Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal headline the title chase at Wimbledon where eight-time champion Roger Federer, the world’s top two players as well as valuable ranking points will all be missing.
Djokovic is bidding for a seventh title at the All England Club to move level with US great Pete Sampras.
Nadal, fresh from a 14th French Open victory and a record-extending 22nd major, is halfway to the first men’s calendar Grand Slam in more than half a century.
The season’s third Slam tournament has already made political waves even before the first ball is served on Monday.
The decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players in the aftermath of Moscow’s conflict with Ukraine means there is no place for world number one Daniil Medvedev or eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev.
Both the ATP and WTA, who control the men and women’s tours, retaliated by stripping ranking points from the tournament.
For the first time since his debut in 1999 — notwithstanding the COVID-cancelled 2020 edition — Federer will be a no-show as the 40-year-old recovers from knee surgery.
Also missing is Germany’s world number two Alexander Zverev, who suffered serious ankle ligament damage in a horrific injury in his French Open semifinal against Nadal.
Djokovic and Nadal, ranked three and four, are therefore the top seeds meaning if they are to face each other for the 60th time, it can only be in the final.
Djokovic, the champion in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2021, will be playing in his final Slam of the year.
His refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will rule him out of the US Open later this year.
“As of today I’m not allowed to enter the States under these circumstances. That is an extra motivation to do well here,” said Djokovic who gets play at Wimbledon underway on Monday against Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea.
A bruising quarterfinal loss to Nadal at the French Open, which saw him deposed as champion in Paris, will also provide extra motivation.
Nadal won the last of his two Wimbledon titles in 2010 having captured his first with an epic triumph over Federer two years earlier.