Grass court tennis is a fickle master. It takes years of experience to cultivate the skills and learn the subtleties to compete well and win on this fast and slick surface. For several years, Wimbledon changed the type of grass, and therefore, the speed of the ball in order to enhance the length of rallies; however, the current surface leads to the speed and traction of old. Because of the specialized skill sets needed to excel on grass, and the amount of offense needed to win on fast surfaces, only five ATP players have a decent chance of winning the big W.
Tied at “most likely to win the grass slam” are the obvious choices of Novak and Rafa. With his well-documented Covid saga, his ongoing fitness issues, his leading role in the creation of a professional players group that is a threat to the ATP, and the year-long gap since he won his last major with Wimbledon 2021, Djokovic’s chances are tenuous at best. Nadal’s confidence is high with his Australian and French open victories and his ascent up the ATP rankings in 2022. He has his list of issues including the foot problem, the short time period between the clay and grass season, and his three-year absence from Wimbledon, a tournament he has not won since 2010. Moreover, his two Wimbledon titles were on the slower, more experimental grass. These two GOATS are nevertheless still obvious favorites because they are simply better than everyone else; they have been through the wars, fighting off all up and comers despite their advanced age.
The other three guys with a solid chance of holding up the cup are Matteo Berrettini, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hubert Hurkacz. Berrettini who made the Wimbledon final last year, has fared well this grass court season winning Queens and Stuttgart; his huge serve and big forehand can allow him to move deep through the draw if the big two falter. Tsitsipas competes well, comes forward extremely well, and has world class inner-belief in his game. Hurkacz, who is certainly fit enough, just won the Halle Open, demolishing Medvedev, a co-favorite to win at Wimbledon if not for the puzzling ban on Russian players. These three contenders have a near equal chance of winning their first majors, but to do so, they will need early exits from Novak and Rafa.
Other notable players that have the best chance among “the others” are Alcaraz, Čilić and Sinner. Carlos does not have enough experience on grass to win . . . yet. Čilić has the game but not the big match winning experience of late. He, too, comes to the fortnight at an advanced age, so fitness in the best of five matches is a real factor. Sinner is young, hungry, talented and good on fast courts, but up to this point he has not yet shown grand slam-winning skills.
We all want a Rafa vs Novak showdown in the 2022 Wimbledon final for another historical event in ATP tennis history. Will Djokovic win his 21st and move closer in slams while taking the lead in their head-to-head rivalry? Will Nadal further cement his status as the GOAT while also chasing the same year Grand Slam and the number one year-end ranking? The likely scenario is that both guys will not come through all the way to the final with all of the fire power they will have to face on the grass in the early rounds of the tournament. In the end though, we can all hope to be so fortunate to witness this magical final during Breakfast at Wimbledon on the final Sunday.
Bridge the Gap Tennis