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Wimbledon 2024: Djokovic's absence opens door for young stars Alcaraz and Sinner

The sands of time have drifted dramatically in the world of men's tennis since Carlos Alcaraz lifted his second grand slam title at Wimbledon last year.

It took the Spaniard five electric sets to prise Novak Djokovic's hands away from the trophy he had lifted four times in succession and seven times in total.

The Serbian responded by dominating the sport for the rest of the season and headed into 2024 with a record 25th slam singles title appearing an inevitability.

Instead, Djokovic has struggled for form, failing to claim a title at any level, and could now miss Wimbledon having undergone knee surgery following a slip at the French Open.

Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner sits proudly at the head of the rankings ahead of Alcaraz, with their combined age only exceeding Djokovic by six years.

Rafael Nadal already seems certain to have played his last match at SW19 having decided to skip what was set to be his final Wimbledon before retirement in favour of preparing for a last title at the Olympics.

Should Djokovic miss out, it would be the first Wimbledon since 2002 featuring none of the big three of the Serb, Nadal or Roger Federer.

Alcaraz insisted that will not pile on extra pressure, saying: "It's going to be, for me, the same tournament. Of course, as a fan of tennis or to all the people who are going to watch the tournament, it's not going to be the same, not being able to watch those players."

Andy Murray, meanwhile, will desperately hope he gets the chance to say goodbye to the tournament that has defined his career, with emotional scenes guaranteed.

The 37-year-old is fighting his body all the way to the finish line, with a back problem that required minor surgery on Saturday the latest problem.

While Alcaraz and Sinner will be the two big favourites, both remain inexperienced on grass, and the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Alex De Minaur will hope to provide a challenge.

After dominating on clay yet again, Iga Swiatek will hope to continue her progress on grass at the top of the women's draw.

The Pole, a former junior champion at SW19, reached the quarter-finals for the first time last year but has again chosen not to play any warm-up events.

The favourite for the title is world number two Aryna Sabalenka, whose big-hitting game is very well-suited to grass.

The two-time Australian Open champion, who is nursing a sore shoulder, has reached the semi-finals on her last two appearances but fallen just short both times.

Ons Jabeur was distraught after losing to surprise finalist Marketa Vondrousova 12 months ago, her second final defeat in a row, and the Tunisian is sure to again be a crowd favourite.

Vondrousova, meanwhile, has her work cut out just to make it to SW19 after an unfortunate slip playing in Berlin last week.

Other leading contenders include former champion Elena Rybakina and US Open winner Coco Gauff, while 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva will look to make headlines again after reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

Three former grand slam champions joined Emma Raducanu in receiving a wild card — Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber.

Wozniacki will be making her first appearance at Wimbledon since 2019 after having two children and then coming out of retirement last year.

The Dane made her senior debut at the All England Club back in 2007, and said: "Obviously there are great players now and they're young and motivated and they still have a lot that they can achieve.

"It's been special for me to be able to play through multiple generations. I used to be the youngest player for a long time so it feels kind of strange that I'm one of the oldest players now, but I still feel young at heart."

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