Looking ahead to Wimbledon: A way-too-early tournament preview

Despite losing to Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals, six-time champion Novak Djokovic will head to Wimbledon as the favorite. Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo

And so, to Wimbledon.

The nature of the tennis calendar means the players will hardly have time to get the clay stains out of their socks before they switch surfaces and mindsets for the grass-court season, which culminates, as ever, at Wimbledon.

This year's championships will be rather different, of course, with no ranking points, a retaliation by the ATP and WTA after Wimbledon announced it is banning Russian and Belarussian players because of the invasion of Ukraine.

For Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek, it means new challenges, and both have big reasons to be cheerful as they switch their clay-court shoes for grass-court ones.

Lost, somehow, in his record 14th Roland Garros win and record 22nd Grand Slam title is that Nadal is now halfway to the coveted calendar-year Grand Slam, the first time he has ever won the first two slams of the year.

Winning Wimbledon and the US Open, with the need to manage his chronic left foot pain, is a tall order, but he'll surely never get another chance to do something that was last achieved by Rod Laver in 1969 on the men's side and that Novak Djokovic came within one match of doing just last year.

Nadal missed Wimbledon last year, but his team says he'll do everything he can to be ready to compete there this time. The Spanish star is clearly thinking ahead, too. "I don't know what will happen in the future, but I'll keep fighting to keep on going," he said.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to Nadal, but as the six-time Wimbledon champion, he will go in as favorite again. As his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, told TennisMajors.com, "He has overcome tough losses in the past, and I am completely certain that he will be ready for Wimbledon. I am sure that he can do it and I think he will win Wimbledon, I have a good feeling about that. He needs to focus on grass now."

Having won her second Roland Garros title in three years, Swiatek will go to Wimbledon as favorite to win but with less certainty about the surface, even if she is a former junior champion there.

"My coach believes I can win more matches on grass -- I don't know about that yet," Swiatek said. "Honestly, grass is always tricky. I actually like the part that I have no expectations there. It's something kind of refreshing.

"I'm going to just prepare my best, and maybe with his experiences that he had with Aga Radwanska, it was her favorite surface, so maybe he's going to give me some tips that are actually going to be really helpful, and I'm going to enjoy playing on grass a little bit more."

While the likes of world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and former women's No. 1 Victoria Azarenka will not be able to compete, others will hope to join the Grand Slam winners' circle. But as they found out at Roland Garros, it's a significant jump.

Alexander Zverev is likely to miss out because of injury, but Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev and last year's men's runner-up, Matteo Berrettini -- returning from injury -- will hope for success. And then there's Andy Murray, the two-time former champion.

On the women's side, Coco Gauff will be looking to build on her stunning run to the final in Paris, and home eyes will be on Emma Raducanu, with increased expectation following her incredible US Open triumph last year.

With Ash Barty retired, there is an opportunity for a new Wimbledon champion. If someone can get past Swiatek, that is.