London | With notable absentees, Wimbledon set to field strong entry

Against the backdrop of missing ranking points, the All England Lawn Tennis Club has published the entry lists for The Championships, which begin on Monday 27 June, and while notable absentees are Roger Federer and Serena Williams, 4-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka’s name does appear in the ladies singles’ field, despite the former World No 1 saying in Paris that she was not 100% sure of her participation.

I am going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss. Rafael Nadal

Wimbledon had its ranking points stripped by the men’s ATP and women’s WTA after the grass court major opted to exclude players from Russia and Belarus because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’ and has seen Belarus in support as a key staging area for the unprovoked invasion.

Russians Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova together with Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, are among those who will not be featuring on British grass this year as the LTA has also adopted the ban, although players competing here, incongruously, will receive their points because there are other events these players can compete in.

Medvedev, despite being defeated in the 4th round in Paris by Croatian Marin Cilic, will move to the top of the ATP rankings after German Alexander Zverev’s semi-final loss at the French Open on Friday, taking the top spot from 13 June when the points from last year’s tournament are dropped.

Zverev needed to win the tournament to unseat Serbia’s Novak Djokovic as World No 1, but was forced to retire against Spain’s Rafael Nadal after seriously twisting his ankle during the semi-final.

Medvedev has indicated he would love to play at Wimbledon, with or without ranking points, if the ban on Russian and Belarusian players was to be reversed.

According to reports, Wimbledon is close to doing a deal with the WTA that could see players keep half their ranking points for this year’s Championships, but the ATP is said to be remaining firm in its stance that points will be withdrawn for both the 2021 and 2022 editions of the tournament.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray believes stripping Wimbledon of ranking points was not a great move by the ATP and WTA

© Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Britain’s two time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said last week that the decision to strip the Grand Slam of its ranking points was ‘not a great move’ by either the ATP or the WTA Tours.

“Removing the points, if it doesn’t stop players from playing, then I don’t think it’s a great move from the ATP,” Murray told reporters at the Surbiton Trophy grass court event. “They’ve taken points away – everyone’s still showing up.

“My belief is Wimbledon will go ahead and have an extremely strong player field.”

Banning Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s championships was the only viable option under the guidance provided by the British government, the AELTC said last month when announcing the decision.

“I don’t believe there’s anyone at the ATP that supports what’s happening in Ukraine,” Murray added. “I think they’re trying to protect the players the best they can, and that’s the decision that they’ve taken.

“Some players are fine with the decision, but I think the majority of them were not.

“I spoke to some of the Russian players in Madrid and I feel for those players as well. I like them, and I’m friends with them, and I don’t believe they’re in favour of what’s happening [in Ukraine] either.”

Naomi Osaka, who last played Wimbledon in 2019, has entered this year despite the lack of points and saying The Championships was now 'an exhibition'

© Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, during Paris, Osaka, 24, questioned whether Wimbledon without points to play for would be ‘more like an exhibition’ but, despite her doubts, looks to be making a return.

The Japanese withdrew from Wimbledon last year after taking time off for ‘personal reasons’ a month after quitting the French Open where she was overwhelmed by media duties and mental health issues.

Elsewhere, 7-times singles winner Serena Williams and her sister Venus, a 5-times singles champion at Wimbledon, are conspicuous by their absence.

40-year old Serena has not played on the Tour since injuring herself during her first round match at last year’s Championships and was forced to withdraw, while Venus’s last appearance was at a WTA 250 event in Chicago last August.

Serena recently hinted about her plans to return to tennis when the former World No 1 chatted with Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers at a Bitcoin conference in Miami, and suggested she would be competing at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year.

“We’ve been talking about my comeback, and he’s been hyping me up, and getting me ready for Wimbledon,” she said in a video on her Instagram story. “Can’t wait!”

She also continued to fuel the rumours of her long-awaited return by posting a video of her and daughter Olympia on a tennis court but, prior to these social media clips, speculation had been ramping up over her potential retirement.

Serena has been chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title for years, but time is no longer on her side, her last major tournament win coming back in 2017 at the Australian Open, after which her form has gradually dipped and she is now ranked 276 in the world.

To play at Wimbledon this year, Serena will need a wild-card invitation from the Club.

Roger Federer will miss Wimbledon for the first time since 1998

© Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

The same applies to Federer, who has not played since a quarter-final exit at Wimbledon last year.

At 40-years old, Federer underwent yet another knee surgery last year and his coach said in March that a return at Wimbledon was unlikely for the 20-times major winner. If this is the case, it will be the first Championships the Swiss has skipped since 1998.

With 105 wins and 8 titles to his name, Federer is the most decorated player in Wimbledon’s history, having claimed the junior title that first year, and made his professional debut in 1999, playing every edition since then, and staying competitive for over two decades.

Federer now has had 3 knee surgeries since February 2020, and hopes to play injury-free in the season’s closing stages.

So, even if Williams and Federer find a way to compete at Wimbledon this year, both tennis legends will drop out of the world rankings altogether.

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez will also miss Wimbledon as she is sidelined now until August due to a foot injury.

2021 US Open runner-up Fernandez received treatment on her right foot during the early stages of her French Open quarter-final match against Martina Trevisan on Tuesday, and the trainer strapped the foot and gave her a pain killer so she could continue, but was seen limping on several occasions.

The Canadian eventually went down in 3 sets against the Italian, and skipped the post-match press conference due to the injury.

After the 19-year-old was omitted from the Wimbledon entry list on Friday, her father confirmed that the injury is a lot more serious than initially thought as she has a Grade 3 stress fracture on the top of her right foot.

When asked what he had felt while watching the match, Jorge Fernandez told Canada’s TSN: “Anger. I was very angry and very concerned.

“Again, it’s hard because you have both hats on and, of course, as a coach you kind of say like, okay you know what you got yourself into. That’s your decision that you’re going to make, then go ahead.

“That’s one of the problems with the WTA is you don’t get a chance to consult our players.

“We don’t get a chance to call a simple 30 second time-out and see what is really going on. I know they tried it in the past and just wonder why it stopped.

“I think there was moment where I could’ve put some sense into her. And maybe instead of it being what it is now, it could’ve been a little bit less. Of course as a father I’m concerned and sad and I wanted her to stop.”

World No 1 Iga Swiatek is a different player to the one who competed on the grass last year.

© Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Most of the usual contenders are in the line-up, eager for the experience of playing on the hallowed grass at the All England Club and a taste of the unique tradition that is Wimbledon, heedless of the lack of points this time round.

Heading the men’s field are Rafael Nadal, who at 36, has won the US Open and now the first two majors of 2022 to stay on course for the Grand Slam, and Djokovic.

The 14-time French Open champion from Spain wants to play at Wimbledon, but only if his body allows, especially his troublesome foot.

“I am going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon,” he said on Sunday. “Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss.

“A major surgery that doesn’t guarantee me to be able to be competitive again, and take a long time to be back [is a risk]. So let’s do it step by step, as I did all my tennis career.”

Nadal, who has been suffering from the chronic foot injury for some time, now owns a men’s record 22 Grand Slam singles titles, two clear of his nearest rivals Djokovic and Federer.

Nadal explained he had played Sunday’s final with a numbed foot thanks to a series of injections throughout the tournament, but that he would not go through a similar procedure again for the grass-court Grand Slam.

“Wimbledon is a priority, always has been a priority. If I’m able to play with anti-inflammatories, yes,” Nadal said. “To play with anaesthetic injections, I do not want to put myself in that position again.

“It can happen once but no, it’s not the philosophy of life I want to follow.

“Let’s see. I am always a positive guy, and always expect the things are going the right way. Let’s be confident, let’s be positive and let’s see what’s going on.”

Giving details on what comes next for him, he said: “It’s going to be a radio frequency injection on the nerve, and trying to burn a little bit the nerve, and create the impact that I have now on the nerve for a long period of time.

“That’s what we are going to try. If that works, I’m going to keep going. If that does not work, then it’s going to be another story.”

Women’s French champion Iga Swiatek leads the ladies entry list after cementing her status at the top of the rankings after winning her second major title at Roland Garros.

Swiatek has tried to ignore the numbers surrounding her 3-month unbeaten run, but 35th consecutive match win meant more than she had let on, amassing a longer winning streak than 23-time major champion Serena Williams, who ran off 34 wins in 2013.

It also tied Swiatek with Venus Williams for the longest streak in the 2000s.

“I think, honestly, it may seem pretty weird, but having that 35th win and kind of doing something more than Serena did, it’s something special,” Swiatek told reporters. “Because I always wanted to have some kind of a record.

“In tennis, it’s pretty hard after Serena’s career. So, basically, that really hit me.”

Asked about transitioning from the clay to the grass, her least successful surface, she said: “I think when I’m going to start Wimbledon, I’m just going to think about getting through the first matches. I won’t think about the streak because I know it’s not helping me.

“I did the same here [in Paris] and I know how to separate my mind from that and focus on tennis.

“But right now for sure, I can think about that a little bit more and I would love to add some matches to that streak, but I feel that chapter is closed for sure for clay season, but also after the Sunshine Double I didn’t really have a lot of time to rest, and I really want to rest right now after Roland Garros. Because back then I was like I’ll have three days off, but I couldn’t really stop thinking about the season.

“Right now I think I will have more time and I really want to do my best at resting!”

On Monday, the Club launches its promotional campaign, which has more significance than usual as the emphasis is on the permanence and enduring appeal of the iconic Centre Court, which celebrates 100 years this summer, and apparently provides a welcome perspective on the Ukraine row.

The centrepiece is a short animated trailer called ‘The Stage Awaits’ showing 3 young fans inspired by the wonders of the Centre Court, and features a range of stars, including animations of Emma Raducanu, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, which will be screened by Wimbledon’s broadcast partners, including the BBC in the UK.

Also, to emphasise Wimbledon’s global appeal, the All England Club is recreating ‘Henman Hill’ in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park during this year’s Championships.

The campaign has been created by McCann London, and its sister creative media agency, Momentum and, with all the elements featuring Wimbledon’s long-running ‘In Pursuit of Greatness’ tagline, the Club is hoping the Championships’ enduring reputation as the pinnacle of this global sport outweighs the current furore over the Russia-Ukraine war.



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