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Welcome to the Championships, Wimbledon

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Switzerland’s Roger Federer (R) talks with members of his team on the practice courts at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 30, 2019, on the eve of the start of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships tennis tournament. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

Even before defending champion, Novak Djokovic steps on Centre Court for the official opening match on the lush green grass surface, this year’s event was dogged by controversy over the seedings in the gentlemen’ draw.

Rafael Nadal is world number two but the second spot was handed to third-ranked Roger Federer in the tradition of Wimbledon’s right to determine this matter.

In the ladies’ draw, new world number one Ashleigh Barty occupies the top spot but the excitement is about the likelihood of the new generation to upset the old guard in both events.

Djokovic is far ahead of others with seeding points and there is no contender for the defending champion as first seed.

Nadal is only some points ahead of Federer who is an eight-time Wimbledon champion and winner of the warm-up event in Halle Germany for the tenth time. The Committee of Management at the All England Club considers a player’s record on grass courts to determine seedings. Nadal and Djokovic did not play in the grass-courts event leading to Wimbledon but this contributed to the decision on Nadal.

While the top three remain the favourites in the gentlemen’s event, the horizon is not so clear for the ladies.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty consolidated her position by winning in Birmingham. In the second event, injuries forced Barty to pull out of Eastbourne where Karolina Pliskova defeated Angelique Kerber 6/1; 6/4 for the title. The major upset in Eastbourne was by Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who sent out home country favourite Johanna Konta 6/3; 6/2 in the third round.

The great hype in London SW 19 is about the 15-year teenage prodigy from Florida, Cori “Coco” Gauff, who won the junior title in Roland Garros and became the youngest player to qualify for the Main Draw at Wimbledon. The eligibility rules of the Women’s Tennis Association allow players below 18 years to compete in only eight events in the year. Gauff might just throw a spanner into those rules if she makes a great run in London.

Much depends on her first round match against 5-time Wimbledon winner, Venus Williams in a historic match up. At 39, Venus is the oldest player to compete in the event and has an age differential of 24 years with Gauff who has been coached for the past three years by Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Rafael Nadal is unhappy about the seedings, which place him in the possibility of meeting Federer in the semi-finals. His grouse is reminiscent of the year when his present coach Carlos Moya and other players from Spain pulled out of the Wimbledon Championships in protest against the seedings of players with great success on clay.

The expectation of a generation challenge for Roger, Nadal and Djokovic rests on Dominic Thiem of Austria, Alexander Zverev of Germany, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and the 18-year sensation from Canada, Felix Auger-Aliassime.


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