Wimbledon cancellation sparks Roger Federer and Serena Williams retirement fears… but what are their prospects of playing in 2021 (just weeks before they turn 40!) and will it help Andy Murray’s hip recovery?
- Wimbledon was cancelled this week for the first time since World War II
- Roger Federer and Serena Williams will be 39 by time of 2021 Championships
- Eight-time champion Federer has already targeted next year’s tournament
- Williams tweeted that she was ‘shooked’ after its fate was confirmed
Though expected, the cancellation of this year’s Wimbledon for the first time since the Second World War caused an outpouring of emotion among tennis fans.
Strawberries and cream, Pimm’s, Tim Henman, Sue Barker… it’s all on hold until 2021 as the coronavirus crisis continues to decimate the sporting calendar.
Though such sentiments are secondary in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has sparked fears that a great era of the sport will now draw to an anti-climactic close.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams pose with their Wimbledon trophies in 2012
Roger Federer was ‘devastated’ and Serena Williams ‘shooked’ as they led the reactions to the prospect of no action on the green grass at SW19 this summer.
Both turn 40 next year, just weeks after the 2021 Championships, scheduled for June 28 to July 11. They are the great champions of not just the modern age but all time.
Federer’s chances of coming out on top in the Grand Slam race against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have surely taken a knock, and Serena is now facing a race against time to catch up with Margaret Court.
But 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer is already targeting next year, ‘I can’t wait to come back next year. It only makes us appreciate our sport even more during these times. We are going through difficult times but we will come out of them stronger.’
Serena has so far remained tight-lipped, but it would be a huge shock were she not to walk out on Centre Court in 15 months’ time.
So how will Wimbledon’s cancellation affect the two GOATs and the rest of the game? Sportsmail answer the burning questions.
Federer admitted he was ‘devastated’ after Wimbledon was cancelled on Wednesday
Williams was aiming to win Wimbledon to match Margaret Court’s Slam record of 24
So there’s no Wimbledon this year?
That is the sad truth of the matter. On Wednesday the All England Club confirmed that for the first time in 75 years, since 1945, its doors would remain shut during the summer months.
Wimbledon became the latest major summer sporting event to be called off, with Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics postponed for 12 months.
It follows the postponement of the French Open, which was due to begin in May but has been rescheduled to September 20 – October 4.
‘This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen,’ said Ian Hewitt, All England Lawn Tennis Club chairman.
‘It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of the Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.
Coronavirus forced the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since World War II
The All England Club became the latest victim in sport of the worldwide pandemic
‘Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.’
Unlike Roland Garros, where the clay courts can keep, it was considered impossible for Wimbledon to be moved back to later in the year, or to be played without fans, and so chiefs have pulled the plug entirely.
June 29 to July 12 was the scheduled fortnight for Wimbledon this year, and due to the lack of daylight it will be impossible for the tournament to be played later in the year. Matches at Wimbledon, played outside on grass courts, often run late into the evening on each day of the tournament. Only Centre Court and No 1 Court have a roof to enable indoor matches in case of bad weather or light.
The LTA have also confirmed all pre-Wimbledon tournaments including at The Queen’s Club, Nottingham and Eastbourne have also been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
What tennis is there to look forward to in 2020?
The entirety of the clay and grass court seasons have been wiped out, and though a resumption of the tour is currently scheduled for July 13 in Hamburg, Bastad, Bucharest and Lausanne, don’t hold your breath.
There is increasing speculation over whether anything will happen at all in tennis this season, even though the French Open has pushed itself back to a start date of September 20.
Flushing Meadows, home to the US Open due to begin in late August, is currently seeing some of its indoor facilities converted into a temporary medical centre.
Federer tweeted his reaction to the news that this year’s tournament had been cancelled
Williams tweeted she was ‘shooked’ after hearing the news on Wednesday afternoon
There has been talk of staging the final Slam of the year in Indian Wells, California in December, but that appears unlikely.
The Olympic tournament – the one gold medal missing from Federer’s illustrious haul – is obviously on hold. Even the annual curtain-closer, November’s ATP World Finals are under threat with this year the last to be held at London’s O2 Arena.
In such a globetrotting sport as tennis, with players crossing continents at such regularity, any play while the pandemic rages on appears impractical if not impossible.
The 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo said on Twitter earlier this week: ‘I think we are going to have to draw a line under the 2020 tennis season.
‘An international circuit = players of all nationalities, as well as coaches, spectators and those coming from all four corners of the world to bring these events to life.
‘No vaccine = no tennis.’
What does it mean for Roger Federer and Serena Williams?
Federer claimed the last of his eight titles after beating Marin Cilic on Centre Court in 2017
Novak Djokovic defeated Federer in a five-set epic on Wimbledon’s Centre Court last year
Neither are getting any younger, and any extended wait for tennis to resume will harm their chances of further success.
Federer turns 40 next August, Serena a month later. They have rallied admirably against the fading light in recent years, particularly Williams after she took a long break in 2017 while giving birth to her first child.
Federer has found it increasingly hard in recent years to keep pace with the top of the men’s game, particularly his great rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who are five and six years younger respectively.
He has already made incremental adjustments to his game, more and more favouring serve and volley so as to shorten points and safeguard his stamina. He remains incredibly competitive – reaching at least the last-16 of each Slam he has entered since 2015.
But two semi-final defeats and the agonising loss to Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final show how the hardest hurdle to overcome is often the last.
Serena Williams leaps for joy after winning the 2012 final – one of six triumphs at SW19
Williams has been a losing finalist at the last two Wimbledons, beaten by Simona Halep in 2019
It has been a similar story for Williams since she brought up her 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 2017. It seemed then only a matter of time before she drew level with and overtook Margaret’s Court haul of 24.
But she missed the rest of that year on maternity leave and has since lost four straight Slam finals, including her astonishing meltdown at chair umpire Carlos Ramos in defeat by Naomi Osaka at the US in 2018.
Wimbledon and the US remain her best chances of making history, and no one can doubt a competitive streak which has kept her coming back again and again.
But it would place an enormous strain on her body to go deep in 2021.
Where will it put Federer in the men’s Grand Slam race?
The Swiss legend’s ageing body isn’t his greatest obstacle to future success. Nadal and Djokovic have been his greatest competitors for the past 15 years and they are now breathing down his neck in the Grand Slam race.
The Spaniard is on 19, and if the French goes ahead this autumn then he is odds on to rack up an incredible 13th title there and draw level with Federer.
Federer had originally opted out of the clay court season, but may well think again if it goes ahead with the grass court campaign scrapped and the late summer hard court season looking uncertain.
Rafael Nadal can move level with Federer on 20 Grand Slam at this year’s French Open
Novak Djokovic has won five of the last seven Major titles and has 17 Grand Slams to his name
Djokjovic reclaimed his place at the top of the world rankings with victory in Melbourne in January and he is undoubtedly the form man in world tennis, winning five of the last seven Slams. Only injuries can feasibly stop the 17-time winner from catching up.
But now there is the emergence of the next generation, who have spent years bubbling under the surface. Alexander Zverev finally came good at a Grand Slam, reaching the semis of the Australian, while Dominic Thiem reached his first Major final outside of the Parisian clay.
Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and the teenage Canadian prodigy Felix Auger-Aliassime will all be a year older and more mature in 2021. If they keep in shape and keep their eye in they will inevitably be a bigger threat in a year’s time.
And will Serena ever overtake Margaret Court now?
Williams has come so close but four final defeats to four different opponents illustrates how difficult her task is to get her hands on just more Slam, let alone two.
Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have all beaten her in Major finals since 2018. There is an ever-growing competitive field in the women’s game, packed with young talent that has grown up idolising Serena.
The extraordinary Coco Gauff, who made such an impression as a 15-year-old debutant at the All England Club last year, is developing leaps and bounds all the time.
Serena Williams is still looking to level and overtake Margaret Court’s haul of 24 Slam titles
Ashleigh Barty remains head and shoulders the best women’s player in the world. Sofia Kenin is fast making an impression after winning her first Slam in Melbourne.
It is hard to argue that, reputation aside, Serena no longer stands apart or at the top of the women’s game.
She has become part of a crowded field, and it’s been shown in crunch moments in the last two years that she is fallible. That is the greatest obstacle for her to overcome in pursuit of Slam Nos 24 and 25.
Has Andy Murray got a chance?
A great winner of all this – such as there is – could be former world No 1 Andy Murray.
Wimbledon is the tournament he was so desperate to bow out in before hip resurfacing surgery saved his career. Now it’s become the tournament he is so desperate to make his singles Slam return in.
The Scot has not played since suffering a groin injury last November and it seemed that a return to action for the grass court season was disappearing a few months ago.
He said on Wednesday: ‘Very sad that the Fever-Tree Championships and Wimbledon have been cancelled this year but with all that is going on in the world right now, everyone’s health is definitely the most important thing!
Andy Murray has not returned to the Wimbledon singles since a hip injury flared up in 2017
Murray has built his way back to fitness after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery last year
‘Looking forward to getting back out on the grass next year already! Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.’
His mother, Judy, is ‘sure’ he will be there next year. She told BBC Scotland: ‘It is three months until Wimbledon would have been on and then it will be another 12 months and Andy is still only 33 [he turns 33 next month] and look at [Roger] Federer!
‘He is still going strong at 38, and there’s Serena [Williams, who is also 38], so there is no reason, so long as he stays fit and healthy, why he can’t play at Wimbledon again. It’s the same for Jamie as well.
‘One of the things that Jamie said recently, when he was asked what his goals are or what he still wants to achieve before the end of his career, he said that he wanted to be able to play a Wimbledon with his brother so let’s hope that can happen one day.’
Perhaps another period of rest will help Murray overcome his various injury niggles and stop him from making a premature return that could have hampered his progress.
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