Wimbledon Week 1 Takeaways: Canadians Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime are rolling

Canada's Denis Shapovalov plays a return to Britain's Andy Murray during the men's singles third round match against on day five of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Friday July 2, 2021. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

We have made it through one week of dynamic shot-making, heavy serving, crafty drop shots, and slippery stretches on the grass courts of the Wimbledon Championships.

Manic Monday is fast approaching at the All England Club with 16 total matches on the day.

Let’s look back at everything we’ve seen through one week of play at Wimbledon.

Denis and Felix are rolling

While Milos Raonic is often considered Canada’s top threat at the All England Club, given his grand slam finals appearance at the tournament back in 2014, he was unable to compete at this edition due to a calf injury.

Not to worry, as Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime have promptly taken the reins, both charging into the round of 16.

Shapovalov produced a near flawless performance on Centre Court, defeating Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time. He now awaits the impenetrable wall that is Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime had a straightforward first two matches before running into danger against Australian Nick Kyrgios in the third round. After splitting the first two sets, Auger-Aliassime advanced as Kyrgios suffered an abdominal injury.

Auger-Aliassime has produced great tennis throughout the short grass-court campaign with a finals run in Stuttgart and a victory over Roger Federer in Halle.

A stern test awaits against Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

Sir Andy Remains a Legend

It’s been four years since Andy Murray competed in singles at Wimbledon. His legend continues to grow though as he graced the grounds again and inspired the masses with two hard-fought victories on the lawn.

Murray has been through extensive surgeries, and now competes with a metal hip. It didn’t prevent him from pulling off some signature lobs and spectacular passing shots, sending the British crowd into a frenzy on Centre Court.

Murray’s physical issues are certainly not behind him but he plays with a passion and fighting spirit that you cannot help but get behind. He’s getting set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics next.

Slippery Scenes Cause Concern

There were unfortunate scenes through the first few days at the All England Club, as the damp grass court surface, having been exposed to rain, as at times more like a slip n’ slide than a tennis court.

Serena Williams fell victim to the court, falling awkwardly, and suffering a leg injury, forcing her to retire from her first match. Roger Federer was given a major reprieve as his opening round opponent Adrian Mannarino also went down uncomfortably on the surface and suffered an injury. Mannarino had been leading the match two sets to one at the time as well.

An event as prestigious as Wimbledon is unlikely to make any changes to its meticulous groundskeeping and maintenance of its courts, but it is no doubt an injury risk for peak professional athletes, who move dynamically, and are prepared to change to direction at a moment’s notice.

Novak is the man to beat

He’s a two-time defending champion at the event, with victories in 2018 and 2019. He has won the first two grand slams of 2021. He is quite simply the best player on the planet.

It’s difficult to imagine who can defeat world No. 1, Novak Djokovic, at Wimbledon. He is operating at a higher level anyone else in the sport and is oozing with confidence every time he steps on court.

With Rafael Nadal missing, health and age questions surrounding Roger Federer, and a quite navigable draw in front of him, Djokovic is closing in on an opportunity to tie his great rivals atop the grand slam leaderboard at 20.

There has even been talk of Djokovic competing for a career golden slam in 2021, which would require wins at all four majors and an Olympic gold.

Djokovic’s defensive skills on the grass surface are also unparalleled, as exhibited here on this match point against American Denis Kudla:

Djokovic has dropped just one set so far to Jack Draper in the opening round. He awaits Christian Garin of Chile next. A potential quarterfinal with Andrey Rublev could be a compelling test; the Russian is second on tour in wins this season with 33.

Daniil Medvedev and Roger Federer loom on the bottom half of the draw.

Barty and Sabalenka hold serve

While several major contenders like Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Bianca Andreescu, and Sofia Kenin were all toppled in the early stages of the tournament, the top-two seeds remain in business in the women’s field.

World No. 1 Ash Barty has rather quietly put herself in contention for another deep run at a major. The former 2019 Roland Garros champion has been the most consistent player on the WTA this season, with titles across all surfaces.

Barty has never been past the round of 16 at the All England Club, but her sharp biting backhand slice, heavy forehand, and clever tactics make her a threat to win it. She gets set to face Barbora Krejcikova, who is fresh off a maiden grand slam title at the French Open.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus continues to lurk on the bottom half and has the most powerful ground game of any women’s player in the field.

Her groundstrokes are fast paced and punishing and her will to win is relentless. Sabalenka has 10 titles on tour but has never made it past the fourth round of a major. Opportunity knocks now for the 23-year-old.

Cinderella Story steals the show

Britain is always seeking a hopeful to make a run at Wimbledon. Prior to Andy Murray’s historic win in 2013, the crowd would lean on savvy, skilled top 10 mainstay Tim Henman, who reached the semifinals at the All England Club on four separate occasions.

The last woman to win a grand slam title from Britain was Virginia Wade, who emerged victorious in 1977. Fans are now backing 18-year-old budding star Emma Raducanu, who has emerged from the clouds to make an astounding run to the round of 16.

Most remarkable is it’s Raducanu’s second career WTA event, and she entered the qualifying field ranked just 333rd in the world.

Raducanu still has numerous strides to make as she transitions to the professional circuit, but this is a Cinderella run she will not soon forget. While she holds British nationality, she was born in Toronto in 2002.

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