Senior service: Novak Djokovic in action during last year's final against Carlos Alcaraz
Senior service: Novak Djokovic in action during last year's final against Carlos Alcaraz AFP

Novak Djokovic is poised to mount a one-man battle to preserve the legacy of Wimbledon's golden generation in the face of an increasingly successful new wave spearheaded by Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner.

However, the odds will be stacked against the seven-time champion and the holder of 24 Grand Slam titles when the tournament gets underway on Monday.

Arriving in London having recently undergone knee surgery, the 37-year-old Serb, runner-up to Alcaraz last year, has seen his Grand Slam powers eroded in 2024.

He was succeeded as Australian Open champion by Sinner with the Italian also taking his world number one ranking.

Djokovic then saw his French Open crown pass to Alcaraz after he limped out of Paris suffering from a torn meniscus in his right knee.

If Djokovic equals Roger Federer's record of eight Wimbledon titles, he would become the oldest champion of the modern era.

"I have this incredible desire to play, just to compete," said Djokovic who will take on 123rd-ranked Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic in his opener on Tuesday.

"Just the thought of missing Wimbledon was not correct."

With Federer now retired, Rafael Nadal skipping the tournament to focus on the Paris Olympics and Andy Murray playing in the aftermath of a back operation, there is definitely change in the air in south-west London.

Germany's world number four Alexander Zverev on Saturday predicted this year's Wimbledon will be the "most open in 20 years".

The likelihood is that for the first time since 2002, the men's final on July 14 will not feature at least one of the 'Big Four' who have swept up 19 of the last 20 titles.

Alcaraz, at 21 and 16 years Djokovic's junior, is already a three-time major winner.

He captured the US Open in 2022 while still a teenager, defeated Djokovic in a five-set final at Wimbledon in 2023 before seeing off Zverev in another five setter at the French Open this month.

Alcaraz, who opens Centre Court action on Monday against 262nd-ranked Mark Lajal of Estonia, has a chance to complete a rare French Open-Wimbledon double in the same season.

"I know that it's going to be a really difficult and big challenge for me, but I think I'm ready to do it," said the Spaniard.

Sinner, 22, made the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year and celebrated his first grass-court title at Halle this month.

The top-seeded Italian has racked up four titles in 2024, losing just three of 41 matches. He faces Germany's Yannick Hanfmann in his Monday opener.

Wimbledon will also bid an emotional farewell to two-time champion Murray.

The 37-year-old British star, who famously ended Britain's 77-year wait for a Wimbledon men's champion with his 2013 victory, plans to bow out at the Olympics.

He is due to face 38th-ranked Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic on Tuesday but whether or not he makes it on court is still in doubt.

Now ranked at 115 in the world, Murray has undergone surgery to remove a cyst on his spine.

Already playing with a metal hip, the former world number one damaged ankle ligaments against Machac in Miami in April in another brutal indication of the physical setbacks endured by the sport's marquee names.

"It's complicated, and it's made more complicated because I want to play at Wimbledon one more time," said Murray before the draw was made.

"I would say it's probably more likely that I'm not able to play singles right now."

He is, however, set to play doubles alongside brother Jamie.

In the women's event, world number one Iga Swiatek, fresh from a fourth French Open title and fifth Grand Slam title, arrives on a 19-match win streak.

The 23-year-old Pole's best run at Wimbledon was a quarter-final spot in 2023.

Swiatek faces 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the first round.

US Open champion and world number two Coco Gauff, made her breakthrough at Wimbledon as a 15-year-old qualifier in 2019 when she made the last 16.

She also pushed through to the fourth round in 2021 but has a point to prove after a first round exit to American compatriot Kenin in 2023.

Gauff starts against compatriot Caroline Dolehide, ranked 52.

Third-ranked Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2021 and 2023, said she is still not "100% certain" of playing.

The Belarusian is due to face 106th-ranked Emina Bektas of the United States on Monday but a shoulder injury which forced her retirement at the Berlin grass-court tournament last week has not healed.

When asked if she will withdraw from the tournament, she said: "There's always a chance".

Marketa Vondrousova became the first unseeded player to win the women's title 12 months ago but history is not on her side if she is optimistic of a repeat.

Serena Williams, in 2016, was the last woman to successfully defend the title.

Champion: Carlos Alcaraz
Champion: Carlos Alcaraz AFP
Top star: Iga Swiatek in action at Wimbledon last year
Top star: Iga Swiatek in action at Wimbledon last year AFP