From Ukraine to Djokovic via Murray, the key Wimbledon talking points

From Ukraine to Djokovic via Murray, the key Wimbledon talking points

The tennis highlight of the British summer is upon us again with the 2023 edition of Wimbledon.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five talking points ahead of this year’s tournament.

Ukraine-Russian tensions to resume

Following last year’s ban due to the illegal invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Belarussian players are allowed back at this tournament this year after Wimbledon organisers were heavily fined and threatened with further sanctions by tennis’ governing bodies. It means men’s world number three Daniil Medvedev and women’s number two Aryna Sabalenka among others will be back in action and that is obviously a good thing for the integrity of a tennis tournament. But that is surely not going to be an end to the story as, perhaps understandably, there remains a lot of tension between Ukrainian and Russian and Belarussian players due to what is going on in their country and that has spilled over on to the court a number of times over the past year. How that plays out at SW19 remains to be seen, but there could be some drama ahead.

Any more Murray magic?

It seems implausible that fans still have high hopes for Andy Murray given the fact he is 36 and playing with a metal hip, but the two-time champion will arrive at SW19 in the best shape since that career-derailing injury in 2017. Murray skipped the French Open in order to train on the grass and the way he played during back-to-back Challenger Tour titles shows he still knows his way around the surface. He will go to his home grand slam finely tuned and match tight and despite an early exit at Queen’s, his pre-tournament form makes this year his best chance of making the second week at a grand slam since 2017.

British women fight back

The British women took a lot of flak for their absence from the main draw at the French Open but they have responded in style. They produced a record-breaking performance at Nottingham, where Katie Boulter emerged triumphant ahead of fellow Brit Jodie Burrage in the final, with Heather Watson also making the semi-finals and Harriet Dart getting to the last eight, with Dart also having a good run in Birmingham. Watson got to the fourth round last year and Boulter made it to the third, so there is recent history of relative success at Wimbledon and several of the British women will be looking forward to the possibility of a deep run.

Who can stop Djokovic?

Novak Djokovic has reigned supreme at Wimbledon in recent years
Novak Djokovic has reigned supreme at Wimbledon in recent years (Adam Davy/PA)

After Novak Djokovic moved clear of Rafael Nadal by winning his 23rd grand slam at the French Open he will have another one in his sights as he arrives at his happy hunting ground. The Serbian has won the last four singles titles at Wimbledon and another this year will see him draw level with Roger Federer on eight as he continues to sweep all records in the autumn of his career. The question is, who can realistically to stop him? Carlos Alcaraz may be world number one but he has no real pedigree on grass while Medvedev has beaten Djokovic in a grand slam final but has never got past the fourth round at Wimbledon. Gone are the days where a surprise champion could come out of the pack as the men’s winner has come from the big four, which also includes Murray, every year since 2002. It feels like it will take something special for Djokovic to be denied an eighth crown this summer.

Iga looking for dominance on grass

The women’s tournament, in contrast, could not be more open at this event as there has been six different champions in the last six editions. Iga Swiatek has dominated the tour for the majority of the last 18 months, but still has something to prove at Wimbledon, having not gone past the fourth round here. Her position as world number one is on the line with Sabalenka chasing her and the Belarussian will be aiming to make the most of her return to the tournament. Defending champion Elena Rybakina will also have something to say as she looks to build on her 2022 success, but the reality is, given the openness of the women’s game, it would take a brave person to predict who will win the women’s crown.