wild-card entry Jack Draper, a 19-year-old from England who was the Wimbledon boys' runner-up in 2018; two-time champion Andy Murray against No. 24 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili; and No. 21 Ugo Humbert against Nick Kyrgios.
Women's first-rounders of particular interest include Barty against Carla Suárez Navarro, a 32-year-old Spaniard who recently returned to competition after being treated for cancer; 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams against 100th-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who reached Wimbledon's fourth round in 2018; French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova against 18-year-old Clara Tauson; and two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova against 2017 U.S. Open champ Sloane Stephens.
Injured Simona Halep pulls out
Simona Halep did not get the chance to defend her 2019 Wimbledon title a year ago because the tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic. Now an injury will prevent her from competing when play begins at the All England Club next week.
Halep announced shortly before Friday's draw that she was pulling out of the grass-court Grand Slam due to the same torn left calf that kept her from participating at the French Open.
"I gave it everything I had in order to be ready to play Wimbledon and after having such special memories from 2 years ago, I was excited and honoured to step back on these beautiful courts as defending champion," Halep wrote in a posting on social media.
Her withdrawal means two of the top three women in the WTA rankings will be missing from one of the sport's most prestigious events when main-draw action begins Monday: No. 2 Naomi Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, is sitting out Wimbledon while "taking some personal time with friends and family," her agent, Stuart Duguid, said in an email last week.
Two of the top five men in the ATP rankings are also out: No. 3 Rafael Nadal, who said he needed to let his body rest and recover, and No. 5 Dominic Thiem, who hurt his right wrist.