LONDON, United Kingdom, June 27 – World number one Novak Djokovic and 17-time major winner Roger Federer get Wimbledon under way on Monday with history beckoning for the two Grand Slam A-listers.
Top seed Djokovic is halfway to the first calendar Grand Slam since 1969 after ending his agonising wait for a maiden French Open crown earlier this month.
The 29-year-old defending champion currently holds all four majors and if he wins a third successive Wimbledon title and fourth in all, he will become just the second man in history to win five successive Slams.
Only Don Budge, who won six straight from 1937 Wimbledon to the 1938 US Championships, has achieved the feat.
Djokovic is such a hot favourite to triumph on July 10 that women’s champion Serena Williams is already tipping the Serb for more greatness.
“I think he’ll get it easy,” said the American who will begin her bid for an Open era record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam on Tuesday.
Djokovic has won six of the last eight Grand Slams, taking him to a career tally of 12 — within two of Rafael Nadal’s mark and five behind Federer’s record.
Djokovic takes on British wild card James Ward in the opening match on Centre Court.
Ward, the 29-year-old son of a London taxi driver, is ranked at 177 in the world and made the third round last year with Australian coach Darren Tandy.
But Tandy was diagnosed with cancer of the colon later in the year and died on Christmas Eve.
“It’s been a tough time. Obviously the end of last year was very difficult,” Ward told the Press Association.
“He was my tennis coach so every time I play tennis it reminds me of him.”
Federer, whose last major triumph was at Wimbledon in 2012 when he won his seventh title at the All England Club, begins against Argentina’s world number 51 Guido Pella.
Federer, 34, has been runner-up to Djokovic for the last two years and is attempting to become the oldest ever Wimbledon champion in modern times.
But the Swiss has been dogged by knee and back problems this year and his injury-enforced withdrawal from the French Open ended his streak of 65 successive Grand Slam appearances stretching back to 1999.
He has since suffered semi-final losses on grass at Stuttgart and Halle, the last of which against Alexander Zverev was his first against a teenager in 10 years.
Federer’s failure to win a title in 2016 means he will enter Wimbledon on his longest trophy drought since 2000.
– ‘Novak, Andy the favourites’ –
“Clearly I’m not thinking of the title right away,” said the Swiss when asked to assess his chances.
“Novak or Andy (Murray) are the big favourites.”
Pella, 26, was forced to retire from his first round match on his Wimbledon debut in 2013 while he fell in qualifying last year.
The Centre Court programme also sees women’s second seed and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza taking on Camila Giorgi, the world number 68 from Italy.
Muguruza was runner-up to Williams last year. Giorgi reached the fourth round in 2012.
On Court One, 36-year-old Venus Williams, seeded eighth and a five-time champion, takes on Croatia’s Donna Vekic.
Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori, who has yet to get beyond the fourth round, takes on big-serving Australian Sam Groth.
Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber faces Britain’s Laura Robson in the same arena.
Canadian sixth seed Milos Raonic, with John McEnroe in his corner, meets Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta as he looks to improve on his 2014 semi-final showing.
Meanwhile, armed police will patrol the tournament, both inside and outside the grounds while organisers have also increased the numbers of their private security staff.
Armed officers were also used at Wimbledon last year but on a lower scale on the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 attacks in London.
“(There will be) significant numbers of officers patrolling the local area, firearms officers and a highly mobile reserve that can respond to emerging incidents,” said a police spokesman.
“Officers will be working in uniform and in plain clothes during the event.”
Rain is also expected in the first week but forecasters are confident showers will pass by the time play gets under way.