Predictions, dark horses to watch and key first-round matchups.
At the previous major, you would have been within your rights to pick Rafael Nadal against the French Open field. The field won. Specifically, Novak Djokovic won. And so it is that now, you would be within your rights to pick Djokovic against the field to win Wimbledon 2021. In part because of his excellence and in part because of the field’s depletion—Nadal and Dominic Thiem among the absentees; admirable Andy Murray is no longer a contender; in weeks, Roger Federer turns 40—Djokovic is an overwhelming favorite. And a title would put him three-fourths of the way to a Grand Slam. It would also move him to a tie with Federer and Nadal for 20 career singles majors.
Herewith the Sports Illustrated men’s seeds for Wimbledon 2021:
1. Novak Djokovic
The top seed and No. 1 player and defending champ and winner of the last two majors and … are we at the point where we would pick him against the field as we hype (not unreasonably) the possibility of a Golden Slam? It’s admirable he’s so involved in tennis politics on the eve of the third major. It might also be a sign of his confidence level. He starts against the young Brit Jack Draper to then likely play Kevin Anderson in a replay of the 2018 final.
2. Daniil Medvedev
On the plus side, he’s better on grass than clay. And he’s coming off a quarterfinal run in Paris and some fine grass play in tune-ups. Always dangerous, always an enjoyable watch, but if he can replicate his Paris showing—respectable but far from playing to his seeding—it will be a success. Rough first-rounder against Jan-Lennard Struff.
3. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Tennis’s seeker now seeks the next step in his ascent: he got to a major final—and came within a set from a win. Now, nothing less than a title will have a whiff, a disappointment. He can play expertly on grass. And maybe it’s a disguised blessing so little time divides these events.
4. Alexander Zverev
It’s surprising his game doesn’t translate better to grass. A defeat to Ugo Humbert in tune-ups doesn’t inspire optimism. But caught a break getting a top-four seeding after withdrawal of Nadal and Thiem. And he sure can’t complain about his draw. Maybe he makes the most of it.
5. Andrey Rublev
The cut-and-paste: a wonderful player, with easy power. No one has more ability to take a midrally ball and smoke a winner. But the best-of-five results don’t keep pace with the best-of-three results. A brilliant player week-to-week, who wins lots of matches but still needs to make a dent at a major. And until that changes, there’s an optimism ceiling.
6. Roger Federer
Comes in with minimal match play and minimal momentum. But Wimbledon is Wimbledon, his “happy place,” a bowl of uncooked rice to his wet iPhone. If he’s going to win his 21st major, it’s most likely to come here. Left Paris unfashionably early to prepare for this occasion. Let’s see if he makes the most of it.
7. Matteo Berrettini
The leader of the Italian brigade is coming off a fine run in Paris, coming off a title in Queens, and brings to bear a considerable grass-court track record. Surprisingly he isn’t the bettors’ second favorite after Djokovic; he is ours.
8. Roberto Bautista Agut
For a player whose game is predicated on sort-of-steady precision and not ball-blasting, his results at Wimbledon are exceptional (15—6 record, including a semifinal run in 2019). Some danger lurks in his draw.
9. Diego Schwartzman
Brought his best stuff to Paris, where he reached Week 2 and took a set off Nadal. But he’s 3—5 for his career at Wimbledon, where he pays a price for his deficit of power.
10. Denis Shapovalov
A regrettable absence in Paris—just as his results were ticking upward. A lot of flash and deceptive weapons, but I wish we had more data points on grass.
11. Pablo Carreño Busta
Has matured into a reliable player, but there’s a ceiling. Grass play this month has been encouraging. Rough first match assignment against Sam Querrey.
12. Casper Ruud
A rising star this year. But looking for his first match win at Wimbledon.
13. Gaël Monfils
Has finally won a few matches post-COVID-19, but tennis’s great entertainer is nearing the end of his set.
14. Hubert Hurkacz
Coming out of a brutal post-Miami slump and looking again like a formidable player. Not a lot of data points on grass but not the worst dark horse.
15. Alex de Minaur
Been a bit of a quiet period for the Aussie (still only 22), but he knows how to battle, knows how to win and can play on grass (in Eastbourne, as we write this). Tough start against Sebastian Korda.
16. Felix Auger Aliassime
Still looking for a first title and a first major breakthrough. But a generally encouraging grass-court campaign includes a win against Federer.
18. Grigor Dimitrov: A former semifinalist. You hope the back is healthy.
19. Jannik Sinner: First major—surely of many—as a Wimbledon seed. Not a great build for grass, but with so much talent and professionalism, who knows his ceiling?
20. Aslan Karatsev: One of the stories of the year so far, but not a lot of data points for grass.
21. Humbert: A top 25 player with grass skills—and turns only 23 on June 26. Starts vs. Nick Kyrgios.
22. Dan Evans: Mercurial Brit is quietly putting together a standout season.
27. Reilly Opelka: So much beyond the serve and the height.
28. John Isner: Because. Wimbledon.
29. Cam Norrie: Steady Brit is quietly putting together a standout season.
32. Marin Čilić: Sneaks into seedings. On the downside of a fine career, but he was a Wimbledon finalist in 2017, and won the Stuttgart tune-up event.
Dark Horse Pasture
Andy Murray: All multiple-time champs merit mention. Physically, unclear how much best-of-five tennis he can withstand. If nothing else, a sentimental choice … and an opportunity for adulation. Starts against a seed, Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Struff: German veteran has a game for grass and first-round opportunity against Medvedev.
Nick Kyrgios: It’s been a bit, as the Aussies say. Starts against seeded Humbert.
Korda: Still only 20. And already in the top 50. And yet to win a match in a major in 2021.
Querrey: A former semifinalist—with a Wimbledon win over Djokovic—at his best on grass.
Struff d. Medvedev
First Round Matches to Watch
Djokovic vs. Draper: Draper won’t win, but he can win the day.
Schwartzman vs. Benoît Paire: Two workers with very similar approaches to the job.
Frances Tiafoe vs. Tsitsipas: Rough starter for both.
Korda vs. de Minaur: Draw opens for the winner.
Kyrgios vs. Humbert: Interesting heat check for both.
Taylor Fritz vs. Brandon Nakashima: (Suddenly) Veteran American against a young American qualifier.
Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Why not make it a Channel Double?
Djokovic d. Tsitsipas
Berrettini d. Federer
Djokovic d. Berrettini