The Wimbledon 2022 field is notably weakened by several important absences: to being with, the most successful player in the history of the tournament, 8-time champion Roger Federer, is still injured and will not feature in the Wimbledon main draw for the first time since 1998. In addition, Russian players are banned from the tournament, which means world #1 Daniil Medvedev and #8 Andrey Rublev will also not be present. Finally, world #2 Alexander Zverev hasn’t yet recovered from the injury that forced him to retire against Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros semifinals and will also not be at the All England Club. Somehow, though, the absence of the top 2 ranked player in the world doesn’t seem all that meaningful as the entire tennis narrative at the moment is focused on the Grand Slam race between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who are both fit and ready to fight for a 23rd and 21st Slam respectively.
The other big story of the fortnight might well be Andy Murray though. The former #1 won this tournament in 2013 and 2016 and will have full support of the crowd, especially in the absence of Federer. After he won Wimbledon in 2016 and followed it up by getting to #1 in the rankings, Murray looked destined to win more titles at SW19 but as it turned out he reached the quarterfinals in 2017 and never did anything meaningful again. A metal hip later, Murray has become sort of a late career Lleyton Hewitt-esque figure on tour, winning some epic and memorable matches but never really contending for the biggest tournaments. As he recently said, though, he still holds out hope of a return to the biggest stages in the sport, to play another Slam final.
As hard as that is to picture right now, Wimbledon 2022 might be one of Murray’s last opportunities left for that one last fairytale run. He’s playing on his favorite surface, with full crowd support and has been showing some very good form on grass. In the lead-up to Wimbledon, he beat the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios to get to the Stuttgart final, where he was only defeated by Matteo Berrettini, who’s been clearly the second best grasscourter in recent years and arguably the third favorite at Wimbledon after Djokovic and Nadal.
Looking at the draw, in the first three rounds you see opponents that Murray should be able to beat on this surface, starting with James Duckworth today. In the 4th round, you see Carlos Alcaraz, who looks primed to win Slams soon but definitely lacks experience on grass; it’s a big question mark at best how he will perform on this surface. Should he get to the quartefinals, Murray’s opponent would be Novak Djokovic, who Murray famously beat in the Wimbledon 2013 final and never lost a set to on grass. On paper, Djokovic would be a huge favorite, but he hasn’t played much this year and Murray knows how to play him on grass so there’d be some hope.
With all this said, Murray’s campaign could just as easily end on the first day with a lackluster performance, but that’s what makes him one of the most intriguing players in the tournament; he has it in him to beat pretty much anyone on a given day on grass, but is no longer even a shadow of the consistent force he was in his prime. He does believe he has one last great run left in him and it’d not be wise to doubt him given his fighting spirit. It’ll definitely be one of the most interesting plots to follow this fortnight.