Open season on top seeds
With the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis grand slam starting tomorrow, S’Busiso Mseleku gives a call on what is on the line at the 2016 Wimbledon Championships
10 Madison KEYS
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USA sk any budding soccer player what their ultimate dream is, and chances are that they will say “to play in the World Cup”.
Move to another sport that is played with a smaller, hairy green ball and a racquet, and they are more inclined to say Wimbledon.
The most prestigious tennis event is once more upon us and the greenest grass, accompanied by loads of strawberries and cream, will once more be witnessed at the All England Club in Wimbledon from tomorrow until July 10.
The oldest tennis tournament – it started in 1877 – is the only grand slam event played on grass since the Australian Open shifted to hard courts in 1988. It’s simply known as Wimbledon, while some aristocrats refer to it as “The Championships”.
It is indeed the most prestigious of all four – the others are the Australian, French and US opens – and still enjoys British royal family patronage.
Every time Wimbledon comes around, the English hope one of their own will lift the trophy.
The 77-year-long drought since Fred Perry won it in 1936 was broken by Andy Murray, who defeated Novac Djokovic 6-4 7-5 6-4 on 10 Tomas BERDYCH Age: Country: a sun-drenched Centre Court in 2013.
They are likely to meet in this year’s final again – they are seeded first and second in the world rankings.
However, the likes of Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori, who make up the top five in the men’s draw, will have a lot to say about who eventually claims the trophy.
The winner will also pocket the biggest chunk from the massive £28.1 million (R602 million) total prize money, thanks to the latest 5% increase that has entrenched Wimbledon as the richest tennis tournament in the world.
The first prize is £2 million for each of the male and female winners with the runnersup pocketing £1 million each.
The prize money has seen a substantial growth since the tournament went professional in 1968.
This year’s total prize money is a huge jump from the £26 150 pot in 1986, which saw singles winners in both sections get £2 000 each, while runners-up received a paltry £800.
When seeding was revealed on Wednesday, Johanna Konta became the first British woman to be seeded at Wimbledon since Jo Durie in 1984.
The 25-year-old has been rising in the 30 Czech Republic rankings, moving from 146th to 18th, and it came as no surprise when she was seeded 17th for The Championships.
While she surprised the tennis world by reaching the semifinal at the Australian Open in January, she should be the least of top seed and world number one Serena Williams’ problems.
Williams, proud owner of the famous Venus Rosewater Dish in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015, will have more on her mind than just winning her seventh title here.
After lifting it last year, she was on course for a calendar grand slam (when a player wins all the major tournaments in a single calendar year) and was set to equal Steffi Graf’s record 22 grand slam titles.
However, she stumbled badly, first losing to Roberta Vinci, who had 300-1 odds going into the US Open final.
Then it was German Angelique Kerber who spoilt Williams’ chances at the Australian Open in January, before Garbiñe Muguruza did the same at the recent French Open at Roland Garros.
She will have to deal with the trio and a host of others who would like to claim her scalp, as well as deal with her own demons, to emerge on the other side of the dark tunnel unscathed.