Mike Rowbottom

So many enduring traditions are being observed as the Wimbledon Championships - or, to give them their traditional and very English title, The Championships, Wimbledon - get underway in south-west London on what promises to be a, traditionally, mixed day of weather.

British fans are fretting over the health of their home hopes. Has the mysterious side-strain afflicting the 19-year-old wonder girl Emma Raducanu, the US Open champion, really gone away?

And what about Andy Murray, whose wins at SW19 in 2013 and 2016 are legend? Will the 35-year-old Scot's dodgy hip, which he says now prevents him from hitting certain shots, hold out as he seeks to reclaim his previous heights?

Meanwhile, another Wimbledon legend, 40-year-old Serena Williams, has returned from apparent retirement after making a tearful exit in last year's first round with a hamstring injury.

Her presence maintains a monumental tradition, renewing a family connection she and her elder sister Venus – who has just the five Wimbledon singles titles as opposed to her seven – began in 1997.

And, of course, there's a villain. Every Wimbledon tournament needs a villain, whether it is Jimbo Connors, John McEnroe, Jeff Tarango or whoever. This year Australia's Nick Kyrgios has kindly stepped up, even casting himself specifically in the role before his first round match against British wildcard Paul Jubb.

"I've got to ride the waves emotionally out there because the crowd is obviously going to be behind the local," he said of the emotional roller coaster rides and occasional under-arm serves.

"I'm used to wearing that kind of black hat, the villain-type role. I'm going to embrace it."

Australia's Nick Krygios is ready to take up his
Australia's Nick Krygios is ready to take up his "villain-type role" as play gets underway today at the 135th Wimbledon Championships ©Getty Images

But these 135th Championships, which are currently marking the centenary of their first staging at the All England Club on Church Road, will be unique - and not just because Robinsons barley water and fruit cordial, which has ended its 86-year connection with the event, is no longer being served.

On April 20, the All England Club, uniquely among Grand Slam organisers, made the decision to ban Russian and Belarus players from competing following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible," the announcement read.

"In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.

"It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022."

Many within the game supported that decision - many did not.

In response the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Women's Tennis Association (WTA) and International Tennis Federation (ITF) - all of whom have allowed individual Russian and Belarusian players to continue playing on their tours as neutrals, with national flags and symbols banned - stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points.

That change prompted Japan's Naomi Osaka, who has won both the Australian and US Open twice, to comment during the French Open: "I'm not sure why, but If I play Wimbledon without points, it's more like an exhibition. I know this isn't true, right? 

"But my brain just like feels that way. I just can't go at it 100 per cent."

Her view was rebutted strongly by Murray, who tweeted: "I'd hazard a guess that most people watching on centre court at Wimbledon in a few weeks' time wouldn't know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a third round match.

Japan's four time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has said Wimbledon this year will feel like an
Japan's four time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has said Wimbledon this year will feel like an "exhibition" in the absence of ranking points ©Getty Images

"But I guarantee they will remember who wins. Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition. The end."

Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, ranked world number one and eight, respectively, are among the Russian players who have been denied entry into the tournament.

While neither has explicitly condemned Russia's military action, Medvedev has said "I'm all for peace" and Rublev wrote a message on a courtside TV camera after reaching the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships, which read "no war please".

The absence of these top players has faint echoes of the 1973 Wimbledon men's singles tournament, which 81 of the leading ATP players boycotted in protest at the suspension of Nikola Pilić by the Yugoslav Tennis Association for failing to play in a Davis Cup tie.

Pilić, as it happens, is the former coach of the defending men's singles champion this year, Novak Djokovic, who yesterday reiterated his opposition to the Wimbledon ban, saying: "They deserve to compete. They are professional athletes.

"None of them have supported any war or anything like that.

"It's very sensitive. I understand both sides. It's really hard to say what is right, what is wrong.

"But in my heart, as an athlete putting myself in a position where someone would ban me from playing because of these circumstances, and I have not contributed to that, I wouldn't think that's fair."

Ironically Russia's Daniil Medvedev, banned from playing at this year's Wimbledon Championships, may find his position as men's world number one strengthened by the end of them ©Getty Images
Ironically Russia's Daniil Medvedev, banned from playing at this year's Wimbledon Championships, may find his position as men's world number one strengthened by the end of them ©Getty Images

The withdrawal of ranking points from this year’s Wimbledon may mean, ironically, that Medvedev, who current leads the ATP world rankings on 8,160 points, has an increased chance of remaining there because of the way the system works, involving players "defending" their points totals by subsequent performances.

Djokovic, a six-time champion at the All England Club, will be heavily affected by the removal of ranking points through being unable to retain any of the 2,000 points he earned by winning at SW19 last year.

He could, as a result, end up seventh in the standings.

Having lost his status as world number one two weeks before this year's tournament, the 20-time major winner will fall even further adrift of Russian Medvedev who, despite not being permitted to play, will miss out on only 180 points by comparison after making a last-16 exit in 2021.

Never has there been a more complex moral context for the Championships that first got underway on July 9, 1877.