With the dust hardly settled from the clay-court season, the gaze of the tennis world has already turned to Wimbledon for the third grand slam of the year.
The tournament, which gets underway today, was wrapped in controversy weeks before a ball was due to be hit at SW19 with organizers banning Russian and Belarusian players amid the war in Ukraine.
That decision led the ATP and WTA Tours, the governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis, to strip this year’s Wimbledon of ranking points, but that hasn’t deterred the world’s best players from taking part.
Indeed, Serena Williams is scheduled to make a return to grand slam tennis after a year-long absence from the sport. This week, she has been competing in the women’s doubles event at Eastbourne alongside Ons Jabeur, although the pair had to withdraw from the tournament semifinals after Jabeur picked up a knee injury.
With so little match experience, it’s difficult to predict how the 23-time grand slam champion will fare at Wimbledon, where French Open champion Iga Swiatek, currently on a 35-match unbeaten streak, is arguably the favorite to win the women’s singles title.
Williams told CNN earlier this year that she is “not giving up” on her pursuit of a 24th grand slam title, but her Wimbledon participation has nevertheless come as a surprise.
The 40-year-old, granted a wild card entry for the tournament, will face France’s Harmony Tan in the first round.
Despite grass not being her favored surface, world No. 1 Swiatek’s supreme form so far this year makes her well-placed to win a third grand slam title and her first at Wimbledon — though she did win the girls’ championship in 2018. She faces Croatian qualifier Jana Fett in the first round.
Ashleigh Barty’s retirement from tennis earlier this year means there will be no defending champion in the women’s draw, but previous Wimbledon champions Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza, and Angelique Kerber are among the top 16 seeds.
Teenagers Emma Raducanu, the US Open champion playing at her home grand slam, and Coco Gauff, the French Open runner-up, could also enjoy deep runs in the draw. – CNN