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Wimbledon 2023: The favorites, the main challengers and how to watch

Tennis fans have become very accustomed to the sight of Novak Djokovic hoisting Wimbledon’s iconic gold trophy at the end of the championships in southwest London.

This year looks likely to follow the same script again, as the Serb heads to the All England Club as the overwhelming favorite to win another title and take his grand slam tally to 24.

Should Djokovic triumph as most expect him to, the 36-year-old will match Roger Federer’s record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles – held jointly with Björn Borg – and eight overall.

Djokovic has opted not to play in any ATP Tour events in preparation for Wimbledon, instead only playing in the swanky Hurlingham exhibition event in London.

Even in the twilight of his career, Djokovic continues to play some of the best tennis of his life.

Despite struggling for form in the lead up to the French Open, Djokovic found his A-game when it mattered most in Paris and looked largely unstoppable.

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz looked as though he would push Djokovic all the way in their semifinal at Roland-Garros, before suffering from cramps that ended the match as a contest.

Alcaraz has openly admitted that grass is his least specialized surface, but the youngster made huge strides this year by winning his first grass-court title at Queen’s Club, the most prestigious Wimbledon warmup event in the calendar.

That win returned Alcaraz to the top of the world rankings, but the 20-year-old will have his work cut out to stop grass-court specialist Djokovic if the two face off in London.

The usual pretenders to Djokovic’s throne – Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud and Holger Rune among them – have enjoyed no Wimbledon success of note and seem unlikely to threaten the defending champion’s crown.

The USA’s Francis Tiafoe, who has never been past the fourth round at Wimbledon, has also inserted himself into the outside contenders’ bracket after winning the first grass court title of his career at the Stuttgart Open and breaking into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

Chile’s Nicolas Jarry, whose big serve and powerful groundstrokes are real weapons on the grass, could also make a splash in SW19 after a terrific season that has earned him two ATP titles and a rise from outside of the world’s top 150 in January to the world No. 28 heading into Wimbledon.

Defending champ in danger?

In the women’s draw, rising superstar Elena Rybakina has sparked concerns that she will be unable to defend her title after withdrawing from the Eastbourne International warmup event with the same virus that forced her to pull out of the French Open.

The 24-year-old returned to the court at the German Open last week but lost in straight sets in the second round to Donna Vekić and admitted afterwards that she still hadn’t recovered fully.

Rybakina became the first player from Kazakhstan to win a grand slam title after beating Ons Jabeur in three sets in last year’s Wimbledon final, catapulting her to stardom overnight.

The world No. 3 followed up that success by reaching another grand slam final at the Australian Open in January, this time losing in three sets to Aryna Sabalenka.

Belarussian Sabalenka and Poland’s Iga Świątek are joint favorites to win the title alongside Rybakina, according to bookmakers.

Sabalenka has three titles to her name this year, including that maiden grand slam in Australia, and has matched her career-high of No. 2 in the world heading into Wimbledon.

Much like Rybakina, Sabalenka’s powerful game is a daunting prospect to face on the fast grass surface. She has enjoyed success at Wimbledon, reaching the semifinals in 2021, but was excluded in 2022 by the tournament’s blanket ban on Russian and Belarussian players.

So far, Sabalenka’s only preparation on grass has been at the German Open, where she lost in straight sets in the second round to world No. 12 Veronika Kudermetova.

Świątek started her Wimbledon preparations with a hard-fought three-set win over world No. 58 Tatjana Mariana in the opening round of the Bad Homburg Open, Germany.

The Pole has won grand slam titles on the clay and hard court – three at the French Open and one at the US Open – but she has so far failed to make a real dent at Wimbledon, her best performance being a fourth-round appearance in 2021.

Grass remains the only surface Świątek hasn’t won a senior title on, though she is starting to look more at home. Her career struggles on grass are curious, given she won the Junior Wimbledon title in 2018 for the only grand slam title of her junior career, but she will no doubt still be a serious threat at this year’s tournament.

USA’s Coco Gauff, currently ranked seventh in the world, is also looking to make it past the fourth round for the first time. However, her preparations got off to the world possible start after she was easily beaten 6-4 6-0 by Ekaterina Alexandrova at the German Open.

Gauff, whose game also has the potential to complement the fast grass courts, showed significant improvements in the 6-3 6-2 win over Bernarda Pera in the opening round of the Eastbourne International.

The 19-year-old went on to reach the semifinals before being beaten by fellow American player Madison Keys.

When is Wimbledon?

The Wimbledon main draw begins on Monday, July 3 and runs until Sunday, July 16.

How to watch

Coverage of the championships will be available on the BBC in the United Kingdom and on ESPN and the Tennis Channel in the US.

A full list of coverage around the world can be found here.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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