For an observer, reverting to the habit of tuning into tennis at the All England Championships, few details may seem astray this year as the event, steeped deep into tradition and regarded as one of the elite sporting spectacles, treads into the realms of the unknown.
Wimbledon is sporting royalty. The tournament creates legends. But, even before the first trope of players reached the famed SW 19 vicinity, the political machine surrounding the lawn tennis competition began jumping into life.
The sanctions imposed on Russia due to the ongoing war in Ukraine might be a good place to start while discussing the upcoming extravaganza. Russian and Belarussian players have been barred from taking part in this year’s edition of the tournament because of their respective nations’ roles in the war.
A fallout of this was the world tennis governing bodies stripping the prestigious event of ranking points in the international circuit.
And thus, was sealed the fate of World number 1 Daniil Medvedev, who has been plying his trade in multiple other tournaments since the start of the year.
The 100th edition of Wimbledon at the tournament’s current premises will not bear witness to the most decorated men’s player in its storied history – Roger Federer – mounting a challenge for the first time since his iconic debut back in 1999 as the Swiss great’s road to recovery post his surgery continues to get prolonged than expected.
Alexander Zverev, the German who climbed to a career-high World rank number 2 recently, is ruled out of the running as he nurses his ankle after a nightmarish injury during the French Open semifinals against the eventual champion and 14-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal.
And hence the onus to carry the ‘celebrity’ burden falls on the broad shoulders of Nadal and the man known to be his psychological equal, the gritty Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic’s 2022 hasn’t been one to write home about especially considering the feats and accomplishments of the Serbian icon in his illustrious career. He was denied the opportunity to defend his season-opening title in Australia on the back of a ‘no vaccination’ stance as Nadal capitalised to claim his first slam of the 12-month cycle.
Paris was more welcoming of the unvaccinated Serb as he threw his hat in the ring to try and defend yet another title he held going into the main draw. However, the quarter-final game against Nadal proved to be his last outing in the clay-court swing as he was shown the exit door by the Spanish stalwart.
With the US Open already out of reach for the World number 3 on the very same notion that he still refuses to take a vaccine shot against COVID-19, Wimbledon might be the opportunity for the six-time grass-court champion to save his year.
Besides his crunch shots and technical ability, the thing Djokovic is synonymous with is probably his mental fortitude. The six-footer will eye drawing level with Pete Sampras’ record of seven titles at the All England Club as he gets the ball rolling at the centre court against South Korean Kwon Soon Woo.
Nadal, who climbed to World rank number 4 on the back of yet another successful outing at the Roland Garros, will have the opportunity to make it 3 in 3 for the grand slam titles this year before the end of the two-week event.
Two-time Wimbledon winner Nadal, who triumphed at his favourite clay court while playing the final game at the Parisian tournament after anaesthetizing his problematic left foot, underwent pulsed radiofrequency stimulation treatment in Spain ahead of the grass-court season. The record 22-time grand slam champion said the discomfort in his foot has reduced significantly post-treatment in Barcelona and expects to remain pain-free going into the English championship.
If he can manage to get his hands on the coveted Wimbledon title this time around, Nadal will head to the US Open with the rare opportunity of being only the third man, after American Don Budge and Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, to complete a calendar grand slam.
With the unavailability of world numbers 1 and 2 (Medvedev and Zverev), Djokovic and Nadal start the grass-court event as the top two seeds in the men’s event and can only meet each other in the final hurdle.
Both the legendary players will enter the arena sans contesting in any tune-up events. But, interestingly, Djokovic has won 5 of his 6 titles in London prior to this edition coming off a similar scenario.
The action at the All England Club is set to start on Monday, the 27th of July 2022.