Rafael Nadal, the man who has won the first two Grand Slams of the year, is a long shot to play Wimbledon 2022, and that’s only the start of a plethora of problems for what is shaping up to be the most wide open Grand Slam of the last 20 years.
Roger Federer, who this week gave an interview discussing some nuts and bolts of his latest comeback, first won Wimbledon in 2003. Between the Swiss, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, nobody has touched the trophy on the men’s side.
On the women’s side, with six-time champion Serena Williams not on the entry list and a retired defending champion in Ash Barty, the favorite will be Iga Swiatek. But questions will be posed about the world number one’s ability on grass.
In addition, this year’s grass court glory will feel different with top Russian and Belarussian players banned and ATP and WTA points not awarded. It’s weird.
All this adds up to a wide open Wimbledon 2022.
Here is a list of the problems which represent very real opportunities on both sides of the ledger.
Why Does Nadal Struggle on Grass?
Let’s say for arguments’ sake that Nadal is able to overcome his foot issues and take the court at Wimbledon 2022. Is it fair to say the two-time champion there struggles on grass? By his great standards yes. In comparison to the average tour player, no. There are veteran tour grinders who would kill for Nadal’s record on grass. In addition to his victories in 2008 and 2010, he also has 3 other finals appearances and two other semifinals appearances. His career grass court record is an astounding 71-20. He wins 90% of his service games on the surface. So the word “struggle” is all relative. That said, he does have to shorten up his strokes and cannot adopt his usual deep return position with as much success on grass. But a great mover is a great mover on any surface, and Nadal is that.
Djokovic Not in Peak Form
The Serbian superstar will lose his number one ranking this week to Daniil Medvedev and will not be able to defend points from his 2021 Wimbledon championship. Djokovic has struggled with a lack of match play this year, due in part to his ban from the Australian Open. While he’s looked good in many of his best-of-three set matches, his loss to Nadal at Roland Garros exposed a lack of conditioning and mental match acuity. He’ll still be the favorite to win Wimbledon 2022.
Berrettini Recovering From Surgery
Last year’s other finalist, hard-serving, hard-forehanding Matteo Berrettini has also suffered from a lack of matchplay. While he beat Murray in his return to grass last week, the Italian is recovering from surgery to his right hand. On grass, full and free use of the right hand is something desperately needed as the fast courts and low bounces require a decent amount of feel on strokes. Grass is a surface that requires the ability to massage the ball. Berrettini is a question mark on that front.
More Player Problems
Stefanos Tsitsipas has shown vulnerability on the backhand wing with the lack of a developed slice, a must-have on grass. Alexander Zverev is out of Wimbledon after ankle surgery in a bad injury he suffered at Roland Garros against Nadal. Russian stars Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov are all out due to the Russian ban. The list goes on! Even with a metal hip, Murray’s chances are starting to look better and better with each passing moment. A key thing to consider for fans of Murray: Will he and Djokovic land on opposite sides of the draw?
Iga and the Women
Perhaps just under the wide openness of the men, the women’s side is a free grab for who wants Wimbledon 2022. World number one Swiatek is riding a 35-match winning streak into the grass season but pulled out of her Wimbledon warmup in Berlin due to shoulder discomfort. If there’s one area of Swiatek’s game that has been pegged as an area that needs improvement, it’s her serve. Specifically, the Pole’s service motion is not seen as energy efficient. This is not a good time to be having problems with your serve– on the eve of a Grand Slam where serving means the most. In addition, Russian and Belarussian players like Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina are out.
Wimbledon 2022 has emerged as the most wide open opportunity in two decades. While players are upset by the points rug being pulled away, you can bet those who can play are eyeing the increased prize money and time-tested glory afforded by Wimbledon.