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The 137th edition of the Wimbledon Championships is set to commence on July 1 as excitement and anticipation builds toward another Grand Slam with new scripts to be written. Aside from the Australian Open, Wimbledon is arguably the happiest hunting ground for the Aussies to thrive on the hallowed grass - one of the reasons why the prestigious event attracts many eyeballs down under. The French Open witnessed a spanner thrown in the works pre-tournament with the number of uncertainties through injury on the men's side, but now the WTA tour is coming to grips with uncertainties of its own leading in. The First Serve dissects all you need to know heading into what is set to be a history-making fortnight to remember. Opportunity For The Aussies To Shine: “Us Aussies, we are known for loving the grass. You’re going to get very few Aussies who don’t enjoy this part of the season and it’s great to see (Australia) has strength in numbers again,” said Alex de Minaur. Coming off a Grand Slam on the clay that featured only two Aussie women in the main draw and a poor showing from the men, it’s difficult to argue with that statement. All eyes will be on de Minaur who experienced a tremendous French Open campaign on a surface that is his least preferred, reaching the quarter-finals and then opening his grass court campaign with a title in The Netherlands, just over a week ago achieving a career-high No.7 ranking. The 25-year-old has added muscle to generate more power, improved his serve, and impressively matures as each day passes. There is strong hope he can better his fourth round appearance at SW19 two years ago.

Nine Aussies on the men's side currently sit inside the top 100, and two names in particular stand out in Jordan Thompson (No.39) and five-set king Thanasi Kokkinakis (No.92) who share suitable game styles that can cause damage on grass. James Duckworth, has surged up the rankings to No.78, helped by a quarter-final showing in Stuttgart and a narrow loss to Hubert Hurkacz in the round of 16 of Halle. He will have to go through qualifying this week, because of where his ranking was at at the cut off six weeks ago, but he is in good form and has made the third round of SW 19 previosuly. In the women’s section, Ajla Tomljanović is steadily recapturing peak form in a bid to replicate her back-to-back quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon in 2021 and 2022. A last eight appearance at an ITF event in Britain and a WTA final in Birmingham overnight lead to positive signs that the 31-year-old still has something left in the tank after a brutal 18 months of dealing with injuries. Tomljanovic is using her protected ranking, with Daria Saville Australia’s No.1 female player having automatic entry into the main draw. There will be a number of Aussie women in qualifying including Kimberly Birrell who is in great form (13-4 run) having reached three straight quarter-finals on grass after Roland Garros as well as a semi-final result at an ITF event last week. Also watch out for talented young trio Taylah Preston, Olivia Galecki, and Talia Gibson who will also be in qualifying as they try and take another positive step in their respective careers. Men's Draw: Can Alcaraz Defend His Title? Very few gave Carlos Alcaraz much hope on the grass given that the Spaniard had won only four competitive matches on the surface before 2023. Well, how wrong they all were. An undefeated grass court season saw back-to-back wins at Queen’s and Wimbledon where the three-time Grand Slam champion is now tasked to defend 2000 ranking points.

His last defeat on grass? A four-set defeat to rival Jannik Sinner two years ago in the fourth round at the All England Club. Sinner, the newly crowned world No.1, should enter the tournament as a slight favourite - claiming his first grass court title in Halle overnight to extend his win-loss record this calendar year to 38-3. Questions surrounding Novak Djokovic’s fitness will continue as the days edge closer, still recovering from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus that forced him to withdraw from his French Open quarter-final. At the moment, it remains arduous to see the Serbian add to an already remarkable 24 Grand Slam titles given the competition offered by the new guard. Transitioning to grass and then back to clay for the Olympics wouldn’t make much sense, and he could follow the same route as Rafael Nadal who will not participate. It would mark the first time since 1999 that the ‘big three’ of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer wouldn't feature at Wimbledon. The likes of Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev are still yet to convince the tennis world that they can go all the way on grass, while world No.8 Casper Ruud has famously said that “grass is for golf players” and skipped last year’s pre-Wimbledon preparation to go holiday and ski. Two-time champion and British great Andy Murray has had an operation on a spinal cyst that forced the 37-year-old to retire midmatch against Jordan Thompson at the Queen's Club Championship. It would seem highly unlikely that he would play, but he is not officially ruled out at this point in time. Flying Under The Radar: If he did play, Britain won't be able to count on Murray to make a deep run, but another local hopeful, Jack Draper, is a name that few are talking about. The 22-year-old won the Stuttgart Open last week and also defeated Alcaraz in straight sets at Queen’s before exiting in the quarters. His movement on grass and the amount of variety capable is enough to instil faith in the youngster. Matteo Berrettini is another potential dark horse, losing to Draper in the final. When it comes to this period of the season, the former Wimbledon finalist is a nightmare draw for any opponent when fully fit and healthy. Women’s Draw: Wide Open Field Nine of the past 10 editions on the women’s side have been accustomed to a new champion, showcasing the depth and evenness across the tour on grass. Yet, the upcoming tournament has all the makings of an extremely unpredictable fortnight. Could a heavy underdog survive as the last woman standing? She may be the queen of clay and hold four Roland Garros titles, but the reality is that Iga Świątek has never been overly comfortable on grass. Her best result was achieved last year at the quarter-final stage, only to be eliminated by Elina Svitolina who had just returned to the action two months prior after a long layoff. For that reason, it’s anyone’s ball game. But not for the reasons tennis fans would hope. Elena Rybakina, champion in 2022, withdrew from her quarter-final in Berlin due to illness. One day later, Aryna Sabalenka retired from a match for the first time in her career against Anna Kalinskaya in the first set due to a shoulder complaint - now in a race against time to be ready for Wimbledon. It wasn’t the only injury to occur with Kalinskaya on the opposite side of the net, as reigning champion Markéta Vondroušová slipped and injured her right hip in what could be a damning blow to her title defence. Illness struck two-time runner-up Ons Jabeur in the same city - terrible timing after rediscovering some of her best tennis in the clay swing. The 29-year-old has been upfront and honest about the heartbreak of losing the final 12 months ago, describing it as “the hardest loss” of her career. The Tunisian has unfinished business. That all said, logically, Coco Gauff is in the box seat to add another Grand Slam accolade to her name despite failing to surpass the fourth round of Wimbledon in her short career thus far. The world No.3 has the weapons to thrive against the hardest hitters on tour and has already tasted what it's like to win major tournaments. Flying Under The Radar: Less attention has been drawn to world No.5 Jessica Pegula since her two-month injury layoff at the start of April. Interestingly, the American has failed to move past the quarter-final stage of a major in six attempts including last year at Wimbledon, but the 30-year-old knows that this short window of opportunity with question marks over her rivals' fitness presents the perfect scenario to make a breakthrough. World No.20 Beatriz Haddad Maia is an outsider chance to cause an upset as a lower-ranked seed, hoping to rectify a sad ending to her Wimbledon campaign last year in the fourth round when she was forced to retire early in the first set against Rybakina on centre court. The Brazilian has the tools to wear her opponents down and find a killer winner when required. CATCH ALL THE ACTION ON STAN SPORT FROM MONDAY JULY 1ST.


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