The ‘Exhibition’ Grand Slam
With the rulings from the ATP and the WTA, Wimbledon has been stripped of ranking points by the two major bodies of the sport and effectively become the most prestigious Exhibition event in history. But this does not mean it is any less sought after…
For the first time in history, a major tennis tournament will be played with no ranking points available to the players. After its decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, the all-England club was stripped of any ranking points by the ATP and the WTA, effectively rendering it an exhibition event. The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian players from the tournament means that three players from the top 10 will be side-lined for what many consider to be the most prestigious tournament in tennis. World #1 Daniil Medvedev and world #8 Andrey Rublev will both miss the tournament, while world #2 Alexander Zverev also misses out while he undergoes surgery on an ankle injury which forced him out of the French Open, making Wimbledon the first grand slam in a long time to be without the top two players in the world.
Despite the missing talent at this year’s tournament, the famous pineapple topped trophy will be no less sought after. With the omission of the Russian stars and Zverev, certain sections of the draw have become extremely open, especially when considering the difficulty that many players have when it comes to playing on grass. One such player is the #3 seed Casper Ruud. After an exceptional French Open campaign, Ruud finds himself at a career-high seeding at a major tournament, but his grass court record seems to suggest that this tournament may not be as successful. Having exited at the first-round stage at his last two outings at Wimbledon, his quarter of the draw seems to be a fruitful avenue for some of the outside players hoping for a run into the later rounds. While British fans will be hoping that Cameron Norrie will be that player, the #9 seed also has a below-par record on grass. It is more likely that the #7 seed Hubert Hurkacz will benefit the most from this quarter. The Pole will be hoping to capitalise on this favourable draw and go a few steps further than he did in 2021 when he reached the semi-final, losing in four sets to Matteo Berrettini.
It is impossible to talk about men’s tennis at the moment without mentioning Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard comes into the tournament halfway through a calendar grand slam hoping to add a third Wimbledon to his already record 22 grand slam titles. Nadal will be playing in his first Wimbledon since 2019 and will have much company in his quarter of the draw. Marin Cilic and Taylor Fritz both pose a potential threat to Nadal, with Cilic on good form having reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros and also having previously made the final at Wimbledon in 2017. Perhaps the biggest challenge Nadal will face in his quarter is Felix Auger-Alliassime, in what could be a rematch of their fourth-round epic at the French Open earlier this year.
If Nadal is able to overcome these challenges it is possible that he will face the second favourite at Wimbledon, Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals. Berrettini is a grass court specialist who made it to the final at Wimbledon last year and will be hoping to go a step further this year. Having taken the French Open off to focus on the grass-court season, Berrettini has been on blistering form, winning in Stuttgart and Queens in what has already been a highly successful grass-court season. The Italian will be hoping to capitalise on his recent form by claiming his maiden grand slam title.
If Berrettini and other hopefuls’ dreams of claiming a Wimbledon title are to materialise then it is likely that they will have to overcome the favourite for the tournament, Novak Djokovic. With Nadal’s blistering start to the year, Djokovic will be desperate to close the gap between himself and the Spaniard in the race for the most grand slam titles in history, Djokovic currently stands on 20, two behind Nadal. However, it may be another Spaniard who poses the earlier threat to Djokovic’s title as he has found himself in the same quarter as Carlos Alcaraz. The young sensation has yet to establish himself on grass courts having only played at Wimbledon once before, exiting in a second-round defeat to Daniil Medvedev. Despite this, the #5 seed will be desperate to demonstrate his quality at yet another tournament, but it remains to be seen whether he can adapt to the grass-court game.
Overall, despite the missing superstars and the lack of ranking points available, this year’s Wimbledon still promises to provide ample competition and will only be an exhibition event in its most literal form. The players will be no less desperate to get their hands on the most coveted trophy in tennis when they step out onto the courts at SW19, in what promises to be a truly exhilarating two weeks of tennis.