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Young guns Alcaraz, Sinner ready to fire as Wimbledon prepares for new era

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June 28 (Reuters) – Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and world number one Jannik Sinner will take their simmering rivalry at the top of the men’s game to Wimbledon, where the two young guns will look to prolong seven-times winner Novak Djokovic’s trophy drought in 2024.

Even before the tournament begins, however, Djokovic’s quest for a record 25th Grand Slam title is under a cloud with the Serb building match fitness after undergoing knee surgery three weeks ago for an injury that prematurely ended his French Open.

 

Fellow 37-year-old and former champion Andy Murray is also in a race to be ready for what is likely his Wimbledon swansong after the injury-plagued Briton went under the knife last week for a back issue that was exacerbated during his Queen’s Club run.

With Roger Federer retired and Rafa Nadal skipping Wimbledon to focus on next month’s Paris Olympics, the potential pullout of Djokovic would ensure the first Wimbledon without any of the Big Three since 1998.

 

All eyes would then be on Alcaraz and Sinner as they usher in a new era at Wimbledon.
“I don’t feel more pressure about playing a tournament that not one of the Big Three is playing in,” Alcaraz said last week before Djokovic arrived in London on Sunday to give fans hope.

“I’m just focusing on myself. For me, I’m going to play the same level or I’m going to feel the same pressure being with the Big Three in the tournament or having none of those three.

 

“It’s going to be the same tournament. Of course, as a fan of tennis or to people who are going to watch, it’s not going to be the same, not being able to watch those players.”

MINOR BLIP

Three-times Grand Slam champion Alcaraz overcame Djokovic in five sets to win the title 12 months ago and will look to defend a major trophy for the first time despite a minor blip that cut short the 21-year-old’s Queen’s Club title defence.

The Spaniard will join Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic if he claims back-to-back French Open and Wimbledon titles, a rare feat dubbed the “Channel Slam” in reference to the English Channel separating France and Britain.

Hoping to thwart him is Italian 22-year-old Sinner, who won his first major after dethroning Djokovic at the Australian Open and is red-hot heading to the All England Club after his maiden grasscourt crown in Halle.

“I’m looking forward to it. Last year I made the (Wimbledon)semi-finals, I played some good tennis,” said Sinner, the first Italian to reach the peak of the world rankings.
“So let’s see what’s coming this year. I’m more confident, for sure.”

The duo recently clashed in the Roland Garros semi-finals, where Alcaraz prevailed in five sets and fans will be relishing the prospect of another meeting on the sport’s slickest surface deep into the tournament.

Russian Daniil Medvedev and German Alexander Zverev lost in the finals of the year’s first two Grand Slams and will be eager to carry the flag for the late 20-something generation that has seemingly been overtaken by younger opponents.

Among the dark horses are American Tommy Paul following his Queen’s Club success and Australian Alex de Minaur who prevailed in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Big-serving Halle runner-up Hubert Hurkacz can also trouble top players on his day.
Even if Murray graces the Grand Slam that he won in 2013 and 2016, he is not expected to go far. British hopes will be carried by Jack Draper, who captured the Stuttgart title in the build-up to the July 1-14 major.

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