After a controversial backlog and allegations and counter-claims, Wimbledon is set to begin on Monday. Familiar scenes of perfectly manicured lawns, players dressed in immaculate whites, and spectators in their jackets and ties, sandals, hats and sunglasses might give the impression that it is business as usual in SW19.
But in truth, this year’s third Grand Slam will take place under more unusual circumstances than at any time in recent history. Men’s No. 1 world number one Daniil Medvedev will miss the main draw after the All England Tennis Club (AELTC) banned Russian and Belarusian players following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
And he is not the only one. There will also be no world number 8 Andrei Rublev and three of the top 20 women – Arina Sabalenka, Daria Kasatkina and Victoria Azarenka. The move did not go down well with most players or the sport’s regulators, who responded by stripping the tournament of standings points.
The decision divided the tennis world. Many, like four-time Grand Champion Naomi Osaka, suggest reducing the tournament, steeped in tradition, to a mere showpiece event. However, not everyone agrees with Osaka’s opponent. And no other high-profile player has been as vocal about this as two-time champion Andy Murray, who has compared the tournament’s prestige to the FIFA World Cup or the Golf Masters.
In an email interview with The Indian Express, Murray doubled down on his claim. “I’ve talked a lot about this already. I don’t think (the lack of points) is going to affect our mentalities today – we will all continue to play to win Wimbledon.” “I think it’s huge for both the fans and the players. It’s a creative place and it feels special when out on the court there. Most of the tennis players grew up watching Wimbledon, so their dream is to play on the grass one day.”
But I guarantee they will remember who will win. Tweet embed It will never be an exhibition and I will never feel like it is an exhibition. the end.
– Andy Murray (@andy_murray) 25 May 2022
Murray spoke about the magic of Wimbledon, an item many argue has had value in some of the world’s biggest sporting events.
This year’s Wimbledon takes place at a time when many sports find themselves at a crossroads: In golf, the Saudi linebacker league pays players millions for prizes away from the PGA and European Tours. The T20 cricket league franchise franchise in a record-breaking broadcast deal while the number of competitive countries taking a test can be counted on one hand; Under normal circumstances, he would have fought for eyeballs with the FIFA World Cup, which will instead take place in Qatar this winter amid a cloud of controversy, corruption and bribery.
Wimbledon, in this sense, is one of the outliers in the sports world. It’s untouched by corporate or state-owned money and its myriad traditions — logo-free court patronage, all-white dress, a “queue” where people camp out for hours on end to get a ticket, and many other traditions — remain intact. Murray believes that it is the history and heritage of the event, and the assurances these traditions provide that have kept their brand so strong.
“Wimbledon is a unique tournament – despite it being a huge event, you still feel like you’re playing in a club…People know what to expect here, and I think with all the uncertainty in the world right now, like these people,” he Says.
However, there is concern among fans about tennis as a product. There are calls to scrap the top five matches to compete for the low interest periods of a new generation, and for tournament schedules to be made smaller, matches shorter, and the sport more spectator friendly.
While he doesn’t think the format needs to change, Murray said the game should evolve with its fans: “It’s always important to listen to the fans and try to understand what they want. Tennis is vying for attention, not just from other sports but from the entertainment industry, things like Netflix and esports, so we need to make sure we stay relevant.”
– Wimbledon (@wimbledon) June 22 2022
Murray himself comes to Wimbledon with good play. The Scot reached the top 50 in the rankings for the first time in four years after a final in Stuttgart, where he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios. The result raised his stock as a black horse in the main draw. While he’s nursing an abdominal injury, which he said isn’t too serious, the deep run in SW19 will be his first in the Major since 2017.
After several injury-filled seasons, the 35-year-old underwent a hip replacement in 2019 which is believed to keep him out of the game. The Scotsman rallied to come back and compete on tour but was unable to reproduce the highs of his career. However, his expectations of himself are still good, and he still enters Grand Slams believing he can win.
“I believe as a professional athlete you always have to support yourself to go forward. Believing in yourself is an important part of winning and I was pleased with the way I played this year. Reaching the final in Stuttgart was great and I hope I can do well at Wimbledon this year as well.”
But his outlook changed after the injury. The three-time Grand Slam winner was devoting more time to his business interests outside of tennis. This includes the Cromlix Hotel in Scotland, a place Murray says has always been special to him and his family, and which has turned it into a five-star destination. He also runs his own tennis clothing line, AMC, and his own sports management agency, 77, which is “primarily involved in mentoring up-and-coming athletes”.
“Tennis is still my top priority, and I’m really enjoying being able to focus on that at the moment,” he explains. After Wimbledon, the Scot plans to travel to the United States for a hard-court swing ahead of the US Open, during which time he will do his best to take a break. “Comfort is something that I realized was really important as I got older, so I might take a vacation with the family at some point as well.”