The biggest grass event of the Tour––in all of its cream-and-strawberry-flavored, white-clad glory––is upon us.
Third time’s hopefully the charm for the 2022 Tour’s Grand Slam action, because Wimbledon is almost here. Though its first round doesn’t start until Monday, the famous English tournament is already shaping up to be one of the most exciting tennis events of the year. For plenty of fans and casuals alike, the most appealing aspect of the Championships may be the abundance of great storylines––from the return of a tennis icon to the hype surrounding the current world No. 1. In that spirit, here are four narratives to keep an eye on as Wimbledon approaches.
The Return of the GOAT
The queen is back. After a bout of uncertainty surrounding her Grand Slam return, Serena Williams received a wild-card invitation for Wimbledon last Tuesday––meaning that she’ll get a chance to fight for her twenty-fourth major honor. She prepared for the competition by playing alongside world No. 3 Ons Jabeur in the Eastbourne International’s doubles event; anyone who watched that incredible pairing will be glad for another chance to watch her shine.
𝙊𝙉𝙎𝙍𝙀𝙉𝘼 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/qkjglWS8mU— Ons Jabeur (@Ons_Jabeur) June 23, 2022
The key to Williams’ storyline is the question of whether she can make another deep Wimbledon run. On one hand, her quality on the court is unmatched, and her type of talent doesn’t just vanish after one long break. But things can change quickly in tennis, and there are new stars like tournament favorites Jabeur and Iga Świątek who have had more practice on this year’s Tour. “I think it will be difficult, super difficult for her, no matter what kind of player she is because this is a thing where you still need some time,” said world No. 7 Karolína Plíšková. “But of course, she is an amazing player. […] This is her advantage but let’s see the level.” No matter how Williams’ return to the court plays out, one thing’s for certain: seeing her again is going to be a treat.
Unfortunately, a bureaucratic issue has partly overshadowed the great tennis that’s sure to take place in England: the WTA’s current refusal to award ranking points at the tournament. The organization made the decision after concluding that the ban placed on Russian and Belarusian athletes at English tennis events was a form of “discrimination.”
The WTA’s move caused plenty of fallout in the tennis world, including the withdrawal of 2014 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard. In all honesty, it’s hard to blame Bouchard––as well as any other athlete or fan––for being miffed at the decision. After all, a lack of ranking points at a major tournament hampers the ability of an under-the-radar athlete to raise their profile, meaning that an Emma Raducanu-esque story might be hard to come by in England this year. But that disappointment shouldn’t lower the level of tennis on display––or impact the other narratives on this list. While the ranking points debacle serves as important context for the tournament, rest assured that this is still Wimbledon with all of its bells and whistles.
Świątek’s Grassland Adventure
At this rate, Iga Świątek’s 2022 speaks for itself: Thirty-five straight wins. Six trophies. Most importantly, one Grand Slam title on clay. Her big mission now is to make it two––and that starts with showing up and showing out at Wimbledon.
Fans who prefer the tactical side of tennis should keep an eye on how Świątek adjusts to the grass courts in England. “Iga will have to use slightly different directions when hitting the ball, as well as in the serve, in the context of the balance between the slice service and the kick service,” said Świątek’s coach Tomasz Wiktorowski. “She has the best kick-serve in the world, but it doesn’t always work on grass. So if we lose [this asset], we have to add something else.” Świątek has proved her mettle time and time again, so rest assured––whatever je ne sais quoi she brings into the tournament at the behest of her coach is probably going to be awesome.
Tune-ups and Warm-ups
In order to feel prepared for Wimbledon, fans should pay attention to their favorite high-profile athletes as they head into the competition. Here’s a brief rundown on the WTA’s Wimbledon “warm-up” tournaments––as well as a few spotlights on what some of the title contenders are up to.
Libéma Open – Ekaterina Alexandrova beat out Aryna Sabalenka for the singles’ title in this Dutch grass court tournament. Important to note: 2021 Wimbledon doubles champion Elise Mertens advanced to the doubles final with Veronika Kudermetova, but lost to Tamara Zidanšek and Ellen Perez.
Nottingham Open – Beatriz Haddad Maia swept both the singles and doubles titles, claiming the latter with Zhang Shuai. Important to note: Emma Raducanu retired from her Round of 32 match against Viktorija Golubic due to injury, but is on track to be fit in time for the Championships.
German Open – Ons Jabeur won the singles division after a walkover against Belinda Bencic in the final. Important to note: This victory serves as a boost in momentum for Jabeur, as she is considered a contender for the title at Wimbledon. 2022 French Open runner-up Coco Gauff also advanced to her first grass court semi-final in singles.
Birmingham Classic – Beatriz Haddad Maia won yet another singles title in Birmingham; Jeļena Ostapenko and Lyudmyla Kichenok prevailed in the doubles division. Important to note: Mertens once again advanced to a WTA doubles final, this time playing with Nottingham Open winner Zhang Shuai.
Eastbourne International and Bad Homburg Open – Both competitions are ongoing. Important to note: the aforementioned Williams-Jabeur tag team had to withdraw from their semi-final match in the former tournament due to a slight injury the Tunisian picked up. Additionally, world No. 4 Paula Badosa suffered a straight-set upset in the Eastbourne singles’ Round of 32 to Jodie Burrage.
Remember: four narratives are just four more reasons to get excited for the action in England. Buckle up, tennis fans––Wimbledon is a-comin’.
A full schedule of Wimbledon’s events can be found here.