The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club is once again opening its doors to the world for two weeks to host the most storied tennis tournament in the world. On the Men’s side, a three-headed monster will seek to maintain its dominance (bordering on ritual humiliation) of today’s youth. On the Women’s side, there’s a newly crowned #1 and an aging legend looking to her regain her crown and make history.
Australian 23-year-old Ashleigh Barty’s win at the French Open lifted her from #8 to #2 in the world, and she then followed that up with a win at Birmingham, which earned her enough points to lift her to the top spot, past Naomi Osaka. Going back to her victory in the finals over Marketa Vondrousova at the French, Barty has won six consecutive matches in straight sets.
But the glory was short-lived for Barty, who this past week pulled out of the Nature Valley International citing a chronic shoulder injury that has dogged her since she was 16. “It comes up when I’ve had a spike in workload. It’s a bone stress injury,” she explained. “We just have to be careful that we manage it properly the next three or four days, to make sure I’m ready to go.” The injury dogged her throughout the French and was the reason she bailed on playing doubles at Birmingham.
Reigning Australian Open champ Osaka will be on hand trying to reclaim her spot atop the rankings, though she hasn’t played terribly well since January, as she’s failed to beat a top 20 player in that time. Most recently she fell 6-2 6-3 to Yulia Putintseva in the round of 16 at Birmingham.
The big question mark, of course, is Serena Williams, who’s yet to regain her Grand Slam title form since giving birth to her first child. She made the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open last year, but she was knocked out of the quarterfinal round in Australia and in the third round at the French. Williams had played a light schedule this year, partly due to both injury and illness, not taking the court since falling in the round of 32 at the French.
Annoyingly, Williams also found herself ensnared in the midst of some ginned up outrage over a faux scandal wherein she was labelled a diva. Here, let’s let the self-anointed “Commissioner of Tennis,” John McEnroe, set the record straight…
At 37 years of age, time may be running out for Williams to tie Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles in the Open Era. She’s but one win away — could she make history at this year’s tournament? Many women have regained their championship form after giving birth, but Father Time remains undefeated against world-class athletes. She’s won at Wimbledon seven times, second only to Martina Navratilova, and this would be the perfect setting to match Court’s record.
On the Men’s side, there is nothing new under the sun. Rafael Nadal won the French Open last month, as is his custom, pulling himself within two grand slam titles of Roger Federer’s record of 20. In the wake of that win, Rafa maintained the #2 spot in the rankings, but last weekend, while Nadal was watching footie, Federer was winning the Halle Open and pushing himself past Nadal into the #2 spot. With Nadal now ranked #3 in the world, it means he’ll be on the same side of the draw as world #1 Novak Djokovic.
As noted ahead of the French Open, there is no active male player in his twenties with a Grand Slam title, so until one of those guys makes some noise, there’s not much else to concern ourselves with. How weak is the current field of upstarts? Federer’s win at the Halle made him the oldest player ever to win a grass event in the Open era.