For the 136th time, Wimbledon will welcome the best players in the world to compete in an action-packed two weeks in what promises to be yet another grand slam creating new memories and new records. As always, there are players from both sides of the draw who attract the spotlight and take it away from others who lurk as a dark horse without attention.
With the third grand slam of the year commencing on Monday night, it’s time to dissect the main players who are being spoken about too highly and those who are underestimated.
Men’s Flying under the radar: Jiri Lehecka [CZE]
The talented 21-year-old prospect burst onto the scene during this year’s Australian Open due to his quarter-final appearance, but his name has slipped the minds of many since then. After an auspicious start to the season, Lehecka has slightly dropped off where he has also entered a few challenger tournaments.
Despite not winning a match on grass in 2022 and holding a 2-2 record over the past couple of weeks, the world number 37 is an incredibly dangerous opponent due to his raw power, recorded as one of the biggest hitting players on the tour to match the likes of Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev. A kind draw awaits the Czech, facing wildcard Sebastian Ofner in the first round and potentially meeting Francisco Cerundolo, Milos Raonic/Tommy Paul, and Tsitsipas/Murray on the way to the quarter-finals. Frances Tiafoe [USA]
Currently sitting inside the top 10, Tiafoe has produced more consistent results over the past few seasons which has ultimately helped the American grow into a more complete player. There is no doubt that he is blessed with a lot of variety, as grass has the ability to bring his skill set to the forefront along with the fluctuating pace of the ball which he can adjust quickly.
An impressive title claimed in Stuttgart last week will only increase his confidence and belief that he can honestly do some damage at the All-England Club. Tiafoe exited the fourth round last year after a two-sets-to-one lead, but he should fancy his chances of improving that run with an opening-round match against Yibing Wu before a potential fourth round clash with Alcaraz awaits. Once eliminating Nadal from the US Open, can he repeat those heroics against another Spaniard? Lorenzo Musetti [ITA] Walking in the shadow of both Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini in Italian tennis, Musetti is quietly going about his business in a professional manner while picking up some impressive results. Quarter-final appearances at Stuttgart and Queens and a fourth-round exit at the hands of Carlos Alcaraz have led the 21-year-old to a solid stretch of form as of late. A winnable first game awaits against Peru’s Varillas before projected meetings against John Isner and Hubert Hurkacz would set up a potential fourth round clash with reigning champion, Novak Djokovic.
Up two-sets-to-love against Novak at last year’s French Open coupled with tasting success against the Serb in Monte-Carlo back in April will provide Musetti with all of the confidence in the world to put up a gallant fight.
Flying over the radar: Stefanos Tsitsipas [GRE]
This may pose as a shock to some, but Tsitsipas has relatively underperformed on the grass which is a shock in itself. The world number 5 has failed to make it past the fourth round at Wimbledon, something that has been lingering over him for some time now. Tsitispas’ last two tournaments on grass have not been convincing, losing in three sets to veteran Richard Gasquet in Stuttgart before succumbing to a straight sets loss to Nicolas Jarry in Halle and a three-set defeat to Yannick Hanfmann in Mallorca. A nightmare draw won’t help his cause, paired with Dominic Thiem in the first round before a likely matchup against home favourite and former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray. Don’t be surprised to see an early exit from the Greek.
Daniil Medvedev [RUS] Medvedev is on a similar boat to that of Tsitsipas, as the former US Open champion has also failed to make it past the fourth round of Wimbledon, albeit denied entry last year, as well as the tournament scrapped in 2020 due to the pandemic. Form-wise, similar patterns are also noticeable as Medvedev bowed out in the first round in Hertogenbosch to Adrian Mannarino before losing to Bautista Agut in straights at the Quarter-final stage of Halle. There is no doubt that the world number 3 has the weapons and defensive ability to compete with anyone in the world, but he still hasn’t quite found his rhythm to go all the way and lift the trophy.
The first round should pose no issues against British wildcard Arthur Fery, but a potential meeting against Mannarino could be the start of his downfall, having only won two of his six meetings against the Frenchman, as well as having to face Alcaraz and Rune on the same side of the bracket.
Casper Ruud [NOR]
Reaching three of the last five grand slam finals would suggest that the Norwegian is bound to make a deep run at Wimbledon, right? Since 2018, Ruud has played only nine competitive matches on grass, winning three of those. His best result at Wimbledon is a second round appearance last year. By far Ruud’s least favourite surface, it has always proven difficult for the 24-year-old to construct points and play on his terms as he does so impressively on clay. After a disappointing loss at the final hurdle in Paris, the world number 4 decided to take some time off on vacation back in his home country, opting to skip the grass-court tournaments to prepare for the upcoming grand slam without any match practice. “Weed just doesn’t suit my game. I don’t feel completely comfortable on it. If there’s a time of year when I need to rest a bit, to recover after a long season on clay, it’s when I play on grass.” - Casper Ruud, June 2023 Expect him to win his first two matches and record his best Wimbledon run before the journey ends against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov. Women’s Flying under the radar: Petra Kvitová [CZE] At age 33, many feel as though Kvitová’s best days are behind her. However, there is a sense that the Czech is gearing up for one final push at a major. The 2014 Wimbledon champion may not be able to move around the court as well as she once did, but her powerful weapons pose such a threat to any rival on grass. Without dropping a single set, Kvitová clinched the Grass Court Championships in Berlin with a break between then and the beginning of Wimbledon.
Jasmine Paolini awaits in the first round before potential third and fourth round encounters against Karolina Pliskova and Ons Jabeur. Not the easiest path, but Kvitová is still one of the most reliable athletes.
Elina Svitolina [UKR]
Perhaps not so much under the radar due to her stellar performance at the French Open where she reached the quarter-finals, the simple fact is that Svitolina shows up for these massive tournaments. Returning from motherhood, the 28-year-old has demonstrated impressive signs that she is slowly finding her best tennis again, something that the women’s side has been missing. The 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist has the movement counterpunch to trouble the top seeds, and she will need to execute those strengths against Venus Williams to progress through to face the likely proposition of Elise Mertens and Coco Gauff. Experience matters in grand slam tennis. Ekaterina Alexandrova [RUS]
Alexandrova isn’t the biggest name on the tour. What you do get from the 28-year-old is consistency that makes up for the limited weapons compared to the elite, similar to Roberto Bautista Agut in the men’s section. Reaching as high as 16 in the world, she is coming off a title win in Hertogenbosch and was eliminated by eventual winner Kvitová at the semi-final stage in Berlin. A big serve and ability to keep the points short on grass will prove critical in order to give herself the best opportunity at a deep run.
The 21st seed is expected to move past Emma Navarro of the USA before a massive third round clash with Karolina Muchová looms. Flying over the radar: Jessica Pegula [USA]
World number 4 for good reason, it’s no secret that the American thrives on hard courts the most. When it comes to the clay and grass, however, Pegula struggles to step out of her comfort zone and adjust her game style through her movement and tentativeness to play less aggressively. The third round at Wimbledon remains her best result, and she will be casting one eye on the US swing. Mayar Sherif and Liudmila Samsonova will be tough to overcome toward the end of the first week. Karolina Muchová [CZE] This selection will come across as a surprise, especially considering her unbelievable run to the Roland Garros final, but the grass has not been kind to Muchová in the past. Despite two quarter-final appearances on the Wimbledon lawn, the 26-year-old seems to come up short when the pressure really hits the ceiling more often than not. The win against Sabalenka in Paris may well provide her with the belief she requires to take the next step and challenge consistently, but we still need to see more from her to truly know if she can win this tournament. If she is able to maneuver past Alexandrova, Aryna Sbalenka will be a completely different proposition in the fourth round. Ons Jabeur [TUN]
For the Tunisian’s standards, its been quite an up-and-down season for the Wimbledon runner-up, struggling to find her best form on a weekly basis. During those two weeks at The Championships last year, she arguably played the best tennis of her career, adding variety and constructing points perfectly off the racquet that had her opponents frustrated. Preparations for the grass court season so far have not been ideal, losing to Jule Niemeier and Heather Watson in straight sets, causing doubts as to whether her lack of power will prove an issue, especially against players like Światek and Rybakina.
Andreescu, Kvitová, and Pliskova will prove too much to handle in the early rounds.