Wimbledon 2022 is not like its previous versions. With the eagerly awaited top ten tennis player opening to a watered down draw and several low-level first-round matches, the impact of her vulnerability to geopolitics has hit home. In April, in what was considered an overreaction in many quarters, the most famous tennis tournament banned Russian and Belarusian players due to the war in Ukraine. The move did not go down well with the tennis fraternity, creating more divisions in an already fractured sport. The All England Club’s decision – which has not been followed by any other event around the world – eliminated No. 1 Daniel Medvedev, No. 8 Andrei Rublev, and three of the top 20 women – Arina Sabalenka, Daria Kasatkina and Victoria Azarenka. Manicured grass fields.
The world tennis bodies – the ATP and the WTA – did not remain silent. They stripped Wimbledon of their standings in the strongest rebuke to an event in modern history. The biggest victim of these unfortunate circumstances is one of the game’s stars, Novak Djokovic, who became only the fourth men’s player (after Björn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer) to win Wimbledon for the fourth time in a row. Because of the complex standings calculations, and the decision of the ATP, Djokovic is sure to lose his place in the top five even if he wins here. Joining Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the GOAT race, Djokovic didn’t mind exchanging points for the trophy but not everyone is on the same line. Multiple Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka considers the oldest Grand Slams to be “more like an exhibition” minus the ranking points.
The other regular feature missing at Wimbledon this year is Federer, whose combination of elegant and powerful tennis has come to define the tournament for the better part of two decades. Emerging singles champion in 1998, Federer has played in every major draw event in the 22 years since. Missing due to injury. It’s a very big change for this old place mired in customs.
This editorial first appeared in print on June 28, 2022 under the title “A paler Wimbledon”.