Green as always: On Wimbledon 2022 shorning of ranking points

Wimbledon is a tournament apart. It is delightfully anachronistic in that it is played on pristine grass courts, a throwback to the era when the sport was still called ‘lawn tennis’. Star players, who otherwise resemble walking billboards, are required to be reticent and don spotless white attire, resonating with the tournament’s strict policy of keeping the site relatively free of commercial sponsorships. Until 2021, the tournament even had a ‘Middle Sunday’ holiday, an out-of-place idea in the era of mega television deals and ambush marketing. And such is the event’s magnetic pull that even the biggest crisis to hit tennis in recent times — of Wimbledon barring Russian and Belarusian players against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war and the ATP and WTA retaliating by removing ranking points — did not turn into a smoky inferno. Rafael Nadal, who three weeks ago won his 14th French Open and a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title literally on one leg, is set to feature after undergoing radiofrequency treatment. Seven-time singles champion Serena Williams has come out of a year-long semi-retirement. Roger Federer’s grass-court majesty will be missed — for the first time since 1998 — but such is sport’s uncanny knack to replenish itself that there will be enough verdant pomp and splendour as the iconic Centre Court celebrates its centenary year.

Nadal and three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic will be the biggest men’s drawcards, along with eighth seed Matteo Berrettini who is seemingly back to his best after recovering from a hand injury. The absence of the top-two ranked men in Daniil Medvedev (barred) and Alexander Zverev (injured) is unfortunate, but the farthest they had progressed at SW19 was the fourth round. Nadal, who is halfway towards an improbable Grand Slam (winning all four Majors in a single year), can be a handful if he survives the first week when the grass is still lush and the bounce low and skiddy. Djokovic will be desperate to add to his 20 Slam titles and avoid the rare scenario where he would not be the reigning champion at any of the four Majors. Berrettini comes in with a grass-court win-loss record of 20-1 since Wimbledon 2019, including two titles at Queen’s Club, one at Stuttgart and a final at Wimbledon 2021. Among women, after the retirement of defending champion Ash Barty, Iga Swiatek has established herself as the numero uno. Grass is admittedly the Pole’s weaker surface and there is a closely bunched group with established credentials comprising Serena, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber. But Swiatek’s splendid recent form — six titles including Roland-Garros and 35 consecutive match-wins on hard and clay — means she will not be short on confidence even without the specific skillsets demanded by grass courts.

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Printable version | Jun 28, 2022 1:46:10 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/green-as-always-on-wimbledon-2022-shorning-of-ranking-points/article65570548.ece