After 2020’s cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wimbledon is back on the sporting calendar.
Here, the PA news agency picks out five talking points ahead of this year’s tournament.
Back, but not as we know it
There was no action at SW19 for the first time since World War Two in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, so it makes a welcome return this year. However, it will be slightly different as the new world of tournament bubbles and fan restrictions continue. One of the reasons why the players enjoy this grand slam so much is the social life as they rent houses in the chic Wimbledon village and surrounding areas. However, that is not going to be happening this year as all players must stay in an approved hotel and only travel to the tournament site. Players will be told not to sign autographs or take photos with fans, and access to the practice courts will be restricted. Numbers on spectators have also been restricted throughout the tournament until the two singles finals.
Murray’s last hurrah?
Two-time champion Andy Murray will be back competing in the singles for the first time since 2017 after being granted a wild card. The Scot has had two operations and a metal hip inserted since he limped out at the quarter-final stage four years ago and his career has been derailed as a result. The 34-year-old is battling constant injury issues which are restricting his ability to put together a number of matches as he tries to make a comeback and how long he is prepared to put up with that remains to be seen. Wimbledon is Murray’s happy hunting ground, but there is a chance that this is the last time the fans get to see him here.
Big name absences
While Murray is back in the draw, this year’s tournament will be missing two of the biggest names in the sport as two-time champion Rafael Nadal and world number two Naomi Osaka have both withdrawn. Nadal, who last won at SW19 11 years ago, will not compete in order to prolong his career as he struggles with the transition from clay to grass. Osaka has been taking time away from the court since withdrawing from the French Open for mental health reasons amid a furore around her refusal to fulfil media duties and will not return in time for Wimbledon.
Serena going for history
Will this be the year that Serena Williams finally breaks the record she currently shares with Margaret Court of 23 grand slam titles in the open era? The American equalled Court’s number in 2017 when she won the Australian Open while pregnant, but has been unable to add to her tally since her comeback from giving birth. Wimbledon appears to be her best chance of doing it, having made it to the last two finals, but on both occasions she was outplayed by Angelique Kerber in 2018 and then Simona Halep 12 months later. She has won seven titles on Centre Court so it would be the fitting place to do it and would be a nice 40th birthday present ahead of her landmark celebration in September.
One more Manic Monday
This year will be the last time we see ‘Manic Monday’ as tournament organisers are scrapping a Wimbledon tradition from 2022. Traditionally there is no play on the middle Sunday as everyone catches their breath after a busy first week, meaning that all men’s and women’s fourth-round singles matches are played on the second Monday, earning the nickname Manic Monday. However, with the development of grass courts meaning they no longer need a rest, the All England Club has decided to move in line with the other three grand slams by scheduling play on all 14 days.