Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam of the tennis season, is already underway with the qualifying draws taking place on the Roehampton courts. Next Monday the curtain will rise on the main draw, at the All England, but there are peripheral stories that already invade the corners of the club. One of them: the a player who changed her nationality in order to perform in the British tournament.
Natela Dzalamidze, Russian tennis player born in Moscow 29 years ago, would not be able to compete at Wimbledon given the tournament’s ban on players from Russia and Belarus as punishment for the warlike invasion of Ukraine. However, the player will be able to perform in London. Why? She changed her nationality to represent Georgia. Dzalamidze is on the tournament’s entry list as a Georgian after having competed in the last French Open, last May, under a neutral flag as happened with the Russians and Belarusians.
Dzalamidze, 43rd in the WTA ranking, will play the women’s doubles competition in pairs with Serbian Aleksandra Krunic. In this way, Dzalamidze will be able to do what, among others, The ATP world number one, Russian Daniil Medvedev, will not be allowed.
Alexandr Metreveli, vice president of the Georgian Tennis Federation, supported the adoptive player’s decision: “This is good news for Georgia, for its sport and for the popularization of the whole country. It was a conscious decision. Dzalamidze has had a Georgian passport for a long time.” According to the BBC, the All England Club was not involved in the change of nationality of the players and communicated: “The nationality of the player, defined as the flag under which he plays in professional events, is an agreed process that is governed by the tours. and the ITF (International Tennis Federation)”.
It is worth remembering that by banning Russian and Belarusian players in its next edition, there was a drastic response from the ATP and the WTA, leaving the event without ranking points. However, beyond the impact, the organizers announced a record prize money disbursement, which ended up ruling out a hypothetical boycott by the rest of the players. Wimbledon 2022 will award a record prize pool of £40,350,000 ($50,641,268), an increase of 11.1% from 2021 and 5.4% taking into account the championship during its most recent full capacity, prior to the pandemic, in 2019.
The lawn and the end of a tradition
This year the Wimbledon tournament will break one of its most sacred traditions, allowing players to train on the center court and on court number 1, the second most important in All England, with the aim of improving “the grip” on the grass. Usually the two main fields were reserved only for matches.
Last year, the central court was more slippery than the rest of the courts and there were two severe injuries: the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (against the Swiss Roger Federer) and the American Serena Williams (against the Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich) suffered severe injuries. skidded, got hurt and had to withdraw from their respective matches.
On June 30, 2021, Federer walked the ledge in his first round match against Mannarino: the French left-hander was winning two sets to one, but slipped, suffered an injury and had to retire a few minutes later, with the score 6. -4, 6-7 (3-7), 3-6 and 6-2 for the Swiss. Wimbledon organizers do not want to see more situations like those, so they made an unprecedented decision.
Now, some tennis players (not all, surely) will have the opportunity to step on and test the speed of the turf of the central court in the week before the tournament, mixing them with the training that takes place, as usual, on the tennis courts. Aorangi Park practice.