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30th Jun, 2022

Redditch prepares to go tennis crazy for Wimbledon

Correspondent 22nd Jun, 2022

The sun is shining, the shops are full of strawberries and, for one last year, Sue Barker is all over our TV screens. It can only mean one thing – Wimbledon is once again upon us and the people of Redditch are getting ready to join the rest of the country in going tennis crazy for two weeks.

A controversial tournament 

Wimbledon wouldn’t be Wimbledon without some sort of controversy, but this year it has started early. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) announced in April that Russian and Belarussian players would not be permitted to take part due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The LTA said it was simply following government advice, and the move was applauded by Nigel Huddleston, the UK Sports Minister.

However, tennis governing bodies the ATP and WTF said the move was unnecessary, provided the individuals in question played under a neutral flag, as has happened at other Grand Slam events this year, including the recent French Open. They described the LTA’s action as “discriminatory” and as a result, this year’s tournament has been stripped of all ranking points, effectively making it an exhibition event.

Return of some big names 

As a result of the furore, some players have decided to withdraw, most notably the Ladies world number two Naomi Osaka. However, most players feel that the kudos of Wimbledon is worth more than ranking points. As a result, two of the biggest names have raised some eyebrows by confirming they will be playing.

One is Rafael Nadal, who is determined to play despite nursing a foot injury. The 36 year old has played in five Wimbledon finals, winning two of them, but the last was 11 years ago. Despite the injury, he is in brutal form, having won the first two grand slams of the year, so the chance of setting a new record for a “grand slam of grand slams” is something he will not let go lightly.

In the women’s game, there’s an even bigger name with an eye on the record books. Serena Williams turned 40 this year. She has not played tennis professionally since Wimbledon 2021 and she last won a major tournament five years ago. When she announced she would return to competitive action at this year’s Wimbledon, it is fair to say the sports odds went into free fall. Serena means so much to so many people, and she needs just one more grand slam to equal Margaret Court’s record. For her to do so at Wimbledon, the place of so many magical memories, and after a year away would be a real sporting fairytale.

And let’s be honest, it’s the promise of fairytales that makes events like Wimbledon more than just sporting events. It’s also why for two weeks every July we all go a little tennis-crazy, even if we usually have little interest in the sport. So settle back, pour a little extra cream on those strawberries, open the Pimm’s and let the magic begin!

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