Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and its deep-rooted traditions distinguish it from every other competition.
The all-white dress attire, lush grass courts of the All England Club, and Royal Box overlooking center court all add to the grandeur of the sport’s third Grand Slam of the season.
And when the fortnight in London concludes, they’ll be one last tradition to observe – the Champions’ Dinner – a gala in which all the tournament’s winners gather with their loved ones to celebrate their achievements.
Before the champions take their throne, here are five storylines to watch when the action kicks off Monday.
‘Swiss Maestro’ pursues 9th crown
Roger Federer holds 20 Grand Slam singles titles – the most by any male player – and stands all alone with eight Wimbledon crowns. But after Rafael Nadal’s recent win at Roland Garros, Federer leads the Spaniard by just two majors – the narrowest margin between the two since 2004. At the age of 37, Federer won’t have many more chances to increase his lead.
The “Swiss Maestro” appeared to catch a break after being seeded second thanks to Wimbledon’s unique seeding system. But in the end, it didn’t matter much as Federer and the No. 3 Nadal ended up on the same side of the draw – opposite world No. 1 Novak Djokovic – and could clash in the semifinal.
Once again, the “Fed Express” rolls into Wimbledon in solid form. He recently captured a 10th Halle Open title, which has historically boded well for Federer. Of his eight career titles at the All England Club, five of them have come on the heels of a tournament victory at the Wimbledon tuneup event. Federer holds a 95-12 career record at Wimbledon and is 181-26 overall on grass courts. He’s missed the final eight in London just once over the past 15 years and it’d be a huge shock if Federer isn’t playing deep into the second week.
Osaka’s state of mind
For the first time since last year’s US Open, Naomi Osaka enters a Grand Slam without having won the previous major. The Japanese star’s pursuit of a third straight Grand Slam title ended after a third-round loss at the French Open. It was Osaka’s first major as the top seed and she admitted that the situation was overwhelming.
“I think this tournament I have had a feeling that was different to the other grand slams, or every other grand slam that I have played, because usually I find it very freeing and fun, and this time around I was kind of tense the entire time,” Osaka told reporters post-match, including CNN’s Ravi Ubha. “… I think I was overthinking this calendar slam.”
Perhaps the loss was a blessing in disguise for Osaka. The early exit allowed the 21-year-old to head home for a week and reset her mind. While Osaka’s return at the Birmingham Classic didn’t go exactly as planned, she seemed to be good in spirits and told reporters pre-tournament that she’s enjoying “the challenge and the fight” of grass-court tennis.
But the world No. 2 won’t have much time to build confidence on a surface that hasn’t been very kind to her. While Osaka’s power and aggressive baseline play are tailored to the fast courts of the All England Club, she’s never been past the third round in two main draw appearances. Things don’t get easier for Osaka as she kicks off her Wimbledon campaign against Yulia Putintseva less than two weeks after her straight-sets loss to the Kazakh at Birmingham.
Andy Murray wasn’t sure if he’d play tennis again when he walked off Melbourne Arena following a five-set opening-round loss at the Australian Open. The former world No. 1 was already contemplating his playing future prior to the tournament due to his physical health, and he labored through a practice match with Djokovic just days before his first-round match.
In January, Murray made the difficult decision to undergo a second hip surgery with hopes of alleviating the pain that had been bothering him for years. Five months later, Murray has returned to competitive tennis in an almost dream-like fashion. The 32-year-old captured the Queen’s Club doubles title alongside Feliciano Lopez and, most importantly, felt pain-free.
Murray will compete in the doubles draw at Wimbledon with France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert. If everything works out, the three-time Grand Slam champ could play his older brother Jamie in the third round. Murray isn’t ruling out an eventual return to singles play or paying too much attention to his results. For now, he’s just enjoying the moment.
“If I keep progressing, I would like to try to play singles,” Murray said, according to ESPN’s Simon Cambers. “But I’m just quite happy doing what I’m doing just now and just taking each week as it comes.
“… I know in Australia I didn’t anticipate playing doubles, but I also didn’t anticipate feeling like this and enjoying playing tennis like this, either. We’ll see what happens.”
Barty enters uncharted waters
Ash Barty’s title win at Birmingham completed an improbable journey from former cricketer to world No. 1. The 23-year-old became the first Australian in more than 40 years – and second ever – to sit atop the women’s rankings. Barty didn’t drop a set during the tuneup event and heads into Wimbledon riding a 12-match winning streak. She’ll be Australia’s first top-seeded player at a major since Lleyton Hewitt in 2003.
It will be interesting to see how Barty deals with the pressure of being the hunted instead of the hunter. Osaka was in a similar situation a month ago – seeded No. 1 at a Grand Slam for the very first time – and it got the best of her. Friday’s draw didn’t do Barty any favors. Her quarter features Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, while two-time Grand Slam champs Svetlana Kuznetsova and Garbine Muguruza potentially await in second and third-round matches, respectively.
There’s no doubt that Barty’s in tough to maintain her new status. But she moves well on grass and has enough variety in her game to excel.
Both the men’s and women’s draws are stocked with plenty of rising stars to keep tabs on. Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime is the youngest player within the ATP’s top 25 and has impressively vaulted up the rankings without a single Grand Slam win. The 18-year-old’s breakthrough year carried over to the grass-court season. Auger-Aliassime has reached a final and semifinal in a pair of tournaments preceding Wimbledon. The Montreal native won 94 percent of his service games and fired 133 aces during that span and is poised to make some noise in his second career main draw appearance at a major.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova has made similar waves as the youngest woman within the WTA’s top 30. But unlike Auger-Aliassime, the American teen has already proven to be a legitimate Grand Slam threat. Anisimova made the round of 16 at the Australian Open in January and nearly made last month’s French Open final, having led eventual champion Barty by a set and a break in their semifinal clash. The 25th-seeded Anisimova has got great depth and power on her groundstrokes along with an aggressive style that could set up another deep Grand Slam run.
Coco Gauff is another name to keep an eye on and might already be one of the stories of the tournament. The 15-year-old American became the youngest player in the Open era to qualify for Wimbledon’s main draw. Gauff will square off against her role model, Venus Williams, in a first-round battle of youth vs. experience. To put their age gap into perspective, Williams had won four Grand Slam singles titles before Gauff was even born.
The Atlanta native has steadily built toward this moment. At 13, Gauff became the youngest woman to reach the junior US Open final in 2017, and less than a year later, she came away with the junior French Open title. Gauff has a chance to continue her rapid ascent against one of the very players who inspired her to pick up a tennis racket.