With Iga Swiatek currently on a 35 match winning streak, it seemed unlikely there would be any story that could match that for intrigue going into SW19. However, Serena Williams‘ surprise return has put a little doubt into the Pole’s coronation in two weeks time. It remains hard to know what to expect from her though, with her last singles match being at this tournament last year. Swiatek remains the heavy favourite despite this and will be helped by the likely second favourite – Aryna Sabalenka – being caught in the ban of Russian and Belarussian players.
Swiatek was pegged as being a future No.1 from a young age but the level of domination this year has been incredibly – even accounting for the criticism many have of her rivals on tour. Thirteen of those wins are against the top 20 and only one set has been lost in this group of matches. Big hitters have been dismantled and so have more thoughtful and intelligent players with the Pole able to match both styles very well. Very few players in the early stages look like they will get any more than a few games. Should Alize Cornet make it through two rounds, a centre court date with Swiatek would be a fitting reward for a player who will play her 62nd consecutive slam this fortnight. Barbara Krejcikova fared well in her first Wimbledon last year but matching that fourth round will be difficult with few matches played following her injury.
Some interesting quarter-finals are on the cards if Swiatek does get there as expected. Her best days do look behind her but Garbine Muguruza throwing in a deep run is never going to be out of the question even with a complete lack of form. She has a final and a title to her name and with few true specialists, can still go far if she is at her best. Bianca Andreescu comes into Wimbledon with a final in Germany while Jessica Pegula is a much more consistent player these days. She has only won one match at Wimbledon but her improvement in the past 2 years should see her improve on that for sure.
While Paula Badosa is the top seed in the next section of the draw, the focus is undoubtedly going to be on the two former champions. Simona Halep was many people’s pick to open Centre Court in the absence of Ashleigh Barty but injury concerns following her withdrawal in Bad Homburg worked against her. Petra Kvitova is the other in this section and comes into the event in good form. She beat two very dangerous players to secure the Eastbourne title – ending the winning streak of Beatriz Haddad Maia before following it up with a dominant straight sets win over Jelena Ostapenko in the final. Questions will always remain over her ability to hold it together over a fortnight but she always has to be considered a contender when she is playing at her current level.
Many a cynic will look at Serena Williams‘ comeback draw with rolled eyes given there is likely fewer easier pairs of matches to ease into the tournament. She begins against Harmony Tan and could play one of the weakest seeds in the tournament in Sara Sorribes Tormo. It gets tougher in round three with last year’s losing finalist Karolina Pliskova projected to be in that place. The Czech has always been strong on grass although her Eastbourne loss to Katie Boulter does leave a lot to be desired. She is still amongst the better players on grass though so this matchup should answer a lot of questions about Serena and her capabilities of competing at the highest level still. Coco Gauff will look to build on her French Open final with another nice run at the tournament where she first made her name. She will be happy with her Berlin outing, making the semi finals and picking up a win over Pliskova in the process.
While pressure has been ramping up around Emma Raducanu, that is likely to be turbo charged during this fortnight with expectations high and often unfair. Alison Van Uytvanck is more than capable on grass and could well pull off the upset. The Belgian did win a grass title at the new Gaiba tournament although the unorthodox court bounce and the fact that Sara Errani made the final make it hard to take too much from this other than she will be in a confident mood. Caroline Garcia is off a title while the other seeds will all fancy their chances at seeing off the home favourite. Shuai Zhang and Alison Riske have both have good runs at Wimbledon while Danielle Collins still remains a danger on any court that rewards powerful shotmaking.
Ons Jabeur could have followed up her Berlin title with an attempt at Eastbourne but chose a more relaxed approach, partnering Serena Williams’ in her return to the court and winning two matches before withdrawing from the tournament. The Tunisian continues to improve but the pressure will be on for her to finally deliver a semi final given her time spent in and around the top 5. As long as there are no fitness issues, it’s the type of draw that should be fairly comfortable for the No.3 seed. A couple of qualifiers followed by Kaia Kanepi to see her into week two before things potentially get tougher. It is hard to predict how Angelique Kerber will go this fortnight with the German still a great big match player even if less consistent, as her 2021 semi final proves.
2021 was a very strong slam year for Maria Sakkari but was all about lost chances at the same time. Favoured to make the final on both occasions, she faltered as has often been the case for her in big matches. Being on the opposite side of the draw to Swiatek, Williams and others should give her the confidence to go on a deep run although much may depend on the mood of Jelena Ostapenko over the coming weeks. The Latvian was the last player to beat Iga Swiatek this year but also has two losses to Shelby Rogers and one to Lauren Davis this year – continuing to show that she is a player of extremes. If she can get her Eastbourne loss out of her mind fairly quickly, she should be a danger to many in this draw.
Perhaps unfairly, Anett Kontaveit has received criticism for her spot as a No.2 player being built on a slam record that doesn’t contain a single fourth round. However, her August 2021-February 2021 has been stellar with numerous titles and she likely would have built on it had COVID and the after-effects not lingered for so long afterwards. She withdrew from Eastbourne as a result of this so will be going into the tournament cold. Belinda Bencic or Beatriz Haddad Maia look best placed to take advantage of this. Bencic has a quarter final and final on the grass this year while Haddad Maia has been the standout player of the grass season. She had won 12 straight matches across the UK tournaments before finally falling at the semi final stage in Eastbourne. She will be one to watch as a potential dark horse should the other bottom half suspects fail to shine.
Prediction – Iga Swiatek beats Ons Jabeur