|Event: All England Club Dates: June 27-July 10|
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As far as unintended consequences go, Wimbledon’s decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus, leading to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev cementing his position as the new men’s world number one, could be seen as an uncomfortable irony. .
It also speaks volumes about the complexity of a situation that promises to be one of the main talking points of the 2022 Championships, which start on Monday.
The grass-court Grand Slam move, taken due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has received a mixed reaction: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the former top-ranked men’s player, called the decision “crazy”.
The subsequent response by the ATP and WTA governing bodies to remove ranking points from arguably the sport’s grandest stage led multiple major tournament winner Naomi Osaka to describe this year’s Championships as if it would have been effectively reduced to a “showcase” event.
He has created a scenario that will have significant ramifications for players, from those at the top to young Brits hoping to climb the ladder.
But what exactly does all this mean?
The main winners and losers at the top
On the surface, the biggest losers will be those who, like Djokovic, performed well at Wimbledon last year and won’t be able to defend the points they won.
Djokovic, a six-time All England Club champion, will be hit hard by the removal of ranking points as he was unable to retain any of the 2,000 points he earned from triumphing at SW19 last year. He could, as a result, finish seventh in the standings.
Having lost his world number one status two weeks before this year’s tournament, the 20-time major winner will fall further adrift of Russia’s Medvedev who, despite not being able to play, will drop just 180 points by comparison after a last -16 departure in 2021.
Last year’s men’s runner-up Matteo Berrettini, another hard hit, wishes the “unfair” decision to strip Wimbledon of its ranking points had been dealt with better.
“It’s one of the biggest decisions the ATP has made in the last 20 years. I wish it would be handled differently,” said the Italian world number 11.
“I understand that we are living in difficult times, I just wish this decision was made differently. Nobody contacted the players and asked for our opinion.”
“I don’t think it’s fair, but I understand that it’s a really complicated situation.”
The ATP said the Wimbledon decision, taken to “limit Russia’s global influence” in line with UK government policy, “undermines” its principle of ensuring players of all nationalities can “participate in tournaments in function of merit and without discrimination”.
The move is also set to shake up the WTA rankings.
Belarusian world number six Aryna Sabalenka, a semi-finalist last year, and Czech world number seven Karolina Pliskova, the defeated 2021 finalist, are the 10 players who will suffer the most.
Pliskova, who will at least still be able to enter the tournament, said last month that the opportunity to win the trophy was her motivation to return, but that she could drop out of the top 15.
On the other hand, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist, and Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova are banned, as are Russians Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, eighth and 22nd respectively.
Rublev, who has spoken out against the war in Ukraine, previously called the Wimbledon ban “total discrimination”.
“I think everyone will play Wimbledon no matter [of the points decision]said the champion of Queen Berrettini.
“It will be record prize money this year so everyone is willing to play, but also because it’s Wimbledon and one of the biggest tournaments we have.”
Points or prizes: what is it about below?
It is not just those at the top who will be affected.
Emerging young players can also lose out on valuable points, in a sport where an improved ranking can offer a springboard for greater sponsorship and endorsement opportunities, as well as a greater chance of securing more regular appearances at major events.
“Obviously at the moment ranking points are a big thing for me as I go forward,” said 22-year-old Briton Paul Jubb, who has been awarded a Wimbledon wild card.
“But the paycheck is also a good advantage for me at the moment,” the world number 219 added.
For lower-ranked players, some of whom predominantly compete to make ends meet in the world of professional tennis, first-round money at Grand Slams can often dwarf earnings from smaller competitions.
This year, a player will earn £50,000 for playing a main draw match at Wimbledon, up to eight times the amount available for the same achievement at an ATP or WTA 250 event.
A win in the singles draw can raise the prize money figure to £78,000.
All things considered, the absence of points does not diminish the appeal of Wimbledon for Jubb as he looks to maintain an upward trajectory.
“The experience of playing with all these great players is very important at the beginning of your career,” said the Briton.
“I think without the ranking points there are still many, many positives for me to play there.”
For young British players, there are also the potential life-changing opportunities that come with playing in front of expectant home fans to consider.
An appearance at SW19 offers a chance to rub shoulders with the greats, just as Jack Draper experienced against Djokovic last year.
Making his Wimbledon main draw debut, the 19-year-old wildcard took on the then world number one on Center Court to kick off the 2021 Championships.
He managed to win the first set before losing to the eventual champion.
“I’m really looking forward to playing, whether there are points or not,” said Draper, who debuted in the top 100 in the world earlier this month.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate, but it’s a bit of an impossible situation for everyone involved, for Wimbledon and the players.
“But it will still be a really big tournament.”