Wimbledon needs a good tournament to quell the naysayers

A logo at Wimbledon

Well, it was all looking so good. The All England Tennis Club was, and still is, making grand plans for the 100th-anniversary celebration of Centre Court since its move to the current location.

The tournament will take place during a summer of national pride just weeks after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. In many eyes, Wimbledon is still the jewel in the crown of the tennis world. It is the elder statesman of the four majors.

Every Grand Slam winner will say how much they love the tournament they have just won; that the organisers are the best in the world and the fans are special. They are not wrong. However, that phrase “Wimbledon” just bosses it. This is “The” Championships.

The last SW19 that felt like a dream of a fortnight culminated in the 2019 final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Even then, its drama clashed with a thrilling finish in the Cricket World Cup final at Lord’s. The year before, France won the World Cup while Novak Djokovic brutally dismantled Kevin Anderson.

Wimbledon doesn’t move its time and place for any other global event. It elevates its status above all else: “We have said for a couple of years that the final will be played at 2pm, as it is, every year.” So there.

In 2020, SW19 became another sporting victim of COVID. When the event returned rather hesitantly in 2021, there were some magical moments but it clashed with a postponed Euro 2020 as England’s eyes averted to another huge showpiece.

Djokovic retained his crown in a so-so match against Matteo Berrettini and it felt like a warm-up to Wembley where the defeated Italian would at least get some cheer on the day.

Now Wimbledon has some new problems, having made its stand against the inclusion of any Belarusian and Russian players. Already, three of the big four have spoken out against the decision to take action directly against those players who are attached by dint of nationality to the war in Europe.

Wimbledon is acting with a global responsibility that transcends sport. It doesn’t sit comfortably but there’s also the little matter of a Champions League final just played in Paris rather than St Petersburg. Actions do have to be taken. Proportionality is not an easy thing to assess.

In many eyes, Wimbledon is still the jewel in the crown of the tennis world, but the 2022 editions needs to be a good one after recent problems.

However, despite all of the humanity surrounding the motivation to “do something”, the knock-on effect of the WTA and ATP’s decision to remove ranking points has caused a further chasm.

Naomi Osaka claimed the headlines for her comments about SW19 feeling like an “exhibition” as she spoke out loud about potentially giving it a miss. Yet there are many out there who have already gone full hammer by mentioning the E word.

Cameron Norrie mused: “You’re not really playing for anything, you’re playing this almost like an exhibition so for me it was tough to see that and obviously it’s a really tricky situation but I would have liked to see it still have points, still have something on the line.”

The attitude taken by some players towards the oldest Grand Slam in tennis has left Martina Navratilova feeling incredulous as if the trophy or advancing to the business end of the tournament is not enough stardust. As ugly and unwelcome as all this is, it certainly shows some players are more nudged by computer rankings than prestige. Navratilova remarked “I always played for the trophies, not the points and not the money. So for me it was Wimbledon and nothing else, everything else came in second.”

Andy Murray’s Passionate Wimbledon Defence Of His Home Major

Andy Murray was more sardonic in his view that people wouldn’t have a clue how many ranking points a player might receive for winning a third-round match, but “I guarantee they will remember who wins.”

Wimbledon has every right and expectation to put on one of the best shows they can. In a crazy world order, there will be some missing stars but its history will dig deeper than those who don’t see beyond their world of clinical number crunching. Here’s to a good one.