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Strawberries and cream: 2022 Wimbledon preview

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JUNE 29, 2022

It’s that time of the year again! It’s finally time to bring out the strawberries and cream as we celebrate the most prestigious tournament in tennis: Wimbledon.

Held in the outskirts of London with main-draw matches beginning last Monday, this year’s edition is not without its controversy, as Russian and Belarusian men and women (including world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka and many more) have been banned from participating by tournament directors in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision has been less than popular among the tennis community, as the ATP and WTA have stripped the tournament of its ranking points for those actually participating, meaning that the results of the tournament have no bearing on the rankings whatsoever. Nevertheless, this year the field is as exciting and open as ever on both the men’s and women’s side.

Who’s going to win?

While predicting a winner may be a rather mundane task, in a sport as unpredictable as tennis this year, it may well be worth our time.

In the men’s field, no one will ever quite match up to the standard of Roger Federer, a tennis icon who has won the championship a grand total of eight times over his career. However, as he is currently out of the mix due to injury,  we turn to look towards other players.

Novak Djokovic is one obvious answer. Currently ranked No. 3, the Serb has six Wimbledon titles under his belt. However, despite being one of the top players in the field, Djokovic seems to be having a hard time coming back from his quarterfinal loss against major opponent Rafael Nadal at the French Open. He has not played any matches since the loss, let alone on grass.

No. 4 Nadal is coming into the championship with only two previous Wimbledon wins, but a total of 22 Grand Slam titles — the most ever.  While he would theoretically be a good bet for a win, the Spaniard has recently been struggling with a foot injury, a condition named Mueller-Weiss syndrome which causes chronic pain in his foot.

“Of course, the treatment that I did didn’t fix my injury — not improving my injury at all — but it can take (away a bit of) the pain, and that’s the main goal,” Nadal said at a WImbledon press conference Saturday.

On the women’s side, the clear prediction is Iga Swiatek. After her first-round win against Jana Fett on Tuesday, the Pole extended her streak to 36 wins in a row, the longest held by a women’s player this century. Only 21 years old, she has an aggressive style which allows her to be successful at the baseline, but also at the net. With a seemingly innate tennis intelligence, the construction of her points leaves all viewers in awe.

However, playing on grass might prove to be a challenge for Swiatek, especially after having only made it to the fourth round last year — her second-ever time playing the championship.

“I still feel like I need to figure out grass,” said Swiatek at a press conference ahead of the tournament. “This year I only played 10 days on grass, so it’s not a lot; I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare.”

Nevertheless, there are plenty of other capable players in the women’s draw. Simona Halep is but one. 30 years old and ranked No. 18, she has won the championship once before in 2019. Playing in a style that can be described as an “aggressive baseliner,” the Romanian hits strong but simple winners from anywhere on the court and is one of the best returners on the women’s tour.

Another household name with great promise is Petra Kvitova, who has won the championship twice before, albeit not since 2014. The Czech player beat Jelena Ostapenko to win the 2022 Eastbourne International, another tournament seen as a precursor to Wimbledon. Sometimes struggling with movement and precision, the lefty is a machine at her peak, pulling out winners at a pace unlike any other.

Potential dark horses

The effectiveness of Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas’ serve should make him one of the favorites on grass courts, but the No. 5 player in the world has consistently underperformed at Wimbledon, advancing past the first round just once in four tries. But Tsitsipas has been solid in his grass-court run over the past few weeks. The 23-year-old  won the first grass-court title of his career in Mallorca, and he will look to carry on that momentum into Wimbledon.

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz is the youngest player to enter the top 10 since Nadal in 2005 and is the most hyped young player since, well, Nadal. The 19-year-old is ranked No. 7 in the world, but he has only played two professional matches on grass in his life. Despite his lack of experience on grass, Alcaraz’s Federer-esque aggressive playing style could yield a Federer-esque result at Wimbledon.

It seems as though the notorious Nick Kyrgios has turned a corner recently. Does the Australian still occasionally have his on-court outbursts? Absolutely. But it seems as though the world No. 40 has never been this focused in his professional career. As one of the most lethal servers on the tour, Kyrgios genuinely believes that he is the best grass-court player in the world, and although he hasn’t won a tournament on grass, he has made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon as a teenager and has had a very good grass-court season.

On the women’s side, American Coco Gauff has a chance to shock the tennis world with a deep run at Wimbledon. The 18-year-old already surprised a lot of people with her run to the final of the French Open just last month. In 2019, as a 15-year-old, she made the fourth round at Wimbledon, defeating five-time champion Venus Williams along the way. She will look to carry over her momentum from the French Open and a decent grass-court season through the championships at Wimbledon.

The 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu is another dark horse. The 19-year-old British phenom has struggled to win in 2022; she is 8-11 in singles matches. Raducanu made it all the way to the fourth round of Wimbledon last year, where she was forced to bow out due to breathing difficulties. This year could be different for Raducanu as she looks to use her home-court advantage to live up to her potential as a Grand Slam champion once again.

While neither our predictions nor the dark horses represent a full look at this year’s draws, this is an insight into some of tennis’ best players. The trophy this year is wide open as these elite athletes play on premium grass in their mandated all-white kits in tennis luxury.

Contact Daily Cal Sports at [email protected].

JULY 18, 2023

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