Despite not being expected by Serena or most others, the action of not altering the seedings to place Serena Williams has turned into something of a major news story. She does get into the tournament by virtue of her protected ranking still but is ranked outside the top 400 after winning just three matches since her return from pregnancy. She will play Kristyna Pliskova in her first slam match of 2018.
Kristyna has not had the success her sister has, with a top 40 ranking for a month last year the best she has achieved so far. The Czech does play similar though and does have good wins over the likes of Petra Kvitova and Jelena Ostapenko this year. She did also beat Julia Goerges in Nurnberg last week, although the German has not kept up the standard she was playing at earlier in the year.
Serena was still clearly rusty in her return back at Indian Wells and Miami as coach Patrick Mouratoglou admitted. “Serena clearly came back too early,” he said in an interview to the WTA a few weeks back. “She was not ready yet but needed to feel the competition, so she decided to play even though she was far from being at 100 per cent. It was a good experience as she realised all the work that needed to be done in order for her to be really ready.”
Serena was overpowered by big hitters in her two losses in America (Naomi Osaka, Venus Williams) but Kristyna Pliskova being the one to defeat the former champion and No. 1 seems unlikely. Ashleigh Barty (plays Natalia Vikhlyantseva) is projected to face her next. The Australian does better on other surfaces but did make the semi finals of Strasbourg just last week.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets