Centre Court in all its gloryWikimedia Commons

Wimbledon 2023, beginning on Monday (03/07), marks the return of the world’s most renowned tennis tournament back into the fold of the wider tennis community. Last year, the tournament was marred with controversy as Russian and Belarusian players were banned from competing due to the invasion of Ukraine. The banning of these players was opposed by the wider tennis community, particularly its governing bodies: the ATP and WTA. In response, sanctions were imposed on Wimbledon so that no ranking points were awarded. This year, Wimbledon is allowing Russian and Belarusian players to play, knowing that another year without ranking points will devalue the tournament in the long term. There are still conditions, however, which Russian players have to follow to compete, like not representing any Russia-based sponsors or anything in support of the Russian state. As has been the case for some years, they will not be playing under the Russian flag.

The women’s tour was more affected by this ban than the men’s tour, primarily because Russia has a rich history of producing elite female players. If the ban had persisted this year, seven out of the top 25 WTA players would not have competed, compared to three in the men’s tour. Their inclusion means we can finally analyse the full WTA tour. Since last year the tour has stabilised, and three women have separated themselves from the field.

Many will be expecting the next Wimbledon champion to be one of Iga Świątek, Aryna Sabalenka, and Elena Rybakina. This new “Big Three” have won the majority of the largest tournaments in the last twelve months. Rybakina was last year’s surprise Wimbledon champion; she has shown since then that her victory was the start of a successful career at the top of women’s tennis. She will aim to defend her title this year against a field inexperienced on grass courts. However, her title chances are in the balance due to a viral infection in her lungs that has kept her out for weeks. If she can play, her main competition will be world No 1 and four-time grand slam winner Iga Świątek. Thought to be a clay court specialist, it would be naive to doubt her incredible prowess and dominance which translate well onto any surface. It’s only a matter of time before she seizes her first Wimbledon title and she will be looking to complete the Channel Double after winning the French Open in mid-June. The last of the three, Sabalenka – a Belarusian – was not able to play last year. Bizarrely, for someone ranked second in the world, she is a dark horse for this title. She has the least experience on grass and will likely be hindered by her movement. However, her overwhelmingly powerful tennis, particularly a potent serve, will certainly help her and may even take her far in the tournament.


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As far as parity in competition goes, the men’s tour is far less interesting than the women’s tour. Novak Djokovic has more Wimbledon titles than anyone else in the entry list has grand slams. He’s played more grass court matches than all other top ten players combined and is going for his eighth Wimbledon title (and third in a row) to reach 24 grand slam titles; he clearly wants to match the great Martina Navratilova. After winning both the Australian and French Opens, he’s also on track to complete the calendar Grand Slam, a feat he fell just short of in 2021, losing out to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open. It may seem unjust to pre-emptively crown him a champion, but this is almost certain given his years of unmatched experience. As with most of his grand slam wins, he will have to face adversity, and this year his main challenge will be world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard is the face of the next generation in men’s tennis, and a US Open champion. If both make it to the final it will be a fascinating showdown, particularly because in their last meeting Alcaraz seemed to balk at the pressure and sustained painful cramps after the second set. Would he be able to contain his nerves on the biggest stage of all? He’ll need all the help he can get to prevent another Djokovic procession.

Wimbledon is set to be an event where history is made. Compared to prior years, there is a smaller pool of potential winners, but this won’t detract from the entertainment value. A Djokovic win could crown him as the greatest male tennis player ever. On the women’s side, Iga Świątek will be looking for her fifth grand slam at 20. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for Venus Williams who was granted a wild card into the tournament, in what could be one of her last tournaments.