​Open court: On Wimbledon 2024  

For the first time in two decades, the Big Four are not among favourites 

Updated - July 03, 2024 10:46 am IST

Published - July 03, 2024 12:10 am IST

Wimbledon 2024 has begun with world tennis in the middle of a generational transition. There is no Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with the former having retired and the latter on a long valedictory lap which does not have SW19 as a pit stop. The 37-year-olds in Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are closer to the end of their careers, and have arrived in London with broken bodies. Djokovic is recovering from a knee surgery while Murray went under a surgeon’s scalpel to mend his back barely days ago. At what is set to be his Wimbledon swansong, Murray will only compete in doubles with his brother Jamie. Thus, the stranglehold the ‘Big Four’ had established by winning 19 of the 20 editions from 2003 to 2023 is likely to be loosened. Among women, this will be the first time since 1996 that neither of the famed Williams sisters will be in action. Starting from 2000, Venus and Serena won 12 singles titles and finished runner-up on eight occasions. Venus has not played since March 2024 and Serena since September 2022. In the year or two preceding their last matches, they were far from tournament-winning form. Yet, such has been their overarching excellence that they are the benchmark indices against which every grass-court career is measured.

As the stage appears set to identify the next era’s tennis greats, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz has staked claim most authoritatively. As a 20-year-old, he won Wimbledon in 2023 for his second Major (US Open 2022, the first), beating Djokovic over five pulsating sets, and last month he graduated further by claiming the French Open. In close proximity is Jannik Sinner, the lanky Italian who won the Australian Open in January and has since meticulously risen to the top of the singles rankings. A quarterfinalist and a semifinalist in his last two visits to Wimbledon, the 22-year-old recently proved that he was a serious challenger on the slick lawns by winning in Halle (Germany), his first title on grass. Sinner’s credentials will however be put to test as early as the second round against 2021 finalist and the quintessential grass-courter Matteo Berrettini. While the passing of the baton appears seamless among men, the battle of succession among women has multiple contenders. Five-time Slam winner Iga Swiatek is the undisputed No.1 but her grass-court nous is yet to fully develop. Second seed Coco Gauff’s best at Wimbledon is fourth round, which she first reached in 2019 as a 15-year-old qualifier. And with the withdrawal of Aryna Sabalenka — third seed and a two-time semifinalist — the field is open.

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