Andy Murray, who took the first tentative steps of his comeback by defeating Benoît Paire at the Queen’s Club to reach the second round, has been announced as one of the initial recipients of a Wimbledon wildcard.
The two-times champion, who played just his third ATP singles match of the year in London on Tuesday, is ranked down at 124, outside the cut-off for direct qualification.
Murray’s last appearance in singles at the All England Club was in 2017, when his hip problems first surfaced, although he did play men’s doubles and mixed doubles two years ago.
Murray will be joined by fellow British players Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage, Harriet Dart, Samantha Murray Sharan, Francesca Jones, Liam Broady, Jay Clarke and the 19-year-old Jack Draper, who won his maiden ATP Tour match at Queen’s on Monday.
The five-times champion Venus Williams and the Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz have also been given wildcards in the main draw.
Wimbledon’s chief executive, Sally Bolton, said that as things stand, the All England Club is expecting Naomi Osaka to compete in the tournament which begins on 28 June. Bolton said: “We’ve reached out to her team, we haven’t spoken to Naomi herself. At this point in time she’s entered into the Championships and we haven’t received confirmation that she won’t compete.”
Osaka has been taking time away from the court since withdrawing from the French Open for mental health reasons amid a furore around her refusal to fulfil media duties.
Tournament director Jamie Baker added: “I had the conversation with her team. It’s absolutely clear that we’re here, we’re completely open for any discussions when they want to have that. Hopefully it goes without saying that we want the best players competing here no matter what.
“We treat every single player with a tremendous amount of care. That’s one of the main reasons for me and my role. We’ve been building those relationships so there’s a constant, ongoing dialogue and we will just continue to behave in this way.”
It was announced on Monday that Wimbledon would be a pilot event as part of the third stage of the Government Event Research Programme, enabling 50% capacity crowds from the start of the event. The first week will see a cap of 50% capacity for Centre Court and Court One with the smaller show courts at 75%. Organisers aim to have increased capacity on the main two courts for the fourth round and quarter-finals, with full capacity for the semi-finals and finals.
Tickets will go on sale online from 1pm on Thursday and will be released in several batches. Ticket-holders must show proof either of full vaccination, a negative test or natural immunity through having had coronavirus. There is sure to be massive demand, and ticket sales for the other grass-court events were marred by technological problems, but Bolton said: “We’re very confident that the infrastructure will hold up.”
Spectators will be required to wear masks while moving around the grounds but not while seated in the stands. Henman Hill will also be open for fans to watch the big screen, although the logistics have yet to be determined.
Bolton added: “We are helping to support the government and the sector to understand how we can increase fans as we work our way out of the pandemic so we’re really pleased to be playing a part in that and I don’t think that’s got anything to do with class. Our view is very clearly that Wimbledon is for everyone. I don’t recognise us as an elitist organisation but clearly people can have their own view.”
Overall prize money has been reduced slightly from 2019, down from £36.9million to £35million. The singles champions will take home £1.7million compared to £2.35million two years ago, with prize money for the early rounds and qualifying increasing.
Despite the reduced income from ticket sales and extra costs associated with housing the players in designated hotels as part of a minimised risk environment, the All England Club is confident the annual surplus that funds British tennis through the Lawn Tennis Association will not be significantly reduced.
At Queen’s, British No 2 Cameron Norrie reached a first Queen’s Club quarter-final after beating in-form Aslan Karatsev. The 25-year-old won a closely fought first set and took advantage of a nasty tumble on the baseline by his Russian opponent to run away with the second, posting a 7-5, 6-2 victory.
Norrie will face Jack Draper after the British teenager continued his breakthrough tournament with victory over world No 39 Alexander Bublik. Draper, who stunned 23rd-ranked Jannik Sinner in round one for his first APT Tour singles win, impressively backed that victory up with a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (0) success.
The 19-year-old’s win means Britain is guaranteed at least one semi-finalist, with Dan Evans and Murray still in the mix as well.