As Djokovic chases his 21st Grand Slam, he will be weathering a storm of controversy this year at the Wimbledon Championship…
In the last two decades, we have grown accustomed to watching Rafa Nadal hoist the trophy on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros in June. We expect and look forward to it in the same way as we look forward to gazing at fireworks on the 4th of July or eating turkey on the fourth Thursday of November. It became routine as the Spaniard lifted his record 14th French Open title just a few short weeks ago. As we witness history and relish in the glory of arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, it means one thing; Wimbledon is coming.
For years, we watched Nadal bite down on the La Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy every June and Federer lift the glamorous gold pineapple trophy on Centre Court in London in July. But this year at Wimbledon, the prestige and glamour of the tournament feel a bit scuffed and tarnished by the outside world.
What used to be the backyard of Roger Federer’s beautiful serve and volley has become the center of controversy in the tennis world. As a result, the place we witnessed through clenched teeth as Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic is now the focal point of political turmoil.
The United Kingdom has prohibited players from Russia and Belarus from participating in the Wimbledon Championships. Daniil Medvedev, the number one ranked player and 2021 US Open Champion will not be in London this year because of his Russian affiliation. Andrey Rublev, another incredibly talented Russian star ranked seventh in the world will not be present at Wimbledon. Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will also not be allowed to partake in the tournament. Multiple-time grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka, as well as Karen Khachanov, are banned from Wimbledon.
While we as fans look forward to certain Wimbledon traditions; the Slazenger jaguar printed on the tennis balls, the Rolex commercials featuring our tennis greats, Kings and Queens by 30 Seconds to Mars being played as we go to commercial breaks, this year a feeling of angst and restlessness has seeped into the grass on Centre Court all the way to Court 18.
Djokovic’s Quest For His Seventh Pineapple
Aside from the ugliness of global politics and war that we hopelessly submit to, there are many questions looming over the Wimbledon tournament this year. Will Nadal’s foot allow him to compete for his 23rd Grand Slam title? Will Djokovic regain his championship form in time to lift his seventh pineapple trophy? His composure appeared flat and disengaged at times in that French Open quarterfinal against Nadal. But who doesn’t appear flat or discouraged against Nadal on clay? Will the Serb rebound after that defeat the way he did after that disastrous 2020 French Open final? Eight months later, he dethroned the King of Clay on the same court. As quickly as the Serb fell the previous October, he was back on top the following spring. Many believe Djokovic can replicate that success on the grass—only time will tell.
Will Iga Swiatek maintain her level of excellence on the grass as she did on the clay? After Coco Gauff’s impressive French Open run, can she carry that momentum into the Championships? Will Serena be the dark horse at Wimbledon after being granted a wild card invitation?
For years, we hailed Federer and Nadal as the darlings of the tennis world. As a result, a villain was growing in Serbia. Now we will have that villain in Novak Djokovic. Some call him the party crasher to Nadal and Federer’s time at the top. Tennis lovers have fawned over Federer’s elegant style of play and Nadal’s brutal, pounding groundstrokes—is it a necessity to have a player like Djokovic to balance the scales? Many believe a movie is only as good as its villain. Perhaps we need Djokovic in that villainous role so we can truly call Federer and Nadal heroes.
What Will Happen
This is a quote from an all-time favorite movie of mine, Vanilla Sky. “You can do whatever you want with your life, but one day you’ll know what love truly is. It’s the sour and the sweet. And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”
If we look at tennis with this philosophy, is Djokovic the sour to the Nadal/Federer sweet? Do we need Djokovic to truly appreciate Nadal and Federer’s accomplishments? Maybe. If Djokovic collects his 21st slam, there is a strong likelihood he ties Nadal at 22 in New York this September. The momentum may change very quickly in a few short weeks if Djokovic reigns supreme on the grass.
This Wimbledon might not only carry the most animosity we have seen in many years, but also the most suspense. As new names and faces attempt to make their mark on the tournament, are any of them up for the challenge of beating Djokovic in a best-of-five match? We will find out in a few short weeks. There is a strong possibility history will be made as our favorites don their all-white apparel. In my humble opinion, Djokovic takes home the trophy and Serena Williams makes an impressive run to the quarterfinals. It should be one for the ages.
Wimbledon begins on June 27th and concludes on July 10th.