With defending champion Simona Halep’s withdrawal meaning she cannot open Centre Court on Tuesday, the honour has moved to the current World No.1 Ashleigh Barty. The occasion will also be a fitting tribute to her opponent Carla Suarez Navarro, who is retiring at the end of the season after going into remission from cancer. Barty will want to show she is a contender on the grass having never made it to the quarter finals here.
The fact that Suarez Navarro is even going to be back on a tennis court is cause for celebration following her recovery. She made her initial return at Roland Garros and could well have picked up an excellent win against Sloane Stephens having held a set lead and gone into a second set tiebreak for victory before eventually falling to a narrow defeat.
2021 has been fairly strong for Barty outside of slams but in them, she suffered two very different losses. She lost to Karolina Muchova from a set up in Australia and was forced to retire in her second round clash at Roland Garros – where many would have considered her as the favourite. It was her second straight tournament with a retirement, having done the same in Rome too. She is one of a number of Junior Wimbledon winners in the draw, having won the event back in 2011. “I love the challenge that comes with playing on grass. For me, it’s traditional. It’s kind of where our sport originated. From a young kid, the first time I played on grass court, I loved it. I loved the challenge of having to adapt, having to almost adapt the way that you play as the grass changes as well, as you go deeper and deeper into events. The grass gets quicker, it kind of changes as you go.” she said.
Barty should make the quarter finals for the first time here as long as her body holds up. Johanna Konta’s late enforced withdrawal means she does not have a guaranteed seeded opponent until round four, where she could meet Barbara Krejcikova. “Now I feel like I’m fit, I’m ready to play I’m excited to play. To have an opportunity to again play main draw here at Wimbledon is certainly something that excited me and really drove me to do everything as best as I possibly could with my team to make sure we’re fit and we’re here playing.” she added.
Prediction – Ashleigh Barty in straight sets