There are no ranking points on offer. The build-up has been tumultuous, controversial. But still, there is perhaps nothing quite like the sight of green at SW 19. It is that time of the year, tennis fans. Wimbledon is here.
While Rafael Nadal is gunning for a hat-trick of Majors to keep an extraordinary quest for calendar slam alive, despite his injury concerns, the week ahead of the tournament has been headlined by the comeback of a certain American superstar.
Serena Williams admitted that she didn’t know how or when she would return to tennis but insisted retirement had not been on her agenda during her year-long absence. The American star will return to singles action at Wimbledon next week for the first time since her tearful exit from the All England Club in the first round in 2021.
The seven-time Wimbledon champion is chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title. However, her lengthy absence from the sport has seen her world ranking plummet to 1,204th. She needed a wildcard to play Wimbledon this year as she seeks a first major since capturing the Australian Open while pregnant in 2017.
Her last appearance at the All England Club ended after just six games when she was forced to quit her Centre Court opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Having made her debut in 1998, Williams said that she didn’t want that heartbreaking exit to be her last memory of Wimbledon.
“I didn’t retire. I just needed to heal physically, mentally. I had no plans. I just didn’t know when I would come back. I didn’t know how I would come back. It was a lot of motivation, to be honest. It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind. Wimbledon was tough last year. I felt like I was injured for most of the year. Then I ripped my hamstring. I still tried to make New York. I gave everything I could, just every day getting ready or trying to make it. But then it’s just like, I’m not going to make it. Hung up my racquets for a little bit until I could just heal.
“[On practising before the event] On the one hand it’s amazing, but on the other hand it’s like, we have to preserve Centre Court. Obviously I was super happy to be out there and have that opportunity, and it was also good for me to get that out of my system because the last moment I had on Centre Court was probably not my best moment. Probably could have played singles there (at Eastbourne). I felt more prepared than I thought I would have a month or two months or three months ago.”— Serena Williams on her Wimbledon comeback
World number one Iga Swiatek said Saturday she was “overwhelmed” to see Serena Williams back at Wimbledon, one year after the US legend limped away from the All England Club. The French Open 2022 champion is on a red-hot 35 match win streak but is coming into the Slam without any grass matches under her belt. Swiatek, a former Wimbledon junior champion, has yet to get past the fourth round of the women’s singles.
“I saw [Serena] yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to react. I wanted to meet her. I saw that she had so many people around her. I don’t know her team. It was pretty weird. But just seeing her around is great because she’s such a legend, there’s nobody that has done so much in tennis. I’m pretty sure that she’s going to be in good shape because she has so much experience coming back from breaks or just playing in Grand Slams. I think she can use it.
“Honestly I still feel like I need to figure out grass. Last year for sure, it was that kind of tournament where I didn’t know what to expect. Then match by match I realised maybe I can do more and more. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. But I’m just trying to stay open-minded and kind of take positives from the situation and realise that I can play without any expectations.”— World no 1 Iga Swiatek on seeing Serena Williams ahead of Wimbledon
Matteo Berrettini is quietly confident he can be in the mix to win Wimbledon after retaining his Queen’s Club title over the weekend to join an elite group of players and continue an impressive return from injury.
The world number 11 lost to Novak Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final and is keen to go one better this year after bouncing back from a near three-month injury lay-off to win two tournaments in a row.
“I don’t know if I’m the favourite as Novak and Rafa (Nadal) are always there; Rafa has already won two Slams and no-one expected him to win in Australia. I don’t feel like I’m the favourite but I know I can do it, I can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes. My aim is to have a big tournament at Wimbledon and I hope it will be two intense weeks.”— Matteo Berrettini in an interview with Sky Sport Italia broadcast on Monday, as reported by AFP
Nadal said Saturday that for the first time in 18 months he has defeated the crippling foot pain which threatened to push him to the brink of retirement. Nadal captured his 14th French Open and record-extending 22nd major earlier this month to put himself halfway to the first men’s calendar Grand Slam since 1969.
However, in the aftermath of his Paris victory, he revealed that he had needed to have his left foot anaesthetised, his foot asleep, to keep competing. He then underwent “pulsed radiofrequency stimulation”, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain.
Nadal is a two-time champion at Wimbledon but his last title at the All England Club came 12 years ago. This year he is seeded two which at least gives him the benefit of avoiding old rival and top seed Novak Djokovic until the final. The Spaniard hasn’t played a grass-court warm-up event, preferring instead to focus on alleviating his foot pain and then practising on the surface in Mallorca.
“I can walk normal most of the days, almost every single day. That’s for me the main issue. When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half. And second thing, practising. Since the last two weeks, I didn’t have one day of these terrible days that I can’t move at all. The feeling and overall feelings are positive. In 2003 (his debut year), I never thought that I’d have a chance to win Wimbledon. Today it’s a different story. I had some success here.”— Rafael Nadal on his chronic foot injury in the pre-tournament press conference
While he is gunning for a first Major of the season after a rollercoaster start to the season, Novak Djokovic repeated his hardline refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccination Saturday as he resigned himself to sitting out the season’s last Grand Slam at the US Open. His inability to travel to the United States – he already missed the Indian Wells and Miami Masters – will serve as a key driver as he sets his sights on a seventh Wimbledon title. Also adding fuel to the Djokovic fire is the chance to win a fourth successive Wimbledon title and join a select group. In the Open era, only Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have managed to complete such a streak of dominance at the All England Club.
“As of today I’m not allowed to enter the States under these circumstances. That is an extra motivation to do well here (Wimbledon). Hopefully I can have a very good tournament. I would love to go to States. But as of today, that’s not possible. There is not much I can do any more. It’s really up to the US government to make a decision whether or not they allow unvaccinated people to go into the country.
“As a seven, eight-year-old boy I’ve dreamt of winning Wimbledon and becoming No. 1. Pete Sampras winning his first Wimbledon, was the first tennis match I ever saw on the TV.— Novak Djokovic repeats no vaccination stance as US Open slips away but focus on Wimbledon becomes stronger
Nick Kyrgios resumes his bittersweet relationship with Wimbledon vowing to continue making “top 10 players look ordinary.” The Australian shot to fame at the All England Club in 2014 when ranked 114 in the world and stunned two-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Kyrgios has been defeating the stars and upsetting officialdom while delighting his army of fans ever since. Having sat out the entire claycourt season, Kyrgios has excelled on grass this summer, reaching the semi-finals back-to-back in Stuttgart and Halle. World number six Stefanos Tsitsipas fell to the Australian in Halle. Fellow members of the top such as Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud have also fallen victim to a sometimes inspired Kyrgios in 2022.
“I’ve played top-10 players in the world this year and made them look pretty ordinary. I know where my game’s at. I know if I’m feeling confident, I’m playing well, I’m able to just light it up kind of whenever I want. I know if I’m serving well and I’m playing well, I can beat anyone. I have pretty much beaten everyone in the draw before.”— Nick Kyrgios in the pre-tournament press conference
Here are few more press conferences from the media day ahead of Wimbledon:
(With quotes as provided by AFP)