photo : abcnews
The tournament isn’t being canceled, there’s no daily testing, and most players are happy and healthy, but covid unfortunately still exists. Two huge names have already been taken as victims at Wimbledon.
The defending runner-up, Matteo Berrettini, and 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic withdrew prior to their first round matches with the illness. Both players announced the news on their personal Instagram accounts.
They were two of only five men in the men’s draw that had previously played in a Wimbledon final (Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray) and were considered among the favorites.
Cilic lost the 2017 final to Roger Federer and has reached the quarterfinals on three other occasions. The former world No. 3 had fallen off the past few seasons until a surprise run to the Roland Garros semi-finals last month rejuvenated his career.
That success carried over to the grass season with another semi-final run at Queen’s Club. His ranking rose to number 17 and resulted in a 14th seed at Wimbledon. Cilic was in the section of the draw with Rafael Nadal. Many had their eyes on that potential round of 16 collision.
Berrettini was arguably the biggest and maybe only threat to Nadal and Djokovic. The Italian was the only player to challenge Djokovic at last year’s championships, taking the opening set of the final.
He was also undefeated on grass this season, winning titles in Stuttgart and Queen’s Club. His withdrawal further opens the draw for Nadal who could have played him in the semifinals.
Djokovic and Nadal are now the clear favorites to reach the final and battle each other for a 60th time with the Wimbledon title on the line. Their biggest challenge could be not catching covid themselves. The legends were seen practicing with Berrettini and Cilic prior to the tournament.
Before this year, players were not allowed to practice on Centre Court; however, that was reconsidered after many players felt the court was too slippery in 2021. One of those players was Serena Williams who tore her hamstring.
Allowing practice before the tournament would give the grass a chance to get worn in and be less lush and slick. All other courts at the All England Club are used for practice and in the past have had fewer falls.
Wimbledon placed a time limit of 30 minutes per player on Centre Court. Because of this limit, most top players chose to practice with another player to get more time on court which is another rare sight at a grand slam.
It’s been nearly a week and Novak and Rafa have not shown any symptoms of illness but they’re not out of the woods yet. There’s still a chance those historic practice sessions will come back to haunt them.