Wimbledon, the world’s oldest and most prestigious grand slam tournament, gets underway at the All-England Club tomorrow and here’s our pick of the five best first round matches in the women’s draw.
Angelique Kerber (7) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands – H2H Mattek-Sands leads 2-0 (First meeting on grass)
On paper, the seventh ranked Kerber should be the heavy favourite against the 58th ranked Mattek-Sands. The 28 year old American has beaten the German in both their previous encounters, though both came before Kerber embarked on her remarkable rise at the 2011 US Open. Kerber has had a mediocre year, getting to the semis and quarters a bunch of times without any headline grabbing wins while Mattek-Sands has risen more than 100 spots in the ranks over the past six months. But her increased singles & doubles schedule meant that she was exhausted and injured by the end of her French Open campaign, where she reached the last 16. The American, who will wear Google Glass on court during her matches, did not play any of the of the warm-up events and has decided to play only singles at Wimbledon this year, and will need to be fully fit to have any chance of knocking off the 2012 semi-finalist.
Prediction – Kerber in three sets
Maria Kirilenko (10) vs. Laura Robson – First meeting
At the age of 26, Maria Kirileko is finally broken into the world’s top 10. Her opponent, 19 year old Laura Robson, will likely break into the top 10 much sooner. Kirielnko has been solid, not flashy, over the last 12 months, as compared to Robson, who has been flashy, not solid. As the highest ranked British woman, Robson will be keenly watched by the press and the fans. Having won only one match in fur previous appearances at SW19, Robson will need to come up with something special to knock off the 2012 quarter-finalist. With the British fans cheering her on and memories of her Olympics mixed doubles silver medal fresh in her mind, we think she might be up to the task.
Prediction – Robson in straight sets
Ana Ivanovic (12) vs. Virgine Razzano – H2H Ivanovic leads 5-1 (First meeting on grass)
Both Ivanovic and Razzano play a similar game – a decent but unreliable serve, a big forehand and a solid backhand. 25 year old Ivanovic might be inching closer back to the top 10 but her days as a grand slam threat are far away (far behind or far ahead is for you to decide). The Serb, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2007, lost in the first round at Eastbourne – her only warm up event while Razzano comes in having won three matches in the qualifying draw which means has some match confidence on the tricky grass surface.
Prediction – Razzano in three sets
Sloane Stephens (17) vs. Jamie Hampton – H2H tied at 1-1 (First meeting on grass)
In January, 20 year old Sloane Stephens was being labelled as the successor to Serena Williams. Just six months later, 23 year old Jamie Hampton is closing in on Stephens’ position as the second highest ranked American in the world. After her headline grabbing run in Melbourne, Stehpens is only 9-10 (highlighted by her fourth round finish at the French Open). On the other hand, Hampton has been on a roll – winning 14 of her last 18 matches (highlighted by reaching the Eastbourne finals), including wins over 7 top 30 players (3 of them in the top 10). Hampton’s big forehand and backhand slice is well suited to the grass. Stephens will be feeling the heat to live up to the increased expectations and she hasn’t shown the ability to play well under pressure as of now. This script seems to be written for a Hampton win.
Prediction – Hampton in three sets
Sabine Lisicki (23) vs. Francesca Schiavone – H2H Schiavone leads 1-0 (First meeting on grass)
Sabine Lisicki is one of those unlucky players whose body is prone to breaking down every now so often. But the big-serving German sure seems to show up every year at Wimbledon – reaching at least the quarters in her last three appearances (including the semis in 2011). Lisicki’s big powerful game against the variety of the former French Open champion on the low bouncing grass courts should offer a nice contrast in styles for the fans.
Prediction – Lisicki in three sets