We all knew it was coming. And yet, it was still a shock, to all of London, the World, to all of Tennis. The All England Club on the 1st of April announced that Wimbledon 2020 had been cancelled; not to be postponed until later in the year whilst the weather still permitted, but totally cancelled, the first time since the Second World War.
This would have been a particularly enthralling Wimbledon. As for the Men’s Singles, there were inferences that this would be Roger Federer’s last, given the rumours that he planned to retire after the Tokyo Olympic Games, ideally bowing out to his first Men’s Singles Gold Medal, the only significant medal to elude him. Could Rafa Nadal reach the latter stages despite what would have been a gruelling attempt to retain the French Open title in June, given Dominic Thiem’s strength on the surface. Could Thiem himself finally become the first man born in the 1990s to win a grand slam, never mind a Wimbledon title (an absurd statistic by the way given that the common perception is that Tennis Players hit their prime in their mid-twenties)- grass is not his strong suit, but after his defeat in the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic earlier in 2020, his grand slam final record now reds lost in 3 sets, then 4, then 5; he trembles in an Andy Murray voice “I’m getting closer”. Could any of the other young hotshots of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex Zverev or Daniil Medvedev cause an upset. Or, as was expected, would Novak Djokovic, in electric form before the outbreak, power on to make it 3 Wimbledon titles in a row?
As for the Women’s Singles, would Simona Halep, the world number 2, retain her title? Would world number one Ashleigh Barty avenge the pain of losing on home soil in the Australian Open semis to win her first Wimbledon title? Or would female tennis’ most exciting prospect in Sofia Kenin, 21 years young, add to her first Grand Slam win in Melbourne earlier this year?
Alas, all of this anticipation for Britain’s largest sporting festival of the summer has gone (perhaps this year would have been an exception as Wembley Stadium was due to host 7 games, including the final, at this year’s Euros, but this has been postponed until 2021), and for now these questions on Tennis fans’ lips will have to wait. Depending on the length of this hiatus, I, and alongside all other Tennis fans, worry that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal might never share a (competitive) court again, and that Wimbledon 2020 might hvae represented the last chance for this, or that Roger Federer might never have a solid run in a grand slam again- he’ll be a few weeks off turning 40 should Wimbledon 2021 go ahead as planned.
Whilst re-adjusting the calendar was an option for other Grand Slams, such as the clay court French Open being postponed until ate September, this was not an option for Wimbledon, with its grass surface meaning only Spring and Summer time is a viable time of the year. Perhaps a positive of a cancellation rather than a postponement is that it will diminish the knock-on effect or all subsequent tournaments planned for later in the year, not just the rescheduled French Open but also the US Open.
Wimbledon is tennis. It is the Grand Slam. It puts the Grand in Grand Slam. But, as with the pain of all other sports being cancelled indefinitely, one ultimately always comes round to realising that at this moment in time, Sport, and Tennis, is totally insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Tennis will return strong, but until then, the coronavirus has dealt it the strongest of blows, right to the beating heart of the sport.