The ‘Big W’ kicks off this week still under the controversy cloud after the ban of Russian/Belarus players and the ATP/WTA decision to retaliate by not awarding any ranking points for the tournament. Apparently the British Government couldn’t bare the thought of a Royal handing the trophy over on the final Sunday to a Russian and that being used for Putin Propaganda.
As far as top players are concerned the women’s draw is without Sabalenka(6), Kasatkina (13) and Azarenka (20) and the men are missing Medvedev (1), Rublev (8) and Khachanov (22). They are all players would could have made a deep second week run, but alas Politics has again inserted it’s unwanted self.
Geopolitical dramas aside on court the retired Ash Barty isn’t here to defend her title so all eyes will be on World number one Iga Swiatek, fresh off her French Open triumph. The 21 year old is on a winning streak of 35 matches but her Wimbledon record is mediocre, losing in the 1st round (2019) and 4th round (2021).
Grass tends to be the great equalizer, low bouncing and unforgiving but her confidence will be high. Her first real test will probably come in the 4th round against former Roland Garros Champion Krejcikova the 13th seed.
The top half of the draw is pretty loaded; Muguruza (9), Halep (16), Coco Gauff (11), Amanda Anisimova (20), Pliskova (6) and Eastbourne winner Petra Kvitova (25) could all challenge Swiatek.
The bottom half seems more up for grabs. Local hope US Open Champion Emma Raducanu (10) will be looking to go further than last years’ 4th round but is still racing to be fit after pulling out of a lead up event with injury.
Ons Jabeur the 3rd seed will be a threat in this section, the Tunisian made the Quarters last year and won a grass lead up event in Berlin. Also, look for Ostapenko (12), former Wimbledon Champion the lefty German Kerber (15) and a red hot Brazilian Haddad Maia (23) who has won two lead up events.
Serena Williams is back having accepted a wildcard. The American is currently ranked 1204th and hasn’t played singles since her 1st round withdrawal here a year ago. She faces Harmony Tan from France in the 1st round; the 40 year old is chasing Margaret Court’s 24 Slams, still one behind at 23.
A 3rd round against Karolina Pliskova is possible, but the lack of matches for Williams looms large.
Ok, so who wins? Swiatek has been the surest thing in Tennis for months, I said in the French Open preview the longer streaks go the nearer they are to the end, but Iga keeps proving me wrong, but it has to end sometime, right?
The question is can she keep her level through two weeks on grass, an unpredictable surface? But scanning the draw nobody is jumping out that I see beating her, so I’m tipping Swiatek to keep the streak alive, but I’m putting no money on it.
Over to the men Novak will be desperate to win this. Rafa has jumped ahead in the Slam race by two Majors now and unless there is a change in US policy re entry into the country for the unvaccinated then there will be no US Open for Djokovic so he will be all systems go to win his last chance for a major in 2022.
The first real test for Novak could be a 4th round against big serving American Reilly Opelka (15) although a possible 2nd round with Aussie Kokkinakis would be interesting. There also could be a Quarter final against the young Spainard Alcaraz (5).
Rafa (2) shouldn’t have any problems until a likely 4th round against big serving Marin Cilic (14) with a likely Quarter opponent being Auger-Aliassime (6) who will want revenge from that 5 set French Open loss. In Rafa’s half is Italian Berrettini (8) who has had a wonderful lead up season, winning Stuttgart and Queens Club, he will be dangerous and is a threat to win it all.
Nick Kyrgios will be an uncomfortable floater, having found form in Stuttgart and Halle with semi final appearances. He is unseeded and should make a third round against Tsitsipas (4) who yesterday won his first grass event in Mallorca.
Other players who could make a run is Halle winner Hubert Hurkacz (7), Eastbourne winner the big serving Taylor Fritz (11) or local hope the unseeded Andy Murray, who plays Aussie James Duckworth in the first round.
So, who wins? I have to factor in the Djokovic desperation; the Serb will be vying for his 4th title in a row at Wimbledon. He hasn’t ‘lost’ on this grass since a 2017 Quarters retirement to Tomas Berdych. Grass is likely his best surface and champions rise when they have to, which for Novak is now.
I’m tipping him to win his 21st slam.