Damien Kayat shares with us a comprehensive preview for the men’s draw at Wimbledon 2022.
This is a strange new world we live in. While Greg Norman and his band of mercenaries rip apart the fabric of golf, tennis’ most famous tournament has been relegated to glorified exhibition status.
Let me explain. Wimbledon organizers decided to take a stand against Russia’s Ukraine invasion, banning all Russian and Belarusian players from competing in this year’s event.
Wimbledon has subsequently been stripped of all of its ranking points this season. Clearly, there is still the little matter of exorbitant prize money and a Wimbledon title at stake. But outside of that there is nothing to be gained from competing this year.
John Isner could go on a serving blitz in London, barrelling his way to the Championship final. That should be a heart-warming story to tell prospective tennis players around the campfire.
But all the American’s efforts would count for naught if he lost in the final (save the obvious financial gain).
The men’s draw will also be without its greatest ever champion: Roger Federer. The eight-time Wimbledon champ is apparently planning on a 2023 comeback.
You have to admire the spirit of the man. But what more does he have to prove?
I just see the likes of Carlos Garfia Alcarez and wonder whether Federer may be a relic of the past? Still, Rafa and Nadal are still doing their bit for the so-called ‘Big Three’.
Their seemingly eternal rivalry could very well turn out to be this year’s final. But there are question marks surrounding both players. Novak hasn’t been in sublime form while Rafa is still nursing a knee injury.
But come on. How many Slams has Rafa been on the brink of exiting due to a knee issue?
Despite my misgivings concerning the ranking points saga, this could still be a very entertaining Wimbledon Championships. There are quite a few players in the men’s draw who could stake a claim for this year’s title (and I don’t really think John Isner is one of them).
2021: Novak Djokovic bt Matteo Berrettini (6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3)
2020: event cancelled due to Covid
2019: Novak Djokovic bt Roger Federer (7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12
2018: Novak Djokovic bt Kevin Anderson (6-2, 6-2, 7-)
2017: Roger Federer bt Marin Cilic (6-3, 6-1, 6-4)
The Legends- Wimbledon 2022
Novak Djokovic (4/5) and Rafa Nadal (13/2)
While Novak won’t be able to defend his points from winning last year’s championships, he does go into this year’s event in prime position.
Danil Medvedev’s ban and Alex Zverev’s ghastly Roland Garros injury have allowed him to pick up a fortunate no 1 seeding. This clears the path for a possible 60th encounter between the Serb and 2nd seed Rafa Nadal.
Chasing his first calendar slam, can Rafa possibly extend his Grand Slam tally to 23? Or will Novak turn the tide on his Spanish rival and win his 4th consecutive Wimbledon title?
Which of these two great champions has the best chance of winning?
I have to go with Djokovic. The simple fact is this: Nadal hasn’t appeared in a Wimbledon final for over a decade. Sure, he has evolved over time into an astute grass-court player (thanks in large part to a much-improved first-serve).
But his possible knee concerns could be an issue on these slick surfaces. I also think that Novak will be hugely motivated to succeed this year. He has lost the lustre of unbeatability that he brought into last year’s finals.
Much of that was self-inflicted (I bet he regrets that vaccine decision now). The truth is this: Djokovic’s entire campaign has been stalled by some of his boneheaded ideological beliefs. But he has spent significant time on court now and he has turned into a SW19 maestro in recent years.
Top 10 picks: Wimbledon 2022
Hubert Hurkacz (14/1) and Matteo Berrettini (11/2)
The withdrawals of Medvedev, Zverev and Rublev have led to some slightly wacky seedings. Casper Rudd seeded 3rd for Wimbledon? He has been excellent this season but the Roland Garros finalist looks all at sea on grass.
I was surprised to learn that 4th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas holds a 10-10 win-loss record on this surface throughout his career. Yet to go beyond the 4th round at SW19, I think it’s’ probably best to swerve the Greek this week.
5th seed Carlos Alcaraz Garfia is one for the purists. But he has barely played any professional tennis on grass. I can’t really understand his decision not to play a warm-up event this year. I just think his inexperience could be a detriment this week.
And don’t get me started on Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian disappoints time and time again. I really thought his performances towards the end of last year had set him up for a stellar campaign.
But I just don’t think he has the minerals to crack a Grand Slam at this stage of his career.
My two picks from the chasing pack this week are Hubert Hurkacz and Matteo Berrettini.
Hubert Hurkacz just ticks all the boxes. The 25-year-old Pole has evolved into a fearsome competitor over the last year, winning his maiden Masters 1000 title at last year’s Miami Open.
This year reached the semi-finals in his Miami title defence. He knows how to compete with the best. But what really impresses me is his evolution on grass.
He famously eliminated Roger Federer en route to his semi-final showing at last year’s Wimbledon Championships. And he backed that performance up brilliantly last week, taking down World No.1 Danil Medvedev to claim his maiden ATP 500 title in Halle.
His big serve and forehand are the perfect one-two combination for this service. He has also turned into an accomplished net player, allowing him to utilize a more direct serve-and-volley approach if he doesn’t have his A game.
Matteo Berrettini is probably the hottest grass-court player on the planet. He has surged back from hand surgery to claim back-to-back titles in Stuttgart and Queens.
He is now a back-to-back Queens champion and a two-time Stuttgart champion (he managed to win the 2019 Stuttgart Open without losing his serve once).
And he was the beaten finalist -in last year’s Wimbledon Championships, taking the first-set before Djokovic went into beast mode on centre court.
Berrettini looks well rested and rearing to go. There’s something very Juan Martin Del Potro about him. He serves big and hits mammoth forehands with seemingly languid ease.
He doesn’t overcomplicate his game and this is essential to success on grass (just look at Goran Ivanisevic).
Dark Horses- Wimbledon 2022
Marin Cilic (20/1) and Grigor Dimtrov (66/1)
Marin Cilic is a no-brainer for me this week. There could be an argument made that the 33-year-old has perhaps played a bit too much of late.
But I think he recognises that his Grand Slam chances are fast evaporating and Wimbledon represents his best shot at success. Who could have possibly foreseen his performance at Roland Garros?
Reaching his maiden French Open semi-final (on his least favourite surface) shows you that he is more than ready for this occasion. He is a four-time Queens finalist (winning the title twice).
He is also a Stuttgart champ and former Wimbledon finalist. That Wimbledon final must bring back bittersweet memories for the Croat (his blistered toes left him in tears of anguish as the title slipped away).
He is fresh off a solid semi-final at Queens and I think he is ready to throw everything into this.
This choice is more of a hunch. Grigor Dimitrov hasn’t exactly been on fire this year (though a semi-final run in Monte-Carlo shows you what he is capable of).
I just have a feeling that the mercurial Bulgarian could figure in this slightly weakened Wimbledon. A former semi-finalist here, Dimitrov still possesses the ability to go deep in big events.
Just last year he made it to the semi-finals at Indian Wells. He was also forced to withdraw from his Aussie Open quarterfinal due to back spasms.
The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion also has a Queens title to his name. I doubt he’s going to win Wimbledon this year. But I think he could surprise a few given the right draw.
Longshots- Wimbledon 2022
Nick Kyrgios (20/1) and Andy Murray (20/1)
I’m one of those who has been circumspect in my praise of Nick Kyrgios’ ‘wild genius’. I can recognise that he has plenty of talent. But he only reached two quarterfinals in his Grand Slam career (one of which came at Wimbledon in 2014).
However, I have been encouraged by his consistency of late. He has been 14-5 since the start of Indian Wells. That includes back-to-back grass-court semi-finals at Stuttgart and Halle.
He pulled out of Mallorca with an ‘abdominal strain’. That’s tennis code for ‘I’m getting ready for Wimbledon’. But I think it’s do-or-die time for Kyrgios.
He surely doesn’t want to go down in history as an entertaining charlatan. But his recent consistency does lend me to believe that he could go far this year.
From one abdominal strain to another. 2016 Wimbledon champ Andy Murray was forced to withdraw from Queens due to an abominable strain.
But I think you will find that his was completely legitimate. The five-time Queens champ had the chance to break into the seeds with a strong performance in that event.
As it stands, the Scot could face some tricky opponents in the early stages. I’m opting for Murray due to strong grass-court form. Murray reached the semi-finals of the Surbiton Trophy before reaching the final in Stuttgart.
He pushed current grass-court behemoth Matteo Berrettini to three grueling sets before ultimately losing. This could very well be the last time that the injury-ravaged 35-year-old gets to play in front of his adoring fans.
Could we get a Cinderella story this year?