10th July 2022 and the sun set on yet another fortnight of Grand Slam tennis at the All England Club leaving a number of outcomes and stories in its wake. In what was arguably the most controversial Wimbledon in its illustrious history, the tournament provided drama and tension to an almost unparalleled degree; despite the fact the winner was the exact same as the last three years! Yet the most recent of Novak Djokovic’s now seven Wimbledon titles had the tinge of a heroic comeback following the calamitous fiasco that occurred in Australia earlier this year, blended with the Serbian’s (mostly) relaxed playing style, giving a definitively unique feeling. So, with that being said, let’s wade through the goings-on of the Wimbledon just passed.
The Build Up
The build up to this year’s Wimbledon was largely dominated by the banning of Russian and Belarusian players from competition due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, resulting in newly crowned No.1 player Daniil Medvedev being prevented from competing at SW19 as well as No.8 Andrey Rublev and No.22 Karen Khachanov to name a few. The decision drew much ire and criticism from several players on the tour with Rublev calling it ‘illogical’ and discriminatory’ in a press conference. The decision became even more bizarre when you consider that Wimbledon was the only major on the tour to take this course of action.
In response, tennis’ governing bodies (the ATP, WTA and ITF) stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points meaning players would not gain any points for their performance at the tournament in a sentencing that somehow managed to be almost as unfair as the ban it was responding to, cruelly depriving any player who would make a deep run in the tournament of the fruits of their labour. A peculiar outcome of this debacle was that, despite winning the tournament, Djokovic dropped out of the top 5 to No. 7 in the rankings due to losing the points from his title last year. Another oddity of this edition of the Grand Slam was that it was the first slam since the 1999 Australian Open where the current No.1 and 2 in the rankings would not compete, as Medvedev was banned and No. 2 Alexander Zverev was still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the French Open.
The hopes of the British crowd initially rested on the shoulders of their two Grand Slam champions, Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu. Continuing his recovery from his 2019 hip surgery, Murray appeared to be reaching old heights during the lead up to Wimbledon, making an appearance in the final of a grass court tournament in Stuttgart. However, an injury sustained in said match caused him to withdraw from the next tournament before Wimbledon at Queen’s. Still though, Murray can beat almost anyone on grass meaning he had a chance to go far, with tennis legend John McEnroe backing him to go all the way and take the title (a statement I may slightly have got carried away with). Meanwhile, Raducanu was looking to end the spate of inconsistencies that had mired her performances since last year’s US Open that made her an international superstar. Her constant shuffling of coaches has seemed to have created an unstable base from which she has been unable to truly challenge at a tournament post New York. Despite this, hopes were high that she could turn it round at the venue where she made her Grand Slam debut.
Alas, it would end with a disappointing second round departure for both players but their early exit allowed for the British spotlight to be properly shone on other faces. Heather Watson reached the fourth round for the first time at a Grand Slam following several solid performances, whereas Cameron Norrie became the first male Briton to reach a Grand Slam semi-final in five years. Norrie, who quickly became a national hero following these heroics, hoped to ride the wave of British support into the final, a hope that was swiftly extinguished by Novak Djokovic following a four-set loss.
The Strong Favourites and Hopefuls
Italy’s big serving Matteo Berrettini was a strong favourite heading into proceedings, having been runner-up at the previous year’s edition as well as looking seemingly indomitable during the warm up tournaments. However, he would be denied the opportunity to challenge as he tested positive for COVID-19 on the morning of his first match. Other top seeds also made early exits as former semi-finalist and quarter-finalist, Hubert Hurkacz (7th seed) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (6th seed) respectively conspired to losses in the first round.
Despite starting the year in dominating fashion and taking the first two Grand Slams, Rafael Nadal was a major doubt leading up to Wimbledon due to a recurring foot injury that has been plaguing the Spaniard for some time now. Fortunately, he was able to treat it just in time for the tournament with the hope of being able to continue his attempt at a calendar Grand Slam. He proceeded to make a fairly comfortable run into the quarter-finals however, it was in this run where Nadal suffered a torn abdominal muscle, an injury that was aggravated when the former Wimbledon champion faced stiff resistance from American Taylor Fritz. Having to take a medical timeout after losing the first set to treat the injury which saw his father plead to him to quit, Nadal adapted his game, played through the pain, and having taken the match to five sets, overcame Fritz after a final set tie-break in a performance of sheer will and determination. In the end the damage had already been done to Nadal, as he decided to withdraw from the tournament the next day (an announcement which probably left an already devastated Fritz in even more of a fuming state), leaving a free pass to a Grand Slam final to a certain Australian.
Nick Kyrgios is tennis’ box office player, an immense talent with a penchant for on-court antics and a mentality that seemed destined to leave him as tennis’ biggest what-if. The first round saw a typical Kyrgios match, being taken to five sets by local wildcard Paul Jubb in a face-off which saw Kyrgios having a go at a line judge and saying they had no fans. A straight sets victory that displayed Kyrgios’ supreme grass court talents followed in the second round before a titanic clash of personalities came in the third against 4th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Arguments were had with the umpire, balls were hit into the crowd and balls were hit at opposing players in what is probably best described as ‘tennis warfare’. That Kyrgios eventually took victory from Tsitsipas, left a sweet and sour taste in the mouth of many tennis fans. A five-set victory against Brandon Nakashima awaited in the fourth round before another straight set sweep against Cristian Garin in the quarter-finals that booked his place in the final thanks to Nadal’s withdrawal. After all the talk of unfulfilled promise, here lay Kyrgios’ chance to finally win big. The only thing standing in his way was defending champion and No.1 seed Novak Djokovic.
Still seeking redemption from the whirlwind of the controversies that surrounded his deportation from Australia at the start of the year, Djokovic had a sluggish start in his first match against Soon-woo Kwon, but once he overcame that hurdle, he was firmly in cruise control. The Serbian played some of the finest grass court tennis of his career throughout the tournament, helping to build his seemingly unstoppable image; and when the situation called for the match to go beyond three sets, Djokovic did what he seems to be best at, calmly waiting for his opponents to gas out before eventually overwhelming them. Jannik Sinner put up the best fight, the Italian youngster taking his encounter with the Serbian to five sets, but even he was brushed aside in the end. After overcoming Norrie, Djokovic booked his place in yet another Grand Slam final with his opponent being one of the few players he was yet to beat in his career.
The final did not disappoint either. In a match that featured Kyrgios getting into a spat with a drunk woman in the crowd, the quality of tennis from both sides was high. Djokovic dropped the first set but kept a level head while his opponent had a continued stream of outbursts that were levelled at his support group. Djokovic calmly came back into the match taking the second and third sets and despite Kyrgios’ best efforts, with him serving up thirty aces throughout the match, it wasn’t enough to stop Djokovic from taking his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title. As the Serbian began munching on the grass of the All England Club, it brought to a close yet another enthralling edition of the world’s premier grass court tournament. It leaves a number of questions and prospects in its wake that can only be answered with time: Will Djokovic surpass Nadal’s number of Grand Slams? Can Kyrgios maintain his form into the future? Is Nadal or maybe even Murray capable of overcoming their injuries to win another Grand Slam? Time will tell for all of these, but in the meantime, let’s commemorate what has been a captivating and engrossing Wimbledon Championships.