The main luck in tennis takes place away from the court – namely when the tournament draw is done. There are always possible on-court bad breaks such as weather conditions, injuries, net cords, miss-hits, bad bounces, bad calls and crowd or stadium effects – but nothing is as important as the player to be faced on the other side of the net.
When the 2021 Wimbledon draw was done Friday morning at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Canada’s two top women – No. 7-ranked Bianca Andreescu and No. 68 Leylah Fernandez – were not favoured with good fortune. While its men – No. 12 Denis Shapovalov, No. 19 Félix Auger-Aliassime and No. 66 Vasek Pospisil – definitely came out on the positive side of the good luck/bad luck ledger.
Ladies first: It has to be noted that neither Andreescu or Fernandez has won a main-draw match at Wimbledon – and Andreescu is the only one to have played one – losing in the 2017 first round to No. 105 Kristina Kucova of Slovakia. Andreescu, who turned 21 last week, has just won two matches at the Australian Open and one match at Roland Garros, but hit it huge in her only main-draw appearance at the 2019 US Open – going 7-0 to win Canada’s first-ever Grand Slam singles title.
But she is not without some familiarity with Wimbledon’s grass – in fact in four previous appearances, two in the juniors (2015 and 2016) and two in the qualifying (2017 and 2018), she has an overall win/loss record of 7-4.
Her main concern now is a first round match-up with Alizé Cornet, the No. 56-ranked Frenchwoman who beat her 7-6(2), 7-5 last week in the first round of the WTA 500 event on grass in Berlin. Cornet went on to defeat Garbine Muguruza before losing to Belinda Bencic in the semi-finals and this week reached the second round in Bad Homburg, Germany, before losing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(7) to Victoria Azarenka.
It’s definitely a tricky match-up for No. 5-seeded Andreescu, who beat No. 96-ranked Christina McHale before losing to No. 27 Anett Kontaveit in Eastbourne this week. The 31-year-old Cornet is playing in her 14th Wimbledon with a highlight of upsetting Serena Williams 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the 2014 third round. But her overall record is only 10-13 and she has lost in the first round in her last three appearances at The Big W.
If Andreescu can get past Cornet, the second round could be a little less challenging with a possible meeting with Fernandez in round three.
The 18-year-old from Montreal, now living in Boynton Beach, Florida, is matched against big-hitting Jelena Ostapenko in her opening round, her first-ever main draw match at Wimbledon although she did play the juniors (1-1) at 15 in 2018.
Fernandez comes in after just two matches on grass in Birmingham last week – a win over No. 118 Wang Yafan before losing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) to No. 24 On Jabeur, who went on to win the title. She has a 14-11 record so far in 2021 and has proved to be a tough out for higher-ranked players.
Ostapenko, who spectacularly won the French Open at 20 and ranked No. 47 in 2017, reached a career high of No. 7 that year but since her year-end rankings have been No. 22, No. 44 and No. 44. She has only won two titles – Seoul in 2017 and Luxembourg in 2019, since that Roland Garros magic moment.
It’s a first meeting for Fernandez and the No. 43-ranked Ostapenko and it will be interesting to see what effect the Latvian’s run to Saturday’s final in Eastbourne will have on her performance at Wimbledon.
On the men’s side, the 10th-seeded Shapovalov plays his fourth Wimbledon after going 1-1 in Stuttgart and then reaching the semi-finals at Queen’s Club last week – including wins over No. 64 Feliciano Lopez and No. 56 Frances Tiafoe before losing to No. 41 Cam Norrie in the semi-finals.
Shapovalov, who has the game to do well on grass, defeated Jeremy Chardy in 2018 at Wimbledon but otherwise has fallen victim to a motley assortment of opponents – Jerzy Janowicz in 2017, Benoit Paire in 2018 and Ricardas Berankis in 2019.
Starting this Wimbledon with a first meeting against 37-year-old Philipp Kohlschreiber, now ranked No. 115 and playing in his 16th Wimbledon (13-15), should be favourable for him as should a possible encounter with either Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Pablo Andujar in round two. The seeded players Shapovalov would have to beat to reach a potential quarter-final match-up against No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, would be No. 24 Nikoloz Basilashvili in the third round and then either No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut or No. 27 Reilly Opelka.
Auger-Aliassime, seeded No. 16, is just playing in his second Wimbledon main draw after reaching the third round in 2019. But he has had a solid two weeks leading into this year’s event. He reached the final in Stuttgart – losing to Marin Cilic – and semi-finals in Halle with a memorable 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Roger Federer in the second round. His six wins and two losses in 2021 contribute to an overall career 14-5 record on grass – a winning percentage of .737 – making it statistically by far his best surface.
In the opening round he will take on Thiago Monteiro, a 27-year-old Brazilian playing in his third Wimbledon (1-2). Auger-Aliassime beat the No. 81-ranked Monteiro, a lefthander, 6-3, 6-7(7), 7-6(6), 7-6(5) in the first round of the 2020 US Open. If Auger-Aliassime gets through he would face either veteran (36) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or 22-year-old Swede Mikael Ymer in the second round.
Should he reach the third round he could play No. 21 seed Ugo Humbert. Auger-Aliassime and the 22-year-old Frenchman have split grass court matches in recent weeks in Stuttgart and Halle. Humbert defeated Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in the third round of the Canadian’s only previous Wimbledon in 2019.
With injured Milos Raonic unable to play in what would have been his 10th Wimbledon, Vasek Pospisil, who turned 31 last week, is the most experienced Canadian, about to enter his ninth singles (5-8) at the All England Club. His best year was 2015 when he reached the quarter-finals where he lost to Andy Murray.
He lost in the first round two years ago to Auger-Aliassime while returning from back surgery. Having not played since March 24 at the Miami Open, Pospisil is 2-2 on grass entering Wimbledon after losing first round in Halle last week before reaching the Eastbourne quarter-finals on Thursday when he lost 6-4, 6-4 to No. 18-ranked Alex de Minaur.
In the first round at Wimbledon, he is matched against No. 100 Roberto Carballes Baena, probably best known for upsetting Shapovalov 8-6 in the fifth set at the 2020 French Open. The 28-year-old Spaniard is 1-5 career on grass (47-50 on clay) and lost first round at Wimbledon in his two previous (2018-19) appearances. If Pospisil gets by Carballes Baena, he would face the winner of a match between No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Tiafoe.
Pospisil does have one Wimbledon title – the doubles with American Jack Sock in 2014.
A quick overview of the men’s draw – inevitably focusing on Federer – suggests the eight-time champion has been reasonably fortunate. He plays No. 42-ranked Adrian Mannarino in the first round. Seeded No. 6, he has a 6-0 record against the artful, left-handed Frenchman, 32, and beat him 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 in the Wimbledon round-of-16 in 2018.
With Federer, 39, it will depend on how he holds physically and mentally round-by-round with No. 29 seed Norrie in the third round, maybe No. 11 Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth and second seed Daniil Medvedev, although he has a dicey first round against Jan-Lennard Struff, or No. 32 Cilic in the quarter-finals looking like his biggest obstacles before making it to the semi-finals – according to the seedings – against No. 4 Alexander Zverev or No. 7 Matteo Berrettini.
The quirkiest first round has to be Humbert, off his title in Halle, against current No. 61 Nick Kyrgios. The 26-year-old Aussie is emerging internationally from his home in Canberra for the first time since March, 2020, and will be playing only his seventh match in 16 months. But that happens to include a 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over Humbert in the second round of this year’s Australian Open in February.
In the women’s draw, there are a number of standout opening-round match-ups – including 18-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark against Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, two-time champion Petra Kvitova versus Sloane Stephens and Marketa Vondrousova facing Anett Kontaveit.
But most people will focus on Serena Williams and her quest for an eighth Wimbledon victory and a 24th overall Grand Slam title.
She has a first-time meeting with No. 100-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich in her opening match. Williams, 39, has an 82-10 record at Wimbledon while the 27-year-old Belorussian is 5-5.
Williams could have a high-profile third round against No. 28-ranked Angelique Kerber, champion in 2018. Except for Kerber this week in Bad Homburg, neither has shown the kind of recent form to suggest it’s a sure thing both will make it that far.