The final showdown of the grass court swing, the Wimbledon Championships is here. There are questions lingering as to who will walk away with the majestic Venus Rosewater Dish. Will defending champion Serena Williams end her trophy-less streak at the Grand Slams since lifting her last title here in Wimbledon one year ago, will Garbiñe Muguruza carry on her momentum from winning the French Open and continue to impress by winning her second Grand Slam title, will this finally be Agnieszka Radwanska’s time to break through and lift her first Grand Slam title, will Petra Kvitova finally put an end to a disastrous 2016 by surprising everyone and going all the way to her third Wimbledon title and will the tournament see another first time Grand Slam finalist for the sixth year in a row since the turn of the decade?
A few days ago, 2011 semifinalist Victoria Azarenka, who was projected to be the sixth seed announced her withdrawal. This is due to a niggling knee injury that has been troubling her ever since the clay court season.
The top four seeds this year are Williams, Muguruza, Radwanska and reigning Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber. It is now time to dissect the draw and weigh in on the most likely match-ups that will unfold in the coming weeks and who will walk away as 2016 Wimbledon champion.
As mentioned before, top seed Williams will seek to put away a Grand Slam title drought. In Wimbledon last year, the world number one completed her second ‘Serena Slam’ having won the 2014 US Open, 2015 Australian Open and 2015 French Open prior. Her hopes of capturing the ‘Calendar Slam’ were dashed at the US Open two months later when she succumbed to Roberta Vinci in the last four.
In the first two Grand Slams this year, Williams was impressive in advancing to the championship round but finished second best to inspired opponents, to Angelique Kerber in Melbourne and Garbiñe Muguruza in Paris. Nevertheless, the American has still managed to capture one title so far, coming on the clay courts of Rome last month. Williams plays Swiss qualifier Amra Sadikovic in the first round.
At the bottom of Williams’ eighth is 14th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova who has drawn the short straw, going up against former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the first round. Kuznetsova has never won a match against the Dane on the green lawns. 18th seed Sloane Stephens opens against China’s Peng Shuai who enters with a protected ranking whereas Kristina Mladenovic, the 31st seed is on a collision course with Williams as the pair could meet in the third round. The Frenchwoman did give Williams a run for her money in their most recent meeting in the third round of the French Open last month.
On the other side of the quarter, sixth-seeded Vinci gets her highest-ever seeding in a Grand Slam tournament. However, the past couple of weeks have been a rough one for the Italian who has lost five of her last six matches. Things do not get much easier as she faces American Alison Riske in her opening match, a player to watch out for on this surface. Riske most recently won an ITF title on grass and made the Nottingham final a fortnight ago.
27th seed CoCo Vandeweghe’s grass season has been spectacular entering Wimbledon. The American won the Ricoh Open and reached the last four in Birmingham. A quarterfinalist last year, she looks poised for another good run once again. However, her first match against Kateryna Bondarenko is no walk in the park.
Other seeds in Vinci’s eighth include Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, the 11th seed who begins her campaign against Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum while 21st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova goes up against Hsieh Su-wei in her opener.
This quarter also features three Brits, Heather Watson, and wild cards Tara Moore and youngster Katie Swan. Watson plays Annika Beck in her first-rounder whereas the latter two face Alison Van Uytvanck and Timea Babos in their opening matches respectively.
Quarterfinalists: Serena Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe
Semifinalist: Serena Williams
First round matches to watch out for: Wozniacki - Kuznetsova, Vandeweghe - Bondarenko, Riske - Vinci
A semifinalist in 2015, third seed Radwanska begins her Wimbledon journey against Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova. She could then face one of Karin Knapp or Ana Konjuh, both of whom are big-hitters. The Pole’s draw does not get any easier with 30th seed Caroline Garcia looming in the third round. The Pole suffered sub-par results in Birmingham and Eastbourne and will look to put away those disappointments and produce a better showing here.
Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, the 19th seed here just won her maiden grass court title in Eastbourne yesterday, defeating Radwanska in the last eight en route to the title. The Slovak faces 1999 semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the first round and could clash with Radwanska in the round of 16, thus the Pole has a shot at revenge should the match-up materialise.
British number one Johanna Konta bookends this eighth as the 16th seed. A semifinalist in Eastbourne, she was drawn to face fellow Eastbourne semifinalist Monica Puig in the first round, not an easy draw for the local hope. 2014 runner-up Eugenie Bouchard is a probable second round opponent for Konta should the Canadian overcome Magdalena Rybarikova.
Progressing down the second quarter, the other eighth is headlined by seventh seed Belinda Bencic. The Swiss prodigy meets Tsvetana Pironkova in her opener for the second year in a row. Bencic came out on top in that previous meeting 12 months ago. However, the Swiss suffered a thigh injury which forced her to retire from her first round match in Birmingham. She enters Wimbledon with a bout of injury. Germany’s Andrea Petkovic who grabbed the last seeding spot after the withdrawal of Azarenka meets Japan’s Nao Hibino in her opening match.
10th-seeded Kvitova, a two-time champion here, has yet to produce a significant result since reaching the last four on the indoor clay courts of Stuttgart in April. The past couple of weeks have seen Kvitova in dire straits. She has managed to win consecutive matches in two out of five tournaments since Stuttgart. Nothing seemed to have improved once she stepped on grass, leaving Birmingham and Eastbourne with just one win in each tournament, a far cry from her grass court prowess. It will be intriguing to see how the Czech goes about turning around her dire 2016 at her favourite tournament and most fruitful Grand Slam.
Like Bencic however, the Czech also has a thigh injury, noticeably seen with her right thigh heavily strapped during Birmingham and Eastbourne. Kvitova begins her campaign against Sorana Cirstea with Russian Ekaterina Makarova, whom the Czech almost lost to in the third round here three years ago, looming. Makarova was a quarterfinalist here in 2014. Kvitova could then face compatriot and 24th seed Barbora Strycova in the third round, Strycova however was handed a tough opening round opponent in big-hitting Estonian Anett Kontaveit.
Notably, Bencic’s eighth features three qualifiers. The only all-qualifier first rounder in the draw sees Tatjana Maria take on Julia Boserup, the winner could meet one of Bencic or Pironkova in the ensuing round. The other qualifier, Austrian Tamira Paszek, another dangerous name on grass faces Elena Vesnina in her opening match.
Quarterfinalists: Agnieszka Radwanska and Ekaterina Makarova
Semifinalist: Agnieszka Radwanska
First round matches to watch out for: Cibulkova - Lucic-Baroni, Puig - Konta, Kontaveit - Strycova, Pironkova - Bencic
Kerber’s best result in Wimbledon came in 2012 where she made the semifinals and since then, she has appeared in the quarterfinals in 2014. The German’s first round clash is an enticing one as she faces Brit Laura Robson, who received a wildcard. Should the fourth seed survive the first two rounds, the first seed she could meet is 25th-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu.
Across the German’s eighth is 15th seed Karolina Pliskova who meets Yanina Wickmayer in one of the tightest opening round clashes. Pliskova has been impressive on grass so far, winning her first grass court title in Nottingham and finishing runner-up in Eastbourne. The Czech enters Wimbledon with reasonable momentum and will look to put an end to poor results at the Grand Slams where she has never gone beyond the third round. Also present in Kerber’s eighth is 23rd seed and 2007 semifinalist Ana Ivanovic. The Serb meets Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round.
This year’s fifth seed, Simona Halep enters Wimbledon with zero grass court matches under her belt. The Romanian was due to play Birmingham but withdrew with an Achilles injury. There are uncertainties regarding her form as she looks to make reparations after an opening round exit here last year. The Romanian who opens against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and has her eighth loaded with big-hitting guns, among them Latvian teenager Jelena Ostapenko who made her Grand Slam debut here one year ago. The Latvian meets 26th seed Kiki Bertens in the first round and could clash with Halep in the third round. Ostapenko most notably reached the quarterfinals of Birmingham last week where she fell to Madison Keys.
Keys, another 2015 quarterfinalist and the ninth seed here this year, could meet Halep in the round of 16 and had a commendable grass court season entering Wimbledon, winning Birmingham, her second grass court title. The promising American is definitely a name to watch out for this coming fortnight. She plays Laura Siegemund in the first round.
20th seed Sara Errani who is on a five-match losing streak meets Patricia Maria Tig in the first round whereas Alizé Cornet, who most notably upset Serena Williams in the third round here two years ago, faces Polona Hercog in her opening match. The winner of the latter will meet the winner of former in the second round with Keys as a probable third round opponent.
Quarterfinalists: Madison Keys and Angelique Kerber
Semifinalist: Madison Keys
First round matches to watch out for: Ostapenko - Bertens, Pliskova - Wickmayer, Robson - Kerber
Newly-minted French Open champion Muguruza will be playing her first Grand Slam event as Grand Slam champion and world number two. The Spaniard’s first tournament after her glorious French Open title run was back on home soil in Mallorca but she exited in the first round to Kirsten Flipkens. No doubt there will expectations on Muguruza and she will be carrying weight and pressure to perform well here in Wimbledon where she made her first Grand Slam final last year.
The Spaniard was handed a tough opener, facing the equally big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi. She could then clash with qualifier Jana Cepelova who sent Halep packing in the first round here last year. 28th seed Lucie Safarova could meet Muguruza in the third round but would need to overcome doubles partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands in her opener first.
Also present in Muguruza’s eighth is Sabine Lisicki, the German unseeded this year after a rough couple of months in 2016. The German has made at least the quarterfinals in five of her total seven appearances here. Lisicki’s draw looks manageable as the seeds she could face en route to the round of 16 are 14th-seeded Samantha Stosur and 19th-seeded Elina Svitolina, whose grass results are nothing much to shout about.
Moreover, the German has a pension for beating reigning French Open champions in Wimbledon, having done so in 2009 (against Kuznetsova), 2011 (against Li Na), 2012 (against Maria Sharapova) and 2013 (against Serena Williams). The last two years, Sharapova and Williams, who won the French Open in 2014 and 2015 respectively, have managed to avoid Lisicki in the draws. This year however, both Lisicki and Muguruza could meet in the round of 16. Lisicki plays Shelby Rogers in her opening match.
In the other half of this quarter, eighth seed Venus Williams meets Donna Vekic of Croatia across the net in her first-rounder. Williams' projected round of 16 opponent is 12th seed Carla Suárez Navarro and the Spaniard plays China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. Jelena Jankovic, the 22nd seed who upset last year’s defending champion Kvitova in the third round, takes on Stefanie Voegele in the first round. 29th seed Daria Kasatkina will be playing just her second ever grass court tournament, the Russian going up against America’s Victoria Duval in her opening match. Duval is the only other player besides Peng who is using a protected ranking.
The only Brit in the concluding quarter of the draw is 26-year-old Naomi Broady. She goes up against Svitolina in her opening match. Yaroslava Shvedova and Julia Goerges square off in their opening match, a match where pure big-hitting is much-anticipated. The winner plays one of Broady or Svitolina in the second round.
Quarterfinalists: Venus Williams and Sabine Lisicki
Semifinalist: Sabine Lisicki
First round matches to watch out for: Shvedova - Goerges, Safarova - Mattek-Sands, Giorgi - Muguruza
Semifinals and final prediction
Semifinals: Serena Williams d. Agnieszka Radwanska, Madison Keys d. Sabine Lisicki
Final: Serena Williams d. Madison Keys