The third slam of the year begins on Monday with Wimbledon looking wide open as Garbine Muguruza looks to defend her title. Sloane Stephens, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki can all be No.1 after the tournament but it seems fair to say that none of them are considered amongst the top tier of favourites to win the title. Two time champion Petra Kvitova is the current bookmakers favourite.
Top seed Halep has been more consist at Wimbledon with him making the quarter finals three of the past four years. He made the last 8 last year, eventually losing to Johanna Konta. The early rounds shouldn’t have much to trouble her, even when she has looked vulnerable on grass from time to time. Johanna Konta looks the most likely person to see her off in the first four matches. The Brit was a semi finalist last year and toughed out a three set win against Halep to make it that far. She hasn’t been as great this year and finds herself at the No.22 seed but did make the final of Nottingham once more. Dominika Cibulkova will have plenty to prove with her seeding being the one to go to make room for Serena Williams. The quarter finals may be the limit for Halep again though with Kvitova slated to face her in that round.
Kvitova’s grass credentials are well established with two Wimbledon titles – in 2011 and 2014. She has also now won the event in Birmingham two weeks running, this time beating Magdalena Rybarikova in the final. Scheduling may be key as the UK heatwave could work against her though with her often struggling in such conditions. Kvitova will need to be suffering badly or throw in a shocker to lose early but the fourth round match could throw up an epic if things go right. Jelena Ostapenko is a former junior champion and her easy power is there for all to see but has not quite put it altogether on the grass. Maria Sharapova at the 24 seed is also there, holding a 7-4 record over the Czech. Kvitova won their most famous meeting in the 2011 Final but is 4-7 overall against the former No.1. However they have not met since 2015 when both players were in the top 10.
The potential for a Kvitova-Garbine Muguruza semi final is there to see and would be a stunning match if both players were on their game. The Spaniard is hoping to make a third final in four years having lost in 2015 and won in 2017. A tepid exit in Birmingham to Barbara Strycova doesn’t do much to excite but it has been the standard for her in recent years to play poorly before a slam and it hasn’t really seemed to impact her much at all. She won 1 game against the same opponent in Eastbourne last year only to turn it on at SW19. Anett Kontaveit will look to bounce back from a three match losing streak, two of which came on the grass to players ranked outside the top 70. Ashleigh Barty won Nottingham and definitely can be placed in the second tier of top players on the surface. If Muguruza were to lose early, it would not be too surprising to see her in the quarter finals and possibly further – although her failure to win a main draw match there so far may be in the back of her mind.
Angelique Kerber comes into Wimbledon with a 2-3 record on the grass in June, most recently making the semi-final of Eastbourne. She will feel disappointed to have not won that having held match point against Caroline Wozniacki. The German will take on a fellow former finalist in round one in the form of Vera Zvonareva. In one of her rare forays onto the court this year, the Russian did well to qualify winning three matches to earn a place in the main draw. After Zvonvareva, youthful power hitters in the form of Ana Konjuh and Naomi Osaka stand in the way of her and a place in the fourth round. Caroline Garcia will need to play better than she did in Mallorca to stand any chance of advancing deep into the tournament. The Frenchwoman was outplayed in her quarter final there, losing to Sofia Kenin in straight sets. She made it to the fourth round last year, eventually losing to Johanna Konta in front of the Centre Court crowd.
Karolina Pliskova is another play that should thrive on grass in theory but that has not really been the case so far. She lost in the second round to Magdalena Rybarikova last year and in grass tournaments this year, she lost to the Slovak again in Birmingham as well as Aryna Sabalenka in Eastbourne. The big 1-2 punch from the lefty still should be able to provide a decent base for her but the draw is not the kindest for her. She may face Victoria Azarenka in round two while the in-form Mihaela Burzanescu and Eastbourne finalist Sabalenka are potential opponents after that. Venus Williams will defend final points this fortnight and will suffer a sizable rankings drop should she lose early. The former champion performed as poorly as expected on clay but back on the grass, she represents a legitimate threat for the title until proven otherwise.
Sloane Stephens will hope that she can continue her great slam form, having made a final in two of the three she has played since a first round exit at Wimbledon last year. She is more productive on other surfaces but did make the quarter finals back in 2013 – when Bartoli took advantage of the draw falling apart to win the title. A first round exit would not be hugely shocking with Donna Vekic competent on the surface but from there, she has the potential to go far with the right luck. Julia Goerges has not kept up the form she displayed early on in the year so it may be down to Barbara Strycova to spoil the party. The Czech can make it tricky for inconsistent power players, who her route to the fourth round is littered with.
Elina Svitolina was tipped to win the French Open, only to flame out in the third round. The Ukranian will now probably be considered as the best slamless player on tour right now but it seems unlikely she breaks her duck at this event. More confident on other surfaces, she will need to hope that Serena Williams is off her game should they meet in round three. The decision to seed Serena at 25 remains baffling – her comeback hasn’t quite been the runaway success some would have expected although she does have a few top 20 wins already. On the other hand, it could be argued that she is Serena Williams and should be seeded much higher than she is as a 7 time Wimbledon champion. Like Muguruza, Madison Keys is another for whom pre-slam tournament seem to mean very little. She has a US Open final, Australian Open quarter final and French Open semi final on her record in the past year and peaking for the biggest tournaments is something she looks to have worked out. Currently 0-3 against Serena, this tournament could represent her best chance for a win over an all time great.
World No.2 Caroline Wozniacki comes into the tournament with an Eastbourne title but it’s still hard to place her as a lead contender when the Dane has not made the quarter finals at Wimbledon before. Six times a loser in the fourth round, she will hope this title gives her a much needed confidence boost. Wins over the likes of Barty, Konta and Kerber are fairly impressive on the surface but she will need to keep up that level this fortnight. Agnieszka Radwanska is just 6-11 against Wozniacki although they are yet to meet on the grass in those 17 matches. The Pole made the semi finals of Eastbourne in what has otherwise been a down year for the one-time finalist. Coco Vandeweghe was the one to knock out Wozniacki last year in the last 16 and the draw is set up for her to do so once more. The American made the semi final in Rosmalen before a surprise loss in Birmingham to Petra Martic. A third quarter final in four years would not be surprising but one of her fellow Americans may see that she goes no further in the end.
Prediction – Petra Kvitova defeats Serena Williams in the final