A lot happened in a memorable fortnight marked by absences, nerves, and talent. Here are the main takeaways from the world’s most prestigious tennis event.
From Russia, with Love
Because of the war in Ukraine, Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarussian players from competing in the event. This decision was met with near-universal disdain by top players, who feel that punishing individuals for where they are born is against the founding principles of the tours. Because of Wimbledon’s decision, the WTA and ATP decided to strip the event of its ranking points, a decision that will have ramifications going forward. Wimbledon’s justification for banning Russian players was simple: they do not want to allow Moscow to use the event as a platform for its regime.
Which is why it is almost comical that a Russian-born player, Elena Rybakina, won the women’s event. Although born and raised mostly in Moscow, Rybakina elected to represent Kazakhstan in international competition, presumably because Russia has had an especially deep field of top players on the women’s tour for the better part of two decades. As expected, Russia claimed Rybakina’s victory as a “product of the Russian system”. The sole benefit of Wimbledon’s ban ended up being entirely useless.
Bizarrely, the rankings of both men’s finalists will plummet in the coming weeks. Novak Djokovic bested Australian Nick Kyrgios in 4 sets, capturing his 21st grand slam title, one behind Rafael Nadal. Kyrgios’s performance would have put him at number 17 in the world following his run, but instead, he loses his 2021 points and thus drops all the way to 45. Likewise, Djokovic will drop top number 7 in the world after losing his points for capturing last year’s trophy, catapulting Russian Daniil Medvedev to the top spot. Wimbledon’s decision just keeps looking worse and worse for the entire tour, and it did not even achieve its stated purpose.
COVID’s Staying Power
COVID is still wreaking some havoc on tennis, even if not in the form of lockdowns. There are no set procedures for testing and reporting requirements. That is why when Matteo Berrettini, last year’s finalist, withdrew early in the tournament, some questioned why he did so. He was not actually required to get tested, so he could have tried to overcome the virus and play his matches. Another former finalist, Marin Cilic, suffered the same fate.
Testing, lockdown, and isolation requirements that dominated the 2021 season are essentially gone from the game. Like much of society, tennis has become increasingly apathetic about COVID. Still, though, it might have historic implications. Following the final, Djokovic stated that he would not be getting a vaccine to travel to the United States to play in the US Open. So, unless the US changes its law requiring visitors to be vaccinated, Novak Djokovic will be missing multiple majors during some of his best years, and that may keep him from passing Rafael Nadal in the all-time grand slam race.