LONDON: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal headline the title chase at Wimbledon where eight-time champion Roger Federer, the world’s top two players as well as valuable ranking points will all be missing. Djokovic is bidding for a seventh title at the All England Club to move level with US great Pete Sampras. Nadal, fresh from a 14th French Open victory and a record-extending 22nd major, is halfway to the first men’s calendar Grand Slam in more than half a century. The season’s third Slam tournament has already made political waves even before the first ball is served on Monday. The decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine means there is no place for world number one Daniil Medvedev or eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev. Both the ATP and WTA, who control the men’s and women’s tours, retaliated by stripping ranking points from the tournament. For the first time since his debut in 1999 — notwithstanding the Covid-cancelled 2020 edition — Federer will be a no-show as the 40-year-old recovers from knee surgery. Also missing is Germany’s world number two Alexander Zverev, who suffered serious ankle ligament damage in an horrific injury in his French Open semi-final against Nadal. Djokovic and Nadal, ranked three and four, are therefore the top seeds meaning if they are to face each other for the 60th time, it can only be in the final. Djokovic, the champion in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2021, will be playing in his final Slam of the year. His refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will rule him out of the US Open later this year. A bruising quarter-final loss to Nadal at the French Open which saw him deposed as champion in Paris will also provide extra motivation. Nadal won the last of his two Wimbledon titles in 2010 having captured his first with an epic triumph over Federer two years earlier. The 36-year-old Spaniard arrives at Wimbledon with the Australian and French Opens secured. He is halfway to becoming only the third man — and first since Rod Laver in 1969 — to complete a calendar Grand Slam. Nadal has endured a bittersweet relationship with Wimbledon. Two titles have been accompanied by three lost finals as well as injury-enforced absences in 2004, 2009, 2016 and 2021. There was a question mark over his durability for the two weeks at Wimbledon having played the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot anaesthetised. Nadal has since undergone a course of radiofrequency stimulation, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain in his foot. Should Djokovic or Nadal falter, then Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, runner-up to Djokovic in last year’s final, would be the most likely beneficiary. World number 11 Berrettini has won back-to-back grasscourt titles at Stuttgart and Queen’s. Of the remaining top 10, French Open runner-up Casper Ruud has lost in the first round on his two previous trips to Wimbledon. Stefanos Tsitsipas has fallen at the first hurdle three times out of four but is fresh from a maiden grasscourt title in Mallorca on Saturday. Spanish teen star Carlos Alcaraz only made his main draw debut in 2021, reaching the second round. Felix Auger-Aliassime made the last-eight last year while 10th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz, the champion on grass in Halle last weekend, was a semi-finalist in 2021. Serena eyes greatest triumph: Ranked a lowly 1,204 in the world and without a competitive singles match in 12 months, Serena Williams will sweep into Wimbledon targeting what would be her greatest triumph. The seven-time champion at the All England Club will also be chasing down a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title. The odds have rarely been so stacked against the great American who can become the first unseeded woman to win Wimbledon. With her 41st birthday just three months away, Williams hasn’t played a singles tie on tour since limping out of Wimbledon in tears in the first round against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in 2021. The American star has been frustratingly marooned on 23 Slams since winning a seventh Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant. She was runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019 as Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors remained out of touch. “I didn’t retire. I just needed to heal physically, mentally. I had no plans. I just didn’t know when I would come back. I didn’t know how I would come back,” said the 40-year-old on Sunday.