At a time when all eyes are trained on the Next Gen – not to mention the Next Next Gen – at every Grand Slam event, this year’s Wimbledon (27 June-10 July) could have some fans swimming in nostalgia. With Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic still very much favourites, three other leading lights of world tennis will be gracing the 2022 tournament: Serena Williams, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray.
Serena, Andy and Stan: The old guard are back!
To the joy of tennis fans everywhere, Serena Williams, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka will all be turning out at Wimbledon 2022.
Andy Murray: The fire still burns
“People keep asking me if this is my last Wimbledon, my last match. No! I’m going to carry on playing. I want to play. I love playing. I can still play at the highest level.” Nearly a year ago to the day, a rejuvenated, beaming Andy Murray beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round in SW19. Though his run came to an end two rounds later (his best Grand Slam performance since having his metal hip fitted), the local hero promised he would be back, and in even better shape if at all possible.
The Briton is a man of his word. In April, he resumed his partnership with Ivan Lendl – the coach with whom he achieved his greatest triumphs – before skipping the Rome Masters and Roland-Garros to prepare for the grass season, a strategy that has already borne fruit. “This year, I’ve trained three weeks on grass and had good sessions,” he said after his first-round win in Stuttgart. “I had some good matches last week and I hope to have a few more in the next fortnight.” The former world No. 1 showed there was nothing wrong with his game in Germany, beating Alexander Bublik, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios en route to the final.
Though an abdominal injury prevented him from being at his best in the final against Matteo Berrettini and forced him to miss Queen’s, the Scot, now ranked 51 in the world, has every reason to believe he can shine at the All England Club. “I practised really well the last few months and worked on a lot of things with my team,” the two-time Wimbledon champion (2013 and 2016) said on Monday. “I’m in a good place tennis wise. Physically I do feel good overall, I just unfortunately got this slight injury, which is frustrating.” Images of him training with another comeback kid will prove reassuring for his fans.
Stan Wawrinka: Patience is a virtue
Another player who loves a good fight is the returning Stan Wawrinka. Out of action for a year following two operations on his left foot, the 37-year-old Swiss earned widespread admiration when making his comeback on the clay of Marbella in late March, an indication of his unquenchable desire to play, regardless of the difficulties involved. “If I lose and I’m playing OK, it won’t be the disaster or the end of the world that it would if I were on top form,” he said before his first-round match against Elias Ymer. “I’m realistic. I know it might take time for me to get back to where I want to be.”
A tough competitor, the 2015 Roland-Garros champion has suffered setback after setback but has never stopped trying to recapture his best form. He showed tantalising signs of it in beating Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere in Rome to record his first back-to-back wins of the season. Though Stan the Man failed to build on those wins at Roland-Garros, losing in the first round to Corentin Moutet, he is as motivated as ever for the grass season. The surface may not be his favourite, but the Swiss has just scored the most impressive win of his season in the first round at Queen’s, beating Frances Tiafoe 7-6 6-7 7-6 in two hours 47 minutes, a gruelling contest in which he conjured up some outstanding winners.
The recipient of a wildcard at Wimbledon, the current world No. 265 is likely to face a seed in the first round, this at a tournament where he has never ventured beyond the quarter-finals, though the most important thing for Wawrinka in the days ahead is to continue rediscovering his feel and to strive for consistency. Whatever the case may be, the sight of him and his magical backhand on the courts of SW19 is sure to please the fans.
Serena Williams: The icing on the cake
While the welcome reappearances of Murray and Wawrinka at Wimbledon 2022 were both largely expected, Serena Williams’ announcement that she is also returning to action at the season’s next Grand Slam has caused consternation. A first-round retiree last year, the 23-time Grand Slam winner told her social media followers she would be making the trip to London before receiving an official invitation from the tournament organisers.
Speculation about the retirement of the seven-time Wimbledon champ had been mounting in recent weeks, which has made her reappearance even more of an event. Nearly 40 years and nine months old, the younger of the Williams sisters has decided that her remarkable career is not yet over. Serena returned to action in Eastbourne this week, playing doubles with the in-form Ons Jabeur. Delighted to be teaming up with the one-time queen of the Tour, the Tunisian world No. 3 said: “It was tough but I can keep a secret and this one was worth it. It’s an honour that she chose me to make her return with. I’m so happy and I hope we’re going to have a great tournament together. I’m nervous but raring to go. I’m feeling all the emotions you’d expect to feel when you’re playing with a legend. I really can’t wait. She’s the queen. She’ll choose her side and I’ll just do what she says.”
Time will tell how the comeback goes, though Williams has handled it to perfection so far, just as she did in 2018, when she returned to the courts a few months after giving birth to her daughter Olympia. That season she reached the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. And though it is hard to imagine her repeating that feat this time around – such are the demands at the very highest level – there is not a player in the draw who will want to cross swords with the current world No. 1204.