New era set to dawn at Wimbledon as injury doubt looms over Novak Djokovic

As Novak Djokovic may not be able to overcome injury, defending champion Carlo Alcaraz will be the heavy favourite as the Serbian’s period of domination is seemingly over. Picture: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

As Novak Djokovic may not be able to overcome injury, defending champion Carlo Alcaraz will be the heavy favourite as the Serbian’s period of domination is seemingly over. Picture: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Published Jun 26, 2024


Carlos Alcaraz will defend his Wimbledon men's title from Monday with his main rival likely to be world number one Jannik Sinner rather than Novak Djokovic.

Victory for the 21-year-old Spanish crowd-pleaser will give him back-to-back Grand Slam crowns after his French Open triumph and a fourth major.

Djokovic, the seven-time champion, is an injury doubt as is 2013 and 2016 winner Andy Murray.

AFP Sport looks at three talking points ahead of the tournament which starts at the All England Club on Monday.

Sun setting on golden generation?

Eight-time champion Roger Federer is retired, Rafael Nadal, a two-time winner, is sitting out the tournament to focus on the Olympics, seven-time champion Djokovic has just undergone knee surgery while Murray, who lifted the Wimbledon trophy in 2013 and 2016, has had a back operation.

The result is that the 2024 Wimbledon men's final is likely to be the first in 22 years not to feature at least one of the storied 'Big Four’.

Djokovic, 37, lost a thrilling five-set final to Alcaraz last year.

This year he has seen Sinner take his Australian Open title while a knee injury forced him to withdraw before his quarter-final at Roland Garros.

Alcaraz moved into the power vacuum to take the Serb's Paris crown as well.

"I really will only play (at Wimbledon) if I know I am in a state which is good enough to go far in the tournament and fight for the title, so that's the condition," Djokovic told reporters after a training session in London this week, his right knee still heavily-strapped.

Fellow former world number one Murray, also 37, famously defeated Djokovic in the 2013 final, ending a 77-year wait for a British men's champion at Wimbledon.

Now ranked at a lowly 115, Murray underwent a procedure to remove a cyst on his back at the weekend.

Like Djokovic, he is not certain to play but a decision has to be made by Friday when the draw takes place.

Alcaraz, Sinner open new era

It has been 21 years since at least one of the first two Grand Slam titles of the year wasn't claimed by either Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.

For Andre Agassi and Juan Carlos Ferrero at the 2003 Australian Open and Roland Garros respectively, read Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz in 2024.

Sinner, a year younger than Alcaraz at 22, is the first Italian to be world number one and showed no sign of any burden from his lofty status when he claimed a maiden grass-court title in Halle last weekend.

"I'm looking forward to Wimbledon," said Sinner who was a semi-finalist in 2023, losing to Djokovic in straight sets.

"I played some good tennis last year. I'm more confident for sure."

— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 25, 2024

American dreamers

In the Open era, there has been an American winner of the men's title on 15 occasions -- almost twice as many as the next best, the eight of Switzerland or Roger Federer to be more precise.

However, it's been 24 years since the last US triumph courtesy of Pete Sampras's seventh and final crown.

Andy Roddick lost three finals, all against Federer in 2004, 2005 and 2009.

"I threw the kitchen sink at him but he went to the bathroom and got his tub," said an exasperated Roddick on losing the 2004 final.

This year, the United States has four men in the top 20 with Tommy Paul buoyed by winning his first grass-court title at Queen’s.

Paul, now at a career-high 12 in the world, made the last 16 at the All England Club in 2022 while Taylor Fritz went to the quarter-finals that year only to lose in five sets to Nadal.

Sebastian Korda, also enjoying a career-high ranking of 20, was runner-up on grass at 's-Hertogenbosch and then made the semi-finals at Queen’s.

Korda reached the last 16 at Wimbledon in 2021. He has at least a family target at which to aim -- his father Petr reached the quarter-finals in 1998, the same year he won the Australian Open.