Wimbledon 2021: Odds, storylines and how to watch

·5-min read

After an unplanned break due to COVID-19, tennis players are once again descending on the All-England Club for two weeks at Wimbledon. Injuries and withdrawals led to an unexpected and exciting few weeks at the French Open, and the continued absence of top players could mean we're in for a similarly thrilling Wimbledon. Here's everything you need to know heading into the oldest tennis tournament in the world.

Setting the stage: Grass could be dangerous

Wimbledon is the premier tournament of the very short grass court season. There are only two weeks between the end of the French Open (which is played on clay) and the start of Wimbledon, which leaves very little time for preparation. 

There are a few grass court tournaments that can be played as warm-ups, and most players need it. Many don't practice on grass, and some haven't spent any significant time on it for two years. Due to COVID-19, the grass court season was cancelled in 2020. Leading up the start of Wimbledon on Monday, about half of the top five seeded men and women are participating in warm-ups like the Eastbourne International or the Mallorca Open.

Novak Djokovic is the man to beat at Wimbledon as he tries to win the third leg of the Golden Slam. (Photo by AELTC/DAVID GRAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic is the man to beat at Wimbledon as he tries to win the third leg of the Golden Slam. (Photo by AELTC/DAVID GRAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Key storylines

Men's singles: Djokovic is the one to beat

Novak Djokovic's victory at the Australian Open earlier this year wasn't a surprise (he'd won there eight times before), but his win at the French Open definitely was. Nadal's dominance on clay is what stopped Djokovic from achieving the Golden Slam in 2011 and 2015. But with the elusive second Grand Slam already won, the Golden Slam is in sight and Wimbledon is his to lose. 

Roger Federer, who has won more at the All-England Club than anyone else in history, has zero momentum coming into Wimbledon. He played in just two tournaments all year before the French Open, where he withdrew midway through to protect his surgically repaired knee against injury. In the one tournament he's played since Roland Garros, the Halle Open, he was knocked out in just the second round. Despite leaving the French Open to focus on Wimbledon, he could be a prime candidate for an early round upset. 

Women's singles: Williams headlines a wide open field

The absence of world No. 2 Naomi Osaka, who withdrew to continue focusing on her mental health, already meant that Wimbledon was without a traditional favorite. But the sudden withdrawal of Simona Halep, the 2019 Wimbledon champion, due to injury means the field is wide open. Plus, Ash Barty, the world No. 1, has been dealing with a hip injury that forced her to withdraw from the French Open. 

This sets the stage for Serena Williams, still in search of her record-tying 24th Grand Slam, to make a deep run. She has more history and experience on grass than anyone, and Halep, who she lost to in the 2019 final, will not be there. But as we saw at the French Open, the absence of the heavy hitters means we could again see a first-time champ lift the trophy.

Serena Williams will try to win her record-tying 24th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. (Photo by AELTC/Pool/Getty Images)
Serena Williams will try to win her record-tying 24th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. (Photo by AELTC/Pool/Getty Images)

The odds: Who's the favorite?

Men's singles

With world No. 1 Djokovic on a roll coming into Wimbledon, it's no surprise that he's the overwhelming favorite to win the trophy at -135. There are some upstarts who could give him a run for his money, though. Daniil Medvedev, who just lifted the trophy at the Mallorca Open, is behind him at +700. Stefanos Tsitsipas, who came close to beating Djokovic in the French Open finals, is next at +800. Despite his lack of play this year along with several disappointing results, the sixth-seeded Federer is at +900.

Courtesy of Bet MGM and Yahoo Sportsbook, here are the odds for the top five seeds.

  1. Novak Djokovic -135

  2. Daniil Medvedev +700

  3. Stefanos Tsitsipas +800

  4. Alexander Zverev +1600

  5. Andrey Rublev +4000

Women's singles

With Osaka out, everyone's eyes inevitably shift to Williams, who will be trying to win her eighth Wimbledon title and make tennis history. She and Barty are pretty close, with Barty at +650 and Williams at +700. The odds favor the two of them more than any of the other female competitors, given Williams' past success at Wimbledon and Barty's ranking as the world No. 1. Coco Gauff, seeded at 20, is at +1800, and has better odds to win than 15 of the women seeded above her.

Courtesy of Bet MGM and Yahoo Sportsbook, here are the odds for the top five seeds.

  1. Ashleigh Barty +650

  2. Aryna Sabalenka +1200

  3. Elina Svitolina +4000

  4. Sofia Kenin +4000

  5. Bianca Andreescu +2200

How, where, and when to watch

ESPN and ESPN2 are the primary home of Wimbledon. They're airing 150 hours of live coverage from the All-England Club, which you can watch on your TV or on the internet with WatchESPN, which you can access through your cable provider. If you don't have a cable package you'll have to subscribe to ESPN+ to watch Wimbledon, though the men's and women's singles finals will be rebroadcast on ABC at 3 p.m. ET on the day they take place (July 10 and 11). 

Coverage starts at 6 a.m. ET on ESPN, which is when the first matches are scheduled to be played, and goes until 4:30 p.m. ET. Some days the coverage is entirely on ESPN, on others it stops at 11:30 a.m. ET and moves to ESPN2 for the rest of the day. As far as which matches will be broadcast, you'll be subject to the whims of ESPN — unless you have ESPN+, in which case you'll have access to every single court at Wimbledon. You can find the full schedule for ESPN's Wimbledon broadcasts here.

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