Wimbledon 2022 men's preview: With Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal vulnerable, can a first-time winner emerge?
If you look at a list of all the Wimbledon men's singles winners after 2002, you'll only see four names: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. For almost 20 years, those four have ruled Wimbledon, with Djokovic winning the last three.
This is the year that could change, because it feels like 2022 Wimbledon is wide open for the men.
Looking at those four players, only Federer will be missing from the All-England Club as he's still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Murray has been dealing with injuries and hasn't been a real threat this season. Nadal has some momentum after his victories at the Australian Open and French Open, but his chronically injured foot — which had to be anesthetized during the French Open — could be a real issue on the unforgiving grass. Djokovic won Wimbledon in 2021 (which is the last Grand Slam he won) but has struggled to return to form following his deportation from Australia just hours before the Australian Open began in January.
With age and injuries catching up to Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, this could be the year when their stranglehold on Wimbledon finally ends. Matteo Berrettini is coming in with a hot hand after winning the last two tournaments he's played since returning from hand surgery. Carlos Alcaraz had a brilliant run at the French Open and will be well rested as the tournament begins. Hubert Hurkacz made his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon last year, and is back in the top 10 after winning the Halle Open. Even Nick Kyrgios has looked strong lately. Any of these players could go on a tear and ride the lightning all the way to the finals.
Regardless of who wins, it won't have any impact on the overall standings. The ATP will not be awarding any ranking points at Wimbledon following their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players due to Russian president Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Daniil Medvedev, who is currently the No. 1 player in the world, is not allowed to compete.
Players to watch at Wimbledon 2022
Djokovic has been the odds-on favorite to win most Grand Slams for the last several years, but the incident in Australia that caused him to be deported definitely changed that. It took a toll on his game, and he was still trying to get back into top form mere weeks before the French Open, where he was beaten by eventual champion Rafael Nadal. He looked fine in Paris, but the dominant Djokovic we saw last year when he won Wimbledon (and the French Open and the Australian Open) hasn't made an appearance yet. He's still one of the top five men's tennis players in the world (No. 3 according to the ATP), but the cracks are starting to show.
Nadal has never seemed closer to retirement (especially after announcing that he and his wife are expecting their first child), yet his inherent talent and skill are still keeping him freakishly competitive. After he won the French Open for a mind-blowing 14th time, he revealed he played most of his matches at Roland Garros on an anesthetized foot due to a very painful degenerative foot disease. He's desperate to find a permanent solution, because without it, he acknowledged that he simply won't be able to continue playing. He recently had two nerve therapy sessions on his foot and said that his intention is to "try and play Wimbledon," but that's far from a promise.
Berrettini has been on a steady incline for the past two years. He had an outstanding Grand Slam showing in 2021 with a fourth-round finish, two quarterfinal finishes, and a finals loss. He started 2022 by making the semifinals at the Australian Open, losing to eventual champion Nadal, but was derailed in March by a hand injury that needed surgery. Rehabbing his hand cost him nearly three months, but he came back swinging in June, winning both the Stuttgart Open and the Queen's Club championships. Berrettini is great on grass, and he has plenty of experience at Wimbledon: his Grand Slam finals loss last year was at Wimbledon.
It's hard to know how great Alcaraz is on grass since he's spent barely a hot minute on the tour. He made his debut at Wimbledon in 2021 and lost in the second round, a finish he's obviously looking to improve on. Due to an elbow issue he hasn't played since he exited in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, which also means he hasn't played on grass since Wimbledon last year. Despite his maturity, Alcaraz is so young (just 19), and with all the high expectations everyone has for him, it's easy to forget that this is just his second season as a pro. We're still learning about Alcaraz's game, and he's still learning too.
Murray is the last British man to win on home soil at Wimbledon (he won in 2013 and 2016), and while he may not have the juice to go all the way this year, he looks sharp enough to be competitive. Considering Murray's two hip surgeries, that's close to a miracle. He has been dealing with an abdominal strain that forced him to withdraw from the Queen's Club Championships, but that's not expected to hold him back at Wimbledon. Underestimate him at your own risk.
Other notable players
Kyrgios hasn't stopped being a handful on the court, but lately he's started to match his big mouth with big play. He made it to the semifinals in the last three tournaments he's played, showing a consistency we haven't seen from him in a while. He had to pull out of the Mallorca Open on Wednesday due to an abdominal strain, but it appears to be mostly precautionary. He could make a deep run at Wimbledon.
Fritz is the highest-ranked American man on the ATP Tour right now, and the hope is that he — or any of the Americans — can break through. The U.S. hasn't had a player at or near the top of the rankings in years. The last American man to even make it to the finals at Wimbledon was Andy Roddick in 2009, when he lost to Federer. You have to go back another nine years to find the last American champion, which was Pete Sampras in 2000. The U.S. continues to look for its next tennis star, and why shouldn't it be Fritz (or any of the other American men on the Tour)?
Medvedev is Russian and will not be at Wimbledon due to their punitive ban. And it's a shame, because he's looked excellent this year. He's reached the late rounds of most the the tournaments he's played over the last few months, and returned to the No. 1 spot on the ATP rankings a few weeks ago. While he won't be able to add to his points total at Wimbledon, no one else will either. And fortunately the U.S. Open decided against banning any players from its tournament, so Medvedev will be able to defend his 2021 U.S. Open title in late August.
Zverev tore three ligaments in his right ankle during his semifinal match against Nadal at the French Open, and will be out for awhile as he rehabs from reparative surgery. It's not clear when he'll be back, but he said recently that he wants to make a deep run at the U.S. Open — but only if he's ready and in top form.