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Wimbledon 2022: Djokovic, Nadal and Swiatek headline decimated fields


Possibly the most controversial edition of Wimbledon will get underway next week, with this year’s Championships effectively rendered an exhibition tournament with no rankings points on offer.

This is due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has seen all Russian and Belarussian players, including men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev and two-time Major champion Victoria Azarenka, banned from stepping foot into the All England Club.

This means that even if Novak Djokovic successfully defends his title, he could drop to as low as world number eight at the conclusion of the tournament.

With the absence of the world’s top two men (Alexander Zverev suffered an ankle injury at Roland Garros) from the main draw, Djokovic will be the top seed as he attempts to win a 21st Major title.

It is the first time since the computer rankings were introduced in 1973 that the world’s top two men will be absent from Wimbledon, while this is the first Major since the 1999 Australian Open to not feature either of them.

Further, Roger Federer will be missing from the main draw for the first time since 1998, and his prolonged absence from the tour means that he will fall out of the world’s top 100 for the first time since October 1999 at the conclusion of the tournament.

Roger Federer in action at the US Open

Roger Federer (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

The women’s field will be without its reigning 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 miss due to injuries.

But in some good news, the legendary Serena Williams has been handed a wildcard entry into the tournament, with this being her first at 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 plummeted to 1204th and this will probably be her final chance to add to her tally of 23 Major singles titles, which has remained stalled since she won the 2017 Australian Open.

While unlikely, winning Wimbledon would surpass her feat of winning the 2007 Australian Open, at which point she was ranked 81st in the world; that title was the eighth of her titles.

As always, we start by previewing the men’s contenders, starting with the top seed and defending champion.

1. Novak Djokovic
Best Wimbledon result: 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, being unable to defend his Australian Open title due to the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rules regarding entry, as well as losing to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the French Open.

However, in between, he was able to win the Rome Masters by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.

He will now attempt to turn his season around at Wimbledon, which has played host to 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 number one ranking for the first time.

He was also on the wrong end of history in 2013 when Andy Murray smashed a 77-year hoodoo for the locals by becoming the first male Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to salute at the All England Club.

Prediction: Champion

2. Rafael Nadal
Best Wimbledon result: Won twice (2008 and 2010)
Last year’s result: did not play
Australian Open this year: won (defeated Daniil Medvedev in the final)
French Open this year: won (defeated 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 in his bid to complete a calendar Grand Slam, which has not been achieved since Rod Laver in 1969.

The Spaniard defied a serious foot injury to claim a record-extending 14th French Open title, which also extended his record for the most Major men’s singles titles to 22 – meaning a win here would see him equal 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 bar the Australian Open (in which, as the defending champion, he was forced to retire during his quarter-final match against Andy Murray).

But to claim a third Wimbledon title, and first since 2010, the Mallorcan will have to overturn a decade of misery at SW19, having not reached the final here since 2011, when he not only lost to Djokovic in four sets, but also lost the world number one ranking.

In the intervention, Nadal suffered four consecutive upset losses to players ranked in the 100s, and also suffered heartbreaking defeats to 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.

Prediction: finalist

Other contenders: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Carlos Alcaraz.

Absent: Roger Federer, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori.

Women

All eyes will be on Iga Swiatek to see if she can extend her 35-match winning streak, the longest by any woman since Venus Williams in 2000, at the All England Club.

At this stage it is still unknown who will open play on Centre Court on Tuesday – the slot usually reserved for the women’s defending champion; either Swiatek, or the second-most recent champion, Simona Halep (seeded 16th this year), could be given that honour with Barty having retired.

Local favourite Emma Raducanu returns for the first time since her captivating run to the fourth round last year, which ended in heartbreak as she was forced to retire against Ajla Tomljanovic.

That proved to be the forerunner to her stunning run to the US Open title, but while she has since struggled, perhaps playing in front of her home fans should prove a tonic for the Brit to rediscover the form that saw her go all the way in 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 (defeated Coco Gauff in the final)
Titles so far in 2022: Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome, French Open.

Swiatek has been the most consistent player on Tour in 2022, winning six titles – the most by any player this season – and not being beaten since claiming top spot in the rankings for the first time in March.

She arrives off the back of a dominant campaign at Roland Garros where she dropped only one set on the Parisian red clay courts for a second time, capped off by a straight-sets thrashing of Coco Gauff in the final.

Earlier in the year, the Pole reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open, where she lost to Danielle Collins when a win would’ve seen her pitted against Barty in the final.

She will now be intent on improving 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.

Prediction: Champion

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Other contenders: Anett Kontaveit, Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari, Emma Raducanu.

Absent: Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka, Daria Kasatkina, Leylah Fernandez, Naomi Osaka.

Wimbledon gets underway this Monday night (AEST).



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