Six first round crackers not to be missed as Wimbledon prepares to get underway

Wimbledon’s two-year hiatus ends on Monday when play gets under way in the 2021 Championships.

Big names Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep have all withdrawn but it promises to be another fascinating fortnight on the lawns of SW19.

Here, we pick out six first-round matches that are not to be missed.

Novak Djokovic v Jack Draper

Nineteen-year-old Londoner Draper has long been marked out as Britain’s brightest young male hope. He demonstrated why by reaching the quarter-finals at Queen’s Club last week and now finds himself facing top seed Djokovic, who has not lost at Wimbledon since 2017, in the opening match on Centre Court on Monday. It is a daunting task but this will be Djokovic’s first match on grass since the 2019 final.

“I am very happy and excited to play on the biggest stage in tennis against the defending champion of Wimbledon and current world number one,” said Draper. “I am looking forward to taking to the court on Monday and doing my best. It will be a very tough match. but I will try to play at my best level and create a lot of problems for him, “said the British player.

Francesca Jones v Coco Gauff

Two years on from her spectacular emergence onto the world stage as a 15-year-old, Gauff returns to Wimbledon as a legitimate title contender. In the first round she will take on 20-year-old British debutant Jones, who wrote headlines across the world when she qualified for the Australian Open despite a condition that meant she was born without several fingers and toes.

Ashleigh Barty v Carla Suarez Navarro

Despite winning her first grand slam title at the French Open, Barty still rates grass as her top surface and would have been a clear title favourite but for doubts over the hip problem that struck at Roland Garros. This will be Suarez Navarro’s final Wimbledon before retirement, and the popular Spaniard should be guaranteed support after getting back on court following her recovery from cancer.

Nick Kyrgios v Ugo Humbert

Playing on grass persuaded Kyrgios to leave Australia for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic started. It remains to be seen what condition the 26-year-old is in but he showed at the Australian Open that, on the big stage, he remains a serious danger. In the second round in Melbourne he claimed a dramatic five-set win over Frenchman Humbert, who is at a career-high ranking of 25 after winning the grass-court title in Halle last week.

Iga Swiatek v Hsieh Su-wei

Iga Swiatek won the Wimbledon junior title in 2018
Iga Swiatek won the Wimbledon junior title in 2018 (Nigel French/PA)

Last year’s French Open champion Swiatek will be making just her second appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon but can look back on happy memories of winning the junior title in 2018. No players relish having the name of Hsieh next to theirs in a draw. The 35-year-old from Chinese Taipei has one of the most unconventional game styles on tour and is a two-time former Wimbledon doubles champion.

Sebastian Korda v Alex De Minaur

A meeting between two of the brightest young talents in the men’s game. Australian De Minaur is already a top-20 player and someone who enjoys playing on grass – he is challenging for the title in Eastbourne this week. Twenty-year-old Korda is the son of former Australian Open champion Petr, and has leapt up to 50th in the rankings. He won his first ATP title on clay in Parma earlier this year.

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