Novak Djokovic has been presented with a golden opportunity to add to his tally of Grand Slams at Wimbledon this summer.
Injuries and suspensions have ravaged the men’s draw, presenting the Serbian superstar with an unusually clear path to victory. Let’s take a look at who’s in, who’s out and how this tournament might unfold.
All England Club Bans Russian Stars from Competing
The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which organises Wimbledon, has banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing on British soil.
It means that world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev cannot take part in Wimbledon. He would be among the favourites in the spread betting, so his absence will be keenly felt. World No. 8 Andrey Rublev will also miss out, along with Karen Khachanov and Aslan Karatsev.
The decision was taken in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Belarus has supported.
Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, said the organisation recognises this decision “is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime”.
However, he added that “given the high-profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime”.
The ATP responded by stripping Wimbledon of ranking points. It means that players will not climb the world rankings if they perform well, essentially reducing Wimbledon to a high-profile exhibition event.
It also caused Djokovic, who won Wimbledon last year, to lose 2,000 points. Medvedev, who was knocked out in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2021, only lost 180 points. That saw him climb above Djokovic to become world No. 1.
Injury Problems Mount
Alexander Zverev is now the world No. 2, and he would have gone into Wimbledon as the top seed in Medvedev’s absence. However, he was injured at the French Open, so he will also be missing.
The talented German star left Roland-Garros in a newshunttimes wheelchair after suffering a horror injury during the second set of his semi-final. It was not as bad as initially feared, and he should be back in time for the US Open later this year following surgery, but he will definitely be absent for Wimbledon.
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer is still sidelined with injury, so he will not take part. Andy Murray withdrew from Queen’s with an injury, and he is a doubt.
Will Rafa Nadal Play at Wimbledon?
It remains to be seen if the Spaniard will take part in this tournament. Nadal has won both Grand Slams so far this year. He may have benefitted from Djokovic’s enforced absence at the Australian Open, but he was on fire at the French Open, beating the Serb in a thriller before sweeping Casper Ruud aside in the final.
That triumph moved Nadal two Grand Slam victories clear of Djokovic and Federer in the race to become the most decorated male tennis player of all time. However, he had to push through the pain barrier throughout the tournament.
He suffers from Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, a rare degenerative condition that affects bones in the feet and causes chronic pain. It became so bad that he required anaesthetic injections in his feet throughout the tournament to numb the pain.
Nadal may be forced to skip Wimbledon if he cannot recover in time. He said he will not continue playing under injections, so he received nerve burning treatment in a bid to resolve the problem.
It is not yet known how well this treatment went, and Nadal has not yet decided if he will take part in the tournament. He has been training in Mallorca on grass courts in Santa Ponça, which bodes well, but he is currently rated 50/50.
Can Novak Djokovic Win Wimbledon?
Djokovic is now the clear favourite to win Wimbledon. This should have been the year that he surged past Nadal and Federer with the most Grand Slams in history, furthering his GOAT credentials.
However, he could not compete in the Australian Open, as he has not been vaccinated for Covid-19, and he looked rusty when losing to Nadal at the French Open.
Yet he has always been strong on grass – his record at Wimbledon is 79-10, giving him an 89% win percentage – and he should be in better shape for this tournament.
There are seemingly few players that can stop him. If Nadal does not make it, Ruud will be bumped up to third seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas will be made third seed and Carlos Alcaraz will be made fourth seed.
Cameron Norrie, who has never been past the third round of a Grand Slam, is currently the eighth seed, so we would go up to No. 7. That gives an indication of just how depleted this field is.
Tsitsipas has never gone past the fourth round at Wimbledon, while Ruud and Alcaraz are clay court specialists. There are a couple of grass court specialists in the field, including Nick Kyrgios and Matteo Berrettini, but Djokovic should be able to beat them.
A fully fit Nadal could cause the Serb problems, as they are 2-2 on grass in the head-to-heads, but if he is not fully fit, Djokovic could saunter to a seventh Wimbledon title.