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Our tennis man Andy Schooler looks ahead to Wimbledon 2021, which takes place from June 28 to July 11.

It’s been a long wait but Wimbledon returns next week after its enforced cancellation of 2020.

There will plenty said about its welcome return – not to mention the attendance of fans – in the opening days but expect a new theme to quickly emerge.

For those who have followed the sport over the past decade and longer, talk of record-breakers will be familiar – it has truly been a golden era for tennis.

But at Wimbledon 2021, not one but two players will bid to equal the all-time records for Grand Slam singles titles.

Novak Djokovic, still very much at the top of his game, is odds-on to do just that over the coming fortnight.

He won major number 19 at the recent French Open and will join long-standing rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 if he wins for the sixth time in south-west London.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams is no longer at the very top but, possessing serious grasscourt weapons, she goes into this year’s Wimbledon as second favourite as she bids to claim a 24th Grand Slam singles crown, one which would put her alongside Margaret Court on the all-time list.

These figures bring added pressure – and we’ve certainly seen Serena stutter approaching the landmark in the past. She’s now lost four Grand Slam finals since winning title number 23.

Dealing with that well is a must over the next two weeks but it certainly wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the pair lifting the famous trophies aloft once again on finals weekend.

What's Changed Ahead of Wimbledon 2021?

In the two years since Simona Halep won the women’s title and Novak Djokovic came from championship points down to beat Roger Federer in a classic men’s final, several things have changed at the All England Club.

Perhaps most importantly for punters, the seeding formula which used to shape the men’s seedings has been scrapped.

Instead the seedings will mirror the current world rankings and that means Djokovic and Federer could be placed in the same quarter when the draw is made on Friday.

For those watching the matches, you’ll see a reduced warm-up period, a shot clock for the server to stick to and Hawk-eye on all courts (although linespeople will still make the initial calls).

Who's Missing at Wimbledon 2021?

What you won’t see at Wimbledon this year is Rafael Nadal.

The two-time winner in SW19 has withdrawn to protect his body as he focuses on “the mid- and long-term”.

Former finalist Milos Raonic is another high-profile withdrawal, while David Goffin, Stan Wawrinka and Borna Coric would all have been seeded had they not been forced out due to injury.

Briton Kyle Edmund is absent through injury, although Andy Murray is fit enough to take his place in the draw – the two-time champion will return to Wimbledon singles action for the first time in four years and as an unseeded player he will be one to avoid for the big guns.

The women’s draw has one notable absentee in the shape of world number two Naomi Osaka.

The Japanese star pulled out of the recent French Open, revealing she had been suffering from depression and anxiety, and she continues to take time away from the court.

Who are the Form Horses at Wimbledon 2021

The already-short grasscourt season got shorter this year when the French Open was pushed back a week, while COVID-19 also did for some of the high-profile exhibition events which lie on the path to Wimbledon.

However, the big warm-up events on the men’s side, at Queen’s Club and Halle, did take place with Matteo Berrettini laying down the gauntlet with an impressive victory at the former.

The Italian did not lose his serve in his last four matches and looked in peak condition.

In Halle, Ugo Humbert won the biggest title of his career after Federer lost early.

Former Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic has also looked in good nick, winning the title in Stuttgart, while the young Canadian pair of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov have also caught the eye.

On the WTA tour, Liudmila Samsonova was the surprise winner of the biggest warm-up tournament in Berlin. She has a serve which can cause damage on grass.

Briton Johanna Konta was victorious in Nottingham to boost her hopes, although a knee injury which forced her out of this week’s event in Eastbourne is a concern.

However, many of the favourites in the market have yet to set foot on the grass for matchplay – some will use Eastbourne to try to get in the groove.

Who's Worth Backing at Wimbledon 2021?

Let’s take a look at some potential bets in the singles fields, bidding to sniff out some value ahead of Friday’s draw.

Novak Dokovic

Wimbledon 2021 Winner

Hardly a mouthwatering price but the Serb has the ability to make even an odds-on quote look big.

He was majestic at the French Open against Nadal before coming from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.

Across those two matches he showed how tough he is both physically and mentally – even at 34 I’m not sure any player can match him in either department at the moment.

What was once his weakest surface (and maybe still is) holds no fears these days – he will take all the beating as he attempts to add a third leg to his calendar-year Grand Slam bid.

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Ugo Humbert

Wimbledon 2021 Winner

While Berrettini garnered all the headlines with his Queen’s Club win – and subsequently had his Wimbledon odds slashed to 12/1 – Humbert went largely unnoticed despite beating a stronger field in Halle.

The rising French star plays an attacking game and isn’t afraid to come into the net behind his strong lefty serve.

He made the last 16 here two years ago and has improved considerably since.

Having rediscovered his form, his current price looks rather large.

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John Isner

Wimbledon 2021 Winner

Isner’s serve is so strong he (with a little help from Kevin Anderson) managed to rewrite the rulebook.

The pair played out an epic semi-final in 2018 which went to 26-24 in the final set and disrupted schedules. A year later, a final-set tie-break (at 12-12) was introduced to ensure no repeat.

The 6ft 10in American will again be tough to beat in 2021 and, unlike many of his higher-ranked contemporaries, won’t be fazed by the grass.

His recent form on the clay shows his game is in good shape too, with a quarter-final appearance in Madrid being followed by a decent-enough showing at the French Open where he took a set off eventual runner-up Tsitsipas.

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Garbine Muguruza

Wimbledon 2021 Winner

Winner in 2017 and runner-up in 2015, Muguruza has good course form in SW19.

Unlike many of her peers, the Spaniard knows how to play on grass – the surface won’t beat her.

Muguruza has played some excellent tennis at times this year. She held match points against eventual champion Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open before going on to win the title in Dubai.

The clay season halted her momentum somewhat but there appears to be juice in her double-figure price.

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Victoria Azarenka

Wimbledon 2021 Winner

Azarenka is another player who has played some eye-catching stuff in 2021 and the wins have duly followed.

She’s built on an impressive run to last year’s US Open final and appears happier than she’s done for years, legal battles over the custody of her child now being behind her.

Grass is not her natural habitat but Azarenka has twice been to the semis here and looked in good order when reaching the last four in Berlin last week.

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Daria Kasatkina

Wimbledon 2021 Winner

It’s probably fair to say this Russian hasn’t pushed on the heights many expected her to but she’s got the potential to go well at a big price.

Kasatkina beat this year’s title favourite Ash Barty during a run to the quarter-finals here in 2018 and she arrives in 2021 off the back of a runner-up effort in Birmingham.

Still, she does have two WTA titles to her name this season having won the St Petersburg Open and the Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne.

With injuries having affected some of the top names in recent times – think Barty, Halep and Bianca Andreescu – Kasatkina could become the latest surprise package to go deep at a Slam.

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Odds are correct at the time of posting

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