Wimbledon is once again almost upon us. Every year, the British public ponder who the champions might be, and whether any home-grown player besides Andy Murray can go far in the tournament. In fact, there are reasons for optimism in this regard. Not only is the 2013 Champion at SW19 once again among the favourites, but he has three companions who are in the top 100 in the world: Aljaz Bedene, Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans. On the women’s side, Johanna Konta has really put down a marker and shot up the rankings over the last twelve months to a recent career high of No.18 in the world, while Heather Watson and Naomi Broady also qualified automatically for the year’s third Grand Slam.
However, most of the other players from the home nations have been granted a wildcard for the world’s premier tennis competition. For someone like Laura Robson this makes more sense, as her last two years have been massively disrupted by injury. Before her wrist troubles, she had been showing a lot of promise, and it is reasonable to assume that she would be a lot higher up the rankings had she been injury-free. She had also made the last 16 at Wimbledon three years ago.
Many of the others though seem to have been given solely on the basis that they are British. It is highly likely that the majority will drop out at the first-round stage. Admittedly, Liam Broady made the second round last year, but his ranking has dipped quite a bit in the last twelve months. James Ward has not repaid the faith shown in him by the wildcard selectors at the All England Club. Despite enjoying some extended runs at Queen’s Club and representing Great Britain well on the Davis Cup stage, he has only got past the opening round twice at SW19 in six attempts. Finally, Tara Moore has been hovering around a similar ranking for the last few years, with her two appearances in the main draw ending in defeat.
Players from countries around the world are likely to feel aggrieved at the number of wildcards frequently dished out fruitlessly to British hopefuls. The prize money that a player lower down the rankings can make from a Grand Slam, even going out in the opening round, is invaluable. However, only four majors are held each year. Therefore, the players in these host countries are given a leg-up in a clear show of national nepotism. Players perhaps in greater need of financial assistance and of greater ability are made to toil away in the qualifiers while seeing their lower-ranked counterparts receive a direct pass through to the big stage. To top it off, few, if any, British players have demonstrated that they have improved over the years to warrant wildcards being handed to them on a consistent basis.
It is great to have British representation at our home Grand Slam, but it does create an uneven playing field below the upper echelons of the game.
Image: Eddie Keogh/AELTC