On Wednesday an announcement from The All England Club confirmed what many have both expected and feared in the world of tennis.
The Wimbledon Championships has been axed from the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been 75 years since the tournament was last dropped from the calendar and that was due to World War Two in 1945. To underline the uniqueness of the decision, the tournament has never been cancelled during peacetime (outside of the World Wars) since its birth in 1877.
“This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen.” AELTC Chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.
“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.”
Nobody can fault the action taken to cancel the grand slam. Coinciding with the announcement, the Department of Heath confirmed that a further 563 people in the UK have died from Covid-19 to bring the total to 2352. It is the first time there has been a rise of over 500.
Still, players are left devastated by the fact no Wimbledon will take place. The tournament is one like no other. It prides itself on tradition whilst trying to incorporate the latest technology to keep in line with the current world. Over the years, it has essentially transformed into a renowned brand. Illustrated by the 500,397 who attended the event last year over a 13-day period. For the players, it is the premier court that is in the hearts of many.
“Every time you come back and play at Wimbledon on Centre Court, you warm up and all you hear is the sound of the ball, your movement, your breathing, because people are so quiet. They really only applaud for good shots. They never applaud for unforced errors. It’s just a very respectful crowd. It’s such a totally different feel to anywhere else in the world.” World No.3 Roger Federer once said.
Federer holds the record for most Wimbledon titles won by a man at eight. He was tantalisingly close to a ninth in 2019 with two match points in the final, but lost to Novak Djokovic in a marathon encounter that lasted nearly five hours. For the Swiss maestro, the tournament is considered his best shot at adding to his grand slam tally.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) April 1, 2020
Kevin Anderson reached the final of the tournament back in 2018 after coming through a marathon exchange with John Isner that lasted 396 minutes. The third-longest match to ever be played at Wimbledon.
“I’ve always had so many great memories at Wimbledon. The grass season will definitely be missed, but the most important thing right now for us to focus on is that we’re all staying healthy and safe at home.” The South African wrote on Twitter.
‘One of the happiest days of my life’
Like Djokovic, Simona Halep will have to wait until 2021 for a chance to defend her title at SW19. Last year she produced a sublime performance in the final when she simply broke down the game of 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams with her high intensity and relentless shot-making. Becoming the first ever Romanian to win a singles trophy there.
“Last year’s final will forever be one of the happiest days of my life! But we are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back! And it means I have even longer to look forward to defending my title.” She said.
For Petra Kvitova the grass-court major has always had a special place in her heart. Following her second triumph at the 2014 Championships, the Czech spoke of her pride of being able to lift the title in front of tennis legend Martina Navratilova. An idol of Kvitova who is the most decorated singles player in Wimbledon history with nine titles.
“Not only is it a special tournament for me, but it’s a tournament that has been part of history for so long that it will leave a big hold in the Calendar,” said Kvitova.
“I will miss playing on the beautiful grass and wearing my whites, BUT of course we know it will be back next year. And Maybe we will all appreciate it even more.”
Billie Jean King knows better than most people how much Wimbledon has changed over the past 50 years. The American, who co-founded the WTA Tour, played her first tournament in 1961 when she won the doubles tournament. Since then, she has attended the All England Club every year without fail in some capacity. Regularly sitting in the royal box alongside many other living legends of the sport. Over an 18-year period King won a record 20 Wimbledon titles in both singles and doubles.
“I have been fortunate to go to Wimbledon every year since 1961 and I am certainly going to miss it this year.” She said.
“Right now, we need to make sure we are taking good care of ourselves and loved ones. These are challenging times for all of us and now is the time for us to do what is right for our world and what works for our sport.”
It is said that you never realise how much something means to you until it is taken away. A sentiment that many current and former players are expressing following the announcement. It is the latest blow in what has been a truly devastating year for both sport and the entire world.
Following the cancellation of Wimbledon, all professional tennis tournaments have also been cancelled until at least July.
Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain
The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans.
Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.
Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.
“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying.
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”
Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.
“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’
Will Kyrgios play?
Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity.
“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …”
Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment.
“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”
The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions.
‘They Have Too Much Power’ – Stan Wawrinka Blasts Selfish Grand Slams
Stan Wawrinka has accused the four Grand Slam tournaments of looking after their interests and failing to hand players their fair share of the money they make from those events.
Wawrinka, who has won three major titles during his career, acknowledges that the prize money has increased in recent years but argues the percentage of profits they redistribute is not high enough. According to Forbes, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) reported a revenue of $472M in 2022 in their financial statements. The total amount of player compensation available at this year’s US Open was in the region of $65m, which was a new record.
“They do not redistribute enough to tennis compared to the income they generate,” Tennis Majors quoted Wawrinka as saying during an interview with L’Equipe. “And they have way too much power because they make [so much] money.
“[The Slams are] where the history of tennis is written… These are the richest Federations which do not redistribute much. Even between them, there is no communication… The income from Grand Slams today is very important and the percentage returned to players is ridiculous. It has hardly increased at all.”
The Grand Slams argue that they have made efforts to increase prize money for players every year. Particularly for those who lose in the early round of their tournaments. For example, those who lost in the first round at the US Open earlier in the season won $81,500. At Wimbledon, first round prize money was £55,000 (roughly $68,900).
These increases have failed to stop the criticism from Wawrinka who believes that the major events are only focused on what is best for them and not the players.
“You are talking about the prize money, not the percentage paid. As revenues have increased significantly at the same time,” he said. “Grand Slam tournaments only concern their interest, for their country and their Federation. Today, we are stuck until the day the players say stop.”
The 38-year-old Swiss is a Grand Slam veteran and has played 221 matches at that level, winning 156 of those. So far in his career, he has earned a total of $18,777,025 in prize money just from those events.
Wawrinka also believes that players are not being consulted enough when it comes to making decisions on the Tour. However, he doesn’t see any need for a union to be formed, such as the PTPA which he believes has made little progress so far in addressing key issues. One example he uses is the move by organizers of the Australian Open to extend their event by an extra day from next year.
“Tennis Australia showed up to say: “We’re starting on the first Sunday”, like that, thank you goodbye,” he said. “Did anyone ask us what we thought about it? No. It’s like that. From the outside, you tell yourself that this is not normal! That means we don’t work together.”
As for the other governing bodies of the sport, in Wawrinka’s view issues are arising due to their current structure with there being too many conflicts of interest. Saying those in charge are taking a more reactive than proactive approach to problems such as injuries being caused by the types of balls being used.
“The real problem with tennis is that most things are done in reaction,” he commented on the matter. “Nobody anticipates anything. We must include the players in the discussions to also explain to them the reasons for such and such discussions.
“When it comes to balls, the tournaments don’t want to agree because they all have a different sponsor, and at the same time we still have to fight to have enough to train with. We [go in circles. I’ve been on the circuit for twenty years and we talk about the same problems over and over again. The problem with tennis is that there are too many governances, too many different entities (ITF, Grand Slam tournaments, ATP, WTA) which only look out for their own interests. Today, the real problem in tennis is the Grand Slams.”
Wawrinka is currently ranked 50th in the world. This season he has won 27 out of 50 Tour-level matches played.
Rafael Nadal To Play Australian Open, Says Tournament Chief
Rafael Nadal will head to Australia at the start of next year to play in the first Grand Slam of the season, according to the Australian Open tournament director.
Craig Tiley has told Nine Network’s ‘The Today Show’ that the former world No.1 will be playing at Melbourne Park. Although there is yet to be any official comment from either Nadal or a member of his team about the matter.
Nadal hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that he may retire next year.
Whilst question marks remain over Nadal’s career, Tiley says he is confident the Spaniard will be playing at the Australian Open in what will be his 19th main draw appearance at the event. He has won the title twice before and was runner-up on four other occasions.
“We can reveal exclusively here that Rafa will be back,” Tiley said.
“He’s been off for most of the year and in talking to him over the last few days he confirmed he will be back, which we’re really excited about, the champion of 2022. That’s awesome.”
Another player tipped to return to action is Nick Kyrgios who has also been hindered by injury in recent months. Kyrgios has played just one match in 2023 due to problems related to his knee and wrist. The setbacks came a year after he reached his maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.
“The one great thing about Nick is that he’s very transparent and very open about how he’s feeling and what he thinks,” The Age newspaper quoted Tiley as saying.
“I personally believe in the communication that he’s very motivated to come back and play in January.
“He loves playing here … he knows everyone wants him to play. It’s just a matter of his health. He’s had a significant injury.
“He’s … in the process of still getting over that … [but] I fully expect him to be here and ready to play.”
Both Nadal and Kyrgios are currently ranked outside the top 200 due to their absences.
The 2024 Australian Open will begin on January 14th. Next year the event will be held over 15 days for the first time in its history.
UPDATE: Since the publication of this article a spokesperson for Nadal has responded to Tiley’s claims by stating that no return date has been set.
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