Wimbledon 2022: Without Russians and without ranking but with Serena

At least in the antechamber, without a racket having hit a ball yet, it seems that this edition of Wimbledon will be remembered by who is absent and what will be missing.

And that there is a factor impossible to ignore. The grass-court Grand Slam tournament will mark Serena Williams’ return to singles duels after being sidelined for more than a year.

Daniil Medvedev, first in the world ranking, is prohibited from participating, by order of the All England Club, which excluded all Russian and Belarusian athletes from the tournament, due to the war in Ukraine.

“It’s a mistake,” happily Martina Navratilova, a member of the Hall of Fame, in reference to the veto. “What am I supposed to do? Leave the country? I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

Novak Djokovic, the world number one and three-time reigning champion who will play the first match on Center Court on Monday, analyzed the situation this way: “It’s hard to say what’s right or wrong.”

“As a son of war — so many wars during the 90s, I know what it feels like to be in their (Ukrainian) place,” said the 35-year-old Serb. “On the other hand, I don’t agree with banning Russian tennis players, to the Belarusians, to compete indefinitely. I don’t see how they have contributed to anything that is happening. It doesn’t seem fair to me.”

The men’s and women’s professional tours reacted by announcing that Wimbledon will not count for ranking points. This is an unprecedented decision in a sport that in many ways is built on the ranks.

Some tennis players chose not to appear, including Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, a 2014 finalist, and Japan’s Naomi Osaka, a four-time major champion.

But for others, there would be no doubt about whether they would attend the tournament. This is Wimbledon, after all, with its acreage, age-old traditions, prestige and, of course, tens of millions of dollars in prize money.

“Definitely, the fact that there are no points is difficult to assimilate. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m happy about that. But the cards were already dealt. In the end, if I told my mum I’m not going to play Wimbledon, she’d ask me, ‘Are you crazy?’ So I will definitely play,” said Frances Tiafoe, the 24th-seeded American.

“This has gotten out of everyone’s hands. It is a difficult situation, a crazy moment. And it’s not just about one player. It’s not a problem where you can ask, ‘Why me?’”

Among some tennis players, rumors arose that the prize pool would be cut. In response, Italy’s Fabio Fognini joked that he would be grateful for that, since, with no money and no ranking points, he would rather take a vacation on an island with his wife, former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, and their four sons.

It turned out that it was nothing but a rumour. The All England Club ended by announcing that it would provide an unprecedented 40 million pounds ($50 million) in player compensation.

Other important names have been removed from the list of participants for different reasons.

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Ash Barty, the reigning champion, stepped away in March, just 25 years old. Eight-time champion Roger Federer hasn’t recovered from his most recent knee surgery — the Swiss hasn’t actually won a single tournament since Wimbledon in 2021.

German Alexander Zverev, second in the ranking, tore ligaments in his right ankle at the French Open and will not be able to participate either.

Something else is gone, for the first time in Wimbledon’s long history: A Sunday rest day. Thus, what had been a 13-day event will now be an event lasting two full weeks.

Who will be? Williams, thanks to an invitation. And his star status will light up the tournament for as long as he’s playing.

Owner of seven championships at the All England Club — and 23 in the majors, a record in the professional era — Williams has not competed in singles since June 2021, when she slipped on the grass of Center Court and hurt her leg. right.

He abandoned their first round matchup in the opening set.

“I am not retiring. Nothing else needs a physical and mental break,” Williams said Saturday.

Williams made a surprise appearance in the doubles at Eastbourne this week, alongside Ons Jabeur. However, the 40-year-old American did not play singles before Wimbledon.Is it possible that Williams can show her serve, the best in women’s tennis history, and move well enough to stabilize herself in the fight? If so, she could be in a position to settle games with her low-level shots.

And no one knows how far he could go in that case.

In addition, he has made a habit of winning duels shortly after long absences.

They also plan to play Rafael Nadal, who has earned half of what could be a monopoly of Grand Slam tournaments in the same year for the first time.

In January, the Spaniard conquered the Australian Open, and this month he was crowned at Roland Garros. His 14th title in Paris and his 22nd in majors came despite chronic pain in his left foot.

The 36-year-old veteran himself wondered if he could be at the All England Club. In fact, he said that the possibility of leaving tennis is always latent.

“I can walk normally almost every day. For me, that is the most important thing,” Nadal said on Saturday. “When I wake up I don’t have that pain that I had for a year and a half. So that makes me very happy.”

And it is not that interesting stories will be missing.

This edition will mark the centenary of the Central Court that was inaugurated in 1922.

Iga Swiatek, brand new champion in France and first in the ranking, arrives at the contest mounted on a streak of 35 victories.

Djokovic is seeking his fourth straight Wimbledon title and his 21st major trophy. He knows that, as things stand, he will not return to the US Open in August since he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

“That’s extra motivation,” Djokovic said.

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