Wimbledon 2024 preview: Will Novak Djokovic win 8th trophy on bum knee? Can Iga Swiatek break out on grass?

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Novak Djokovic of Serbia arrives during day one of The Championships Wimbledon 2024 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 01, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic on Day 1 of The Championships Wimbledon 2024 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 01, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Wimbledon 2024 is upon us. For the next two weeks, the All England Club will be buzzing with action as players battle each other (and sometimes the unpredictable England weather) to win the third Grand Slam tournament of the year.

If you're looking to gear up for the next two weeks of tennis, you've come to the right place. Let's take a look at the biggest storylines, most important absences, and the players you should watch to get the most out of your SW19 viewing experience.

Rafael Nadal is saving himself for the Olympics. Nadal knows he's staring down the end of his career, and wants to end things on his terms and his way. His first-round loss at the French Open was absolutely heartbreaking, but it likely solidified his plans for the summer: skip Wimbledon to be at full strength for the Olympics. With the Games in Paris later this month, Olympic tennis will be played on the red clay of Roland Garros, where Nadal has won a mind-boggling 14 trophies. It's not known whether he intends to make his final bow as a professional tennis player at Roland Garros during the Olympics, but if he does, there couldn't be a more perfect place for it.

Andy Murray trying to make one last grand effort. Murray is, once again, injured before a Grand Slam tournament. But this time is different. He had surgery to remove a spinal cyst just 10 days ago, but is still trying to make it to the Grand Slam that is more meaningful to him than any other. The Scotsman won the trophy back in 2013, and was the first man representing the UK to win on home soil in over 70 years.

Murray, 37, is in the draw despite his surgery, and it is almost certainly because he plans to finally hang up his racket in the coming months. He said recently that he doesn't see himself playing much beyond the summer, and this is his last chance to say goodbye to a place that holds so much significance to him.

Aryna Sabalenka withdraws on Day 1. The six-foot Sabalenka and her powerful game will not be competing at Wimbledon, as she withdrew on Monday due to a shoulder injury. Sabalenka is a wrecking ball of tennis who can defeat lesser opponents on power alone, and her absence opens up the field in her area of the bracket. While Sabalenka will not be replaced as a No. 3 seed, she withdrew with enough time for the organizers to call up Lucky Loser Erika Andreeva to face Emina Bektas, Sabalenka's original opponent.

  • Novak Djokovic playing, not holding back. Despite a torn meniscus that forced him to withdraw from the French Open and go under the knife, Djokovic is playing at the All England Club. And he has no plans to take it easy, even with the Paris Olympics right around the corner. "I didn't come here to play a few rounds," Djokovic said recently. "I really want to go for the title. I don't see myself holding back."

  • Carlos Alcaraz attempting to repeat as champion. Alcaraz's first major win came at last year's Wimbledon, which was a bit of a surprise since he's known to excel at clay and hard courts. But he defeated Djokovic in five sets and hasn't looked back since. He won his first French Open trophy in June, and in two weeks, could be lifting his second straight Grand Slam trophy. Despite all of that, Alcaraz landed as the No. 3 seed, behind No. 1 Jannik Sinner (who won the 2024 Australian Open) and No. 2 Djokovic.

  • Can Iga Swiatek break through on grass? Swiatek is a wizard on clay, but she's not known for her grass skills. However, she's been working on her serve, which is a key to success on grass (and a key to defeating other skilled grass players). She's the favorite to win mostly due to her success overall (since June 2023 Iga has won three Grand Slam trophies), but if she hasn't appropriately upped her grass game, the field is wide open.

  • It could be anyone's tournament to win. If Swiatek isn't able to improve her grass results from last year's Wimbledon, then anyone could win. Over the last seven years, Wimbledon has been won by six first-timers. (Last year's winner was unseeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who beat Ons Jabeur. Jabeur would have also been a first-time winner.)

1. Jannik Sinner (Italy)
2. Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
3. Carlos Alcaraz (Spain)
4. Alexander Zverev (Germany)
5. Daniil Medvedev (Russia)
6. Andrey Rublev (Russia)
7. Hubert Hurkacz (Poland)
8. Casper Ruud (Norway)
9. Alex De Minaur (Australia)
10. Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria)

There are no men from the United States in the top 10, but three are just outside it. Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz and Ben Shelton are seeded 12, 13, and 14, respectively.

Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner. You could watch anyone, but why wait to see if an unseeded player can break out when you can watch tennis played on the knife's edge between the past and future? Watching Alcaraz or Sinner play (either separately or against each other) is like watching a video game. They're leaning, they're jumping, they're running, and all the while making incredible and sometimes impossible-looking shots.

Even just looking at Alcaraz and Sinner, you might never guess they play the same sport. Alcaraz is muscular and a bit stocky, while Sinner is a tall, gangly beanpole. And yet, when they play, you don't just see the platonic ideal of a men's tennis match; you see everything tennis is becoming and could be in the future. It's death-defying tennis, and it deserves to be watched.

1. Iga Swiatek (Poland)
2. Coco Gauff (USA)
3. Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus)
4. Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan)
5. Jessica Pegula (USA)
6. Marketa Vondrousova (Czechia)
7. Jasmine Paolini (Italy)
8. Qinwen Zheng (China)
9. Maria Sakkari (Greece)
10. Ons Jabeur (Tunisia)

Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula are representing the United States from within the top five, but just outside the top 10 are Danielle Collins at 11 and Madison Keys at 12.

Coco Gauff. After breaking through to her first Grand Slam final at the 2023 French Open, Gauff has been a consistent high performer and is only getting better with every match. She won her first Grand Slam trophy at last year's US Open and is now ranked No. 2 in the world. She's the most exciting woman in the American tennis scene right now, and is in the middle of taking the big leap from teenage phenom to legitimate superstar. There's no better time to watch her.

Oh, and Gauff is also aces at doubles. After years of moderate success but no trophies with longtime doubles partner Jess Pegula, she paired up with Katerina Siniaková earlier this year. Together they lifted their first doubles trophy at the French Open last month.