Perhaps the most controversial edition of Wimbledon will begin next week, with this year’s championships having effectively turned into an exhibition tournament with no ranking points on offer.
This is due to the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis, which has seen all Russian and Belarusian players, including men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev and two-time Major champion Victoria Azarenka, banned from setting foot in the All England Club.
This means that even if Novak Djokovic successfully defends his title, he could drop to eighth in the world at the end of the tournament.
With the two best men in the world (Alexander Zverev injured his ankle at Roland Garros) absent from the main draw, Djokovic will be the top seed as he bids to win a 21st major title.
It is the first time since computer rankings were introduced in 1973 that the world’s two best men will be absent from Wimbledon, while it is the first Major since the 1999 Australian Open to feature neither the one nor the other.
Additionally, Roger Federer will be absent from the main draw for the first time since 1998, and his extended absence from the tour means he will drop from the world’s top 100 for the first time since October 1999 when the tournament concludes.
The women’s field will be without defending champion Ashleigh Barty, who retired in March, as well as banned players Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina, while Leylah Fernandez and Naomi Osaka will both be absent due to wounds.
But in good news, the legendary Serena Williams received a wildcard entry into the tournament, her first in a major tournament since the 2006 US Open (in which she lost to then world number one Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth round).
The American’s world ranking has dropped to 1,204th and this will likely be her last chance to add to her tally of 23 major singles titles, which has stalled since winning the Open. Australia 2017.
Although unlikely, winning Wimbledon would surpass her feat of winning the 2007 Australian Open, at which point she was ranked 81st in the world; this title was the eighth of his titles.
As always, we start by previewing the male contenders, starting with the top seed and defending champion.
1. Novak Djokovic
Best result at Wimbledon: won six times (2011, 14, 15, 18, 19, 21)
Australian Open this year: Did not play
French Open this year: quarter-finals (lost to Rafael Nadal)
Titles so far this year: Rome Masters
The Serb has endured a difficult 2022 season so far, unable to defend his Australian Open title due to the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rules regarding entry, as well as the loss to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the French Open.
However, in between, he managed to win the Rome Masters beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
He will now look to turn around his season at Wimbledon, which hosted many of his Grand Slam triumphs, including five-set epics against Roger Federer in 2014 and 2019, as well as defeating Nadal in 2011 to claim the world rankings. number one. for the first time.
He was also on the wrong side of history in 2013 when Andy Murray broke a 77-year-old hoodoo for the locals by becoming the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to bow at the All England Club.
2. Raphael Nadal
Best result at Wimbledon: Won twice (2008 and 2010)
Last year’s result: did not play
Australian Open this year: won (beat Daniil Medvedev in the final)
French Open this year: won (beat Casper Ruud in the final)
Titles so far this year: Melbourne Summer Set, Australian Open, Mexican Open, French Open
Nadal returns to Wimbledon for the first time since 2019 as he continues his bid to complete a Grand Slam on the calendar, which has not been achieved since Rod Laver in 1969.
The Spaniard defied a serious foot injury to claim a record 14th French Open title, which also extended his record for most major men’s singles titles to 22 – meaning a win here would see him match Serena Williams on as many major titles in the Open Era.
He is now attempting to complete a Surface Slam for the second time in his career, having also achieved the feat in 2010 when he won all but the Australian Open (in which, as defending champion, he was forced to retire during his quarter). last game against Andy Murray).
But to claim a third Wimbledon title, and the first since 2010, the Mallorcan will need to overturn a decade of misery at SW19, having failed to reach the final here since 2011, when he not only lost to Djokovic in four sets, but also lost the world number one ranking.
During the intervention, Nadal suffered four consecutive defeats against players ranked in the 100s, and also suffered heartbreaking defeats against Djokovic and Federer in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
He will be up for the challenge and I think he will reach the final for the first time in 11 years.
Other contenders: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Carlos Alcaraz.
Absent: Roger Federer, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori.
All eyes will be on Iga Swiatek to see if she can extend her 35-game winning streak, the longest by any woman since Venus Williams in 2000 at the All England Club.
At this point, it remains unclear who will open play on center court on Tuesday – the slot usually reserved for the defending women’s champion; either Swiatek or the second most recent champion, Simona Halep (16th seed this year), could receive that honor with Barty having retired.
Home favorite Emma Raducanu returns for the first time since her thrilling fourth-round run last year, which ended in heartbreak as she was forced to retire against Ajla Tomljanovic.
It proved to be the precursor to her stunning run to the US Open title, but although she has since struggled, perhaps playing in front of her home fans should prove a tonic for the Briton. rediscovers the form that saw her go all the way. New York.
1. Iga Swiatek
Best Wimbledon result: fourth round (2021)
Last year’s result: fourth round (lost to Ons Jabeur)
Australian Open this year: semi-finals (lost to Danielle Collins)
French Open this year: won (beat Coco Gauff in the final)
Titles so far in 2022: Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome, Roland-Garros.
Swiatek has been the Tour’s most consistent player in 2022, winning six titles – the most by any player this season – and hasn’t been beaten since claiming the top spot in the standings for the first time. in March.
She comes after a dominant campaign at Roland Garros where she dropped just one set on Paris’ red clay courts for the second time, capped by a straight-set thrashing of Coco Gauff in the final.
Earlier in the year, the Pole reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, where she lost to Danielle Collins while a win would have seen her face Barty in the final.
She will now be aiming to improve on her record at the All England Club, where her best result was reaching the fourth round last year when she lost to 21st seed Ons Jabeur (seeded third this year) in three sets, after winning the first.
Other contenders: Anett Kontaveit, Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari, Emma Raducanu.
Absent: Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka, Daria Kasatkina, Leylah Fernandez, Naomi Osaka.
Wimbledon kicks off this Monday night (AEST).