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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday June 15, 2022


Given that Wimbledon qualifying starts in less than a week, we thought that now would be a good time to ask some burning questions about what could transpire at this year’s Championships.

Tennis Express

And now, the questions…

1. What can we expect from Serena?

The biggest news of the 2022 grass court season didn’t happen on the court – yet. But soon, it will. That’s because Serena Williams – she of the seven Wimbledon titles and 98-13 lifetime record at SW19 – has announced she will play the main draw at this year’s Championships.

The journey starts with Williams taking the doubles court alongside Ons Jabeur at Eastbourne next week. Once she gets a match under her belt, we’ll have a better idea of how fit she is, and most important, how well she is serving.

For the first time in her career, Williams has lost two consecutive matches at Wimbledon, and the 40-year-old has not played a match since she retired against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Wimbledon’s first round last year.

It’s a long road back to world-beating form, but the legend has taken the first step…

2. How is Nadal’s foot?

Rafael Nadal is back on the practice court after undergoing radiofrequency ablation to his left foot, and all eyes will be on the Spaniard’s progress and, ultimately, his decision to play at Wimbledon this year. Having won the first two Slams of 2022, it’s natural for the 22-time major champ (wow, that’s a lot!) to want to give himself a chance to win another.

Though he isn’t thought of as a force on grass, the two-time Wimbledon champion will be one of the pre-tournament favorites if his body allows him to play.

Truth be told, Nadal has been strong at Wimbledon of late, and really throughout his entire career. He has reached the semifinals in each of his last two appearances at SW19. It took a massive effort for Novak Djokovic to take him out in the semis in 2018, and in 2019 Nadal fell to Federer.

Djokovic will be the top favorite at Wimbledon, but if the six-time champion falters, the opportunity could be there for Rafa to increase the Grand Slam gap yet again.

3. Will Wimbledon bring Nole back to life?

Time and time again the restorative powers of Wimbledon have nurtured Novak Djokovic back to life. The Serb has often found himself at Wimbledon after difficult losses in Paris, where Nadal has typically gotten the better of him – and everyone else. But one trend that has emerged over the years in men’s tennis is this: Djokovic has emerged as one of the best grass-court players in the history of the sport.

In 2022 the Serb will bid for his seventh Wimbledon men’s singles title – currently only Roger Federer (8), William Renshaw and Pete Sampras (7) have more – this year in London, and he will hope to find his footing in the Grand Slam race as well.

He’s in the perfect place to do it. Wimbledon has always been a place of spiritual importance for Djokovic, and reconnecting with that part of himself could be the trick that turns him into a Grand Slam tour de force once again.

4. Can Iga conquer the grass?

This year at Wimbledon Iga Swiatek – she of the jaw-dropping 35-match win streak – will take her talents to the grass, where she is a relative newbie, carrying a 4-4 lifetime record (career-best round of 16 in 2021 at Wimbledon). But what the 21-year-old Pole lacks in experience she will make up with confidence, courtcraft and the ability to rapidly improve her game on any surface.

The biggest change in Swiatek’s game – her willingness to embrace aggressive tactics and play a more proactive brand of tennis – should only help the World No.1 as she seeks to make an indelible footprint on the grass at SW19.

Experience counts for so much at Wimbledon, and we’ll talk about that more down the page, but in this case, Swiatek’s talent, and her ability to pick up skills quickly, could leave her in the same place she has been for the last four months – holding the trophy (or in this case, dish) – at the end of the fortnight.

5. Without Russia and Belarus, who will take advantage of those opportunities?

Three of the ATP’s top eight players will be missing at Wimbledon, two of them because of the tournament’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players (Medvedev, Rublev). That lack of elite talent will open the door for some players to make a run to the second week and perhaps even deeper.

So who stands to benefit?

Here’s where we start to consider grass court experience? Matteo Berrettini, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz have already shown that they can play well at Wimbledon. The fact that many dangerous players – including Russia’s Karen Khachanov – will be missing, makes it all the more likely that the trend will continue.

And don’t sleep on Andy Murray. Always a force when Ivan Lendl is in his coaching box, the Scot – if healthy – could be ready for a return to the second week at Wimbledon.

6. Can Berrettini be a beast on grass?

Speaking of Berrettini, it appears that the Italian has the makings of a future Wimbledon champion. Could 2022 be the year? We saw in 2021, when Berrettini reached the final and fell to Novak Djokovic, that the bomb-serving beast from Rome is a menace to anybody that stands in his way on grass. We saw it in the final, when Berrettini took the opening set before being outclassed by the Serb.

Perhaps the occasion was too big for Berrettini in that maiden Grand Slam final, but if he can engineer a return to the final this year, his potential opponent may not be able to handle him…

7. Which WTA player will make experience count?

Karolina Pliskova has not exactly hit the ground running in 2022. She started her season at Indian Wells after picking up a hand injury during off-season practice. But grass is most definitely a surface that can work for her – and it has worked for her in the past. Pliskova improved to 45-20 on the surface on Wednesday when she rocked past Bianca Andreescu in a third-set tiebreak at Berlin.

Last year’s Wimbledon runner-up won’t be the only one riding the confidence that comes from past experience at SW 19. Jelena Ostapenko, Belinda Bencic and Angelique Kerber are all players that could potentially do damage at Wimbledon. How about 2019 champion Simona Halep?

All of the above have the potential to put their experience to work on Wimbledon’s grass this year.

Petra Kvitova, two-time Wimbledon champion, is another player we must take into account at Wimbledon. The Czech has had a dreadful season thus far, but perhaps a return to her happy place will be the cure.

8. Can Kyrgios pose a threat?

As I write Nick Kyrgios is battling Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set at Halle (update, he won in three). The Aussie will be the player that nobody wants to face in the first – or second, or third, or fourth – round at Wimbledon, because he has the potential to take the racquet out of his opponent’s hand with one of the best serves in the sport.

Now that Kyrgios has a few tournaments under his belt on grass, we wonder: Can he make a deep run at SW19? Things would have to fall into place for the World No.65. He’ll have to keep his cool and not have a meltdown when the pressure gets hot. He’ll have to have a manageable draw and stay healthy. And he’ll have to be consistent, match in and match out.

He’ll have his chances, let’s see if he takes them.

9. Is it Ons’ time to shine?

Since the start of 2021 Ons Jabeur has gone 11-2 on grass. The Tunisian has been breathtaking on all surfaces, but grass might be the one that suits her the best in the end, because of the way it allows her slice to move through the court and how it can enable Jabeur’s lethal combination of finesse and power to be one of the more befuddling bag of tricks on tour.

Last year Jabeur lost to Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinal at Wimbledon. This year she is a more confident athlete, and one that is burning to make a splash on the Grand Slam stage after a disappointing Roland-Garros.

10. Which ATP players can make experience count?

Marin Cilic is in rude form and the former Wimbledon finalist has a great opportunity to keep it up in London if he can make the adjustment from clay to grass without any drop in prowess. The Croatian is one of many players that loves the grass, and in a diluted draw that will not feature the ATP’s top-two players (Medvedev, Zverev), he could have a shot to make another splash at Wimbledon.

And let’s not forget Andy Murray. Things were falling into place for the two-time Wimbledon champion before he suffered an abdominal injury at Stuttgart last week. If Murray is in good health, he could be a factor at SW19. Strides have been made since he re-hired Ivan Lendl to coach him and Murray is once again inside the top-50, and playing like a player ranked even higher.

Put him back on his beloved grass at Wimbledon, and an eye-popping result could follow.

Let’s not forget the fact that some of the ATP’s other top players – namely Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas – aren’t exactly grass gurus. The situation could lead to opportunities for tried-and-true grass court players to push through. Other than Berrettini, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz, we see an opportunity for Denis Shapovalov to get his mojo back after a rough start to 2022. We can also see Roberto Bautista Agut playing well. Not a typical grass court player, the Spaniard has excelled on the surrace in the past.

Grigor Dimitrov is another player who might benefit if opportunities come his way. Botic Van de Zandschulp, a player on the rise on all surfaces, also seems like a potential threat to make a splash at Wimbledon this year.


 

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