Wimbledon: 2017 ladies' preview

The 2017 Wimbledon Championships gets underway on Monday 3rd July, and the ladies' singles final is on Saturday 15th July. As like every Grand Slam tournament, there are storylines heading into Wimbledon. There will be a new champion crowned this year as two-time defending champion Serena Williams out for the remainder of the year, due to pregnancy.

With the 23-time Grand Slam champion's absence from this year's tournament, there are only two former Wimbledon champions in the draw. Five-time champion Venus Williams will be looking to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish for the sixth time, and the first time since 2008. Another former champion is Petra Kvitova, who claimed the title twice in 2011 and 2014. The Czech returned ahead of schedule at the French Open last month, and with Kvitova winning the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, many have tipped Kvitova to claim the title at SW19 for the third time.

The world number one ranking is at stake as last year's finalist and current world number one Angelique Kerber will have plenty of points to defend. The chasing pack and who are in the running to take the world number one ranking away from her are Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki, who has been the world number one in the past. Kerber held onto her ranking at Eastbourne as both her and Halep lost their respective quarterfinal encounters. 

2004 champion Maria Sharapova is another major absentee from the event as she sustained a leg injury in Rome which she has yet to recover from. The Russian was going to participate in the qualifying rounds but she was not fully fit. Two-time semifinalist Victoria Azarenka is looking to be a threat at Wimbledon after returning in Mallorca after missing action for 11 months after becoming a first-time mother in December.

Jelena Ostapenko is the new French Open champion and she is seeded 13th at this year's Championships. She was ranked at 47 in the world at Roland Garros. The quarterfinal lineup at the French Open ensured a first-time Slam champion as none of the eight quarterfinalists won a Slam. Could something similar occur at SW19? 

Kerber's Quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Kerber (1) v Kuznetsova (7)

The world number one, Angelique Kerber will be the top seed at Wimbledon. The German will have her hands full at SW19 as she is not just defending her world number one ranking, she is last year's runner-up which brings pressure. As in 2014, when Marion Bartoli won Wimbledon in 2013 but retired a few weeks later, Sabine Lisicki opened proceedings on Centre Court a year later on the first Tuesday as part of the tradition. Kerber will have that privilege this year, as last year's runner-up in Serena's absence and she begins her campaign against a qualifier. Should Kerber win her first Grand Slam match since the third round in Melbourne, she will face 2013 semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens or Misaki Doi in the second round.

Kerber's projected third round opponent is 32nd seed Lucie Safarova and she will be pleased to be seeded at this year's Championships. The Czech is seeded by virtue of the withdrawals of Serena Williams and Laura Siegemund who sustained a horrific knee injury in Nurnberg that ruled her out of Roland Garros and has yet to recover from it. The lefty has performed well on grass as she reached back-to-back semifinals in Nottingham and Birmingham which helped her gain a seeding. Safarova opens her Wimbledon campaign against France's Oceane Dodin, and she could face an American in Julia Boserup or last year's French Open quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers for a place in the third round.

Another player lurking in this brutal section of the draw is 23rd seed Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman advanced to the third round at Wimbledon for the first time last year but she lost to Simona Halep. Bertens hits the ball hard, and she serves well and can be a threat on grass. However, she could be an early casualty at Wimbledon as she takes on a resurgent Sorana Cirstea in the first round. The Romanian has endured shoulder problems over the past few years but the injuries seem to be behind her now. There is a good opportunity for a few players in this section of the draw as the winner of the Bertens-Cirstea clash will face Magda Linette or Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Another former Wimbledon finalist is in this mini-top section of the draw. Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza is seeded 14th at this year's Championships. Wimbledon is a special place for Muguruza as she reached her first Slam final two years ago losing to Serena Williams. Moreover, the Spaniard has a good chance of going back inside the top 10 as she lost in the second round last year, and has plenty of points to make up. She plays against Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round. In the second round, she has to be alert as Yanina Wickmayer or Kateryna Bondarenko are more than capable of causing an upset.

The second section of this part of the draw is extremely tough. 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska has a mouthwatering first round clash with former world number one Jelena Jankovic. The duo met in the fourth round in 2015 with the Pole winning on that occasion. Radwanska has been inconsistent in 2017, and it would not be a huge shock if Jankovic could send the ninth seed packing. There is some British interest in this section as wildcard Katie Boulter takes on Christina McHale.

Radwanska's projected third round opponent is 2015 quarterfinalist Timea Bacsinszky. The 19th seed advanced to the semifinals at Roland Garros for the second time in three years, and she had a good opportunity to claim her first Slam title. She lost to eventual champion Jelena Ostapenko in three sets. Nevertheless, Bacsinszky takes on Olympic champion Monica Puig in the first round, who has struggled since her dizzy heights of Rio. The winner will have a winnable second round match against a qualifier or Kristina Kucova

Seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova headlines this part of the draw, and the Russian has struggled at Wimbledon over the past few years. Moreover, the Russian has a very good chance of reaching the quarterfinals for just the fourth time. She plays a qualifier in the first round as does her compatriot Ekaterina Makarova. The two Russians could meet in the second round, and Makarova is a very good player on grass. Makarova upset Kerber in the first round of the French Open this year, and Makarova reached the quarterfinals in 2014. Lauren Davis, the 28th seed opens her campaign against compatriot Varvara Lepchenko. The winner of that all-American clash will face Annika Beck or a qualifier in the second round. It is a wide open section but the two-time Slam champion should make the quarterfinals based on current form.

Should Muguruza and Kerber meet in the fourth round it will be a mouthwatering clash as the duo endured two battles in the third round of the French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. Both players have been inconsistent in 2017 but they will be hoping to turn around their fortunes.

The two-time Grand Slam champion has played some good tennis at Eastbourne and will be looking for a third Slam title at Wimbledon (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)
The two-time Grand Slam champion has played some good tennis at Eastbourne and will be looking for a third Slam title at Wimbledon (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)


Quarterfinal: Kerber - Kuznetsova

Semifinalist: Angelique Kerber 

First round matches to watch out for: Flipkens - Doi, Rogers - Boserup, Dodin - Safarova, Bertens - Cirstea, Wickmayer - Bondarenko, Radwanska - Jankovic, Puig - Bacsinszky, Davis - Lepchenko

Pliskova's Quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Pliskova (3) v Wozniacki (5)

The third seed Karolina Pliskova has continued her consistency from 2016 into 2017. This time last year, Pliskova had not advanced to the second week of a Grand Slam tournament. Now last year's US Open finalist has reached the quarterfinals or better in her last three successive Slams. One more Slam that Pliskova needs to conquer is Wimbledon. The Czech is in a better place now, and her game matches up perfectly for grass. The former world number two narrowly missed out on the world number one ranking at the French Open as she lost to fellow contender Simona Halep in the semifinals.

Moreover, Pliskova has another bite at the cherry as she has plenty of points to make up. On her last four successive visits to SW19, Pliskova has lost in the second round but she will be looking to make amends in 2017. Her grass court preparations have gone according to plan as she is currently set to play in her second successive final in Eastbourne.

The lanky Czech has a pleasant draw to get settled at Wimbledon. She has a couple of matches that she should win. Pliskova begins her campaign on Tuesday against Russia's Evgeniya Rodina. Should she defeat the Russian, she plays Monica Niculescu or Magdalena Rybarikova in the second round, which she should reach the third round for the first time. Pliskova's projected third round opponent is 30th seed Zhang Shuai. Last year's Australian Open quarterfinalist has struggled since then but she has kept her ranking in a good place. China's number one takes on Viktorija Golubic in the first round.

Julia Goerges who reached the final in Mallorca is playing some good tennis at the moment, and she could face her former doubles partner in the third round, should she get past Lesia Tsurenko in the first round, and Golubic or Zhang in the second round, which is not the worst draw possible for the German.

16th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is another dangerous player lurking in this section of the draw. The Russian has performed well at the Slams in recent years as she completed her set of reaching all four quarterfinals at Slams at the Australian Open this year. The hard-hitting Russian reached the quarterfinals at SW19 last year losing to Serena Wiliams. She begins her campaign against a qualifier, and she has a winnable second round match against a former top 30 player Zarina Diyas or China's Han Xinyun.

The feisty Russian-born Australian Daria Gavrilova is also a part of this section of the draw. The 20th seed had a good run in Birmingham, where she reached the quarterfinals but squandered multiple match points against Lucie Safarova in one of the matches of the year. Australia's number one begins her campaign against a qualifier, and she could face Denisa Allertova or Risa Ozaki in the second round.

A resurgent former world number one Caroline Wozniacki has been playing scintillating tennis in 2017. It all clicked for the Dane at last year's US Open where she reached the semifinals as an unseeded player, and she was ranked at 74 in the world. The fifth seed struggled with injuries last year, and she lost in the first round at Wimbledon last year to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Nevertheless, Wimbledon remains the only Grand Slam that she has yet to reach the quarterfinals.

In her five fourth round appearances, Wozniacki has only won one set against Dominika Cibulkova in 2009. The Dane has a tough draw against former top 30 player Timea Babos in the first round, and a tricky second clash with former top ten player Sara Errani or 2010 semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova. Wozniacki's projected third round opponent is 29th seed Daria Kasatkina.

Kasatkina lost to Venus Williams in the third round last year in an exciting clash last year. The Russian could be set for an early exit should she get past Zheng Saisai in the first round, she could play Ricoh Open champion Anett Kontaveit in the second round. The Estonian has been in scintillating form in the past few months and she plays against Lara Arruabarrena, who's more suited to clay.

At the top of this fourth section of the draw, 12th seed Kristina Mladenovic begins her Wimbledon campaign in an all-French affair with Pauline Parmentier. Mladenovic reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open after she defeated French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round. Mladenovic could be set for an early exit as she could face 2013 quarterfinalist Sloane Stephens or Alison Riske in the second round. Stephens is returning from a long injury lay-off and Riske has good grass court pedigree.

Mladenovic's projected third round opponent in 2015 quarterfinalist Coco Vandeweghe. The hard-hitting American advanced to the quarterfinals in Birmingham but withdrew from an ankle injury after sustaining the injury during the match with Muguruza. Vandeweghe will be working with 1987 champion Pat Cash, who believes that she could win Wimbledon. Vandeweghe reached her first Slam semifinal at the Australian Open after defeating back-to-back Slam champions in Kerber and Muguruza before losing to compatriot Venus Williams.

Vandeweghe plays against Mona Barthel in the first round on Tuesday, and qualifier Anastasia Potapova or Tatjana Maria await in the second round.

It is an intriguing section of the draw but Pliskova and Vandeweghe should meet in the quarterfinals, depending on how Wozniacki's feeling after her long run in Eastbourne, and if the hard-hitting American has fully recovered.

Pliskova will be a major threat at Wimbledon with her game perfectly suited for grass (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst / Getty)
Pliskova will be a major threat at Wimbledon with her game perfectly suited for grass (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst / Getty)


Quarterfinal: Pliskova - Vandeweghe

Semifinalist - Karolina Pliskova 

First round matches to watch out for: Ka.Pliskova - Rodina, Niculescu - Rybarikova, Tsurenko - Goerges, Mladenovic - Parmentier, Riske - Stephens, Barthel - Vandeweghe, Arruabarrena - Kontaveit, Pironkova - Errani, Babos - Wozniacki


Svitolina's Quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Svitolina (4) v Cibulkova (8)

Former world number four Dominika Cibulkova enters this year's Wimbledon low on confidence. The Slovak won the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals in Singapore last year. However, Cibulkova won a tour-high of four titles in 2016 but she is struggling for wins in 2017. She is currently 14-13 for win-losses and she is currently on a four-match losing streak. The eighth seed lost to Ons Jabeur in the second round in French Open, and she is winless on grass. She lost to Antonia Lottner in 's-Hertogenbosch, she failed to convert two match points against Lucie Safarova in Birmingham and she failed to defend her title in Eastbourne losing to Heather Watson in the first round.

Cibulkova could be set for another disappointing first round loss as she takes on former top 15 player Andrea Petkovic. The German has struggled for form herself over the past couple years, and she has to play lower-ranked events to keep her ranking afloat. The winner of this match will face Danka Kovinic or Jennifer Brady in the second round.

Cibulkova, reached her second Wimbledon quarterfinal last year, and her projected third round opponent is 27th seed Ana Konjuh. The Croat has a difficult first round clash with 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki, who returned to Mallorca after a long injury lay-off. This part of the draw is wide open and the winner of the first round clash between Lisicki and Konjuh will face Irina-Camelia Begu or Britain's Naomi Broady in the second round.

However, looking to take advantage of this part of the draw is the five-time champion, Venus Williams. The American has performed consistently at Slams as she has reached the second week at five consecutive Slams. During that time, Williams lost in the semifinals at Wimbledon last year to Kerber and she reached her first Slam final since Wimbledon in 2009 at the Australian Open, when she lost to her sister Serena. The former world number one begins her campaign against Elise Mertens, who she thrashed at the French Open earlier this month.

Should Williams get past the young Belgian, she has a winnable second round match against Qiang Wang or Chang Kai-Chen. Williams is seeded to face 2014 quarterfinalist Barbora Strycova in the third round. The 22nd-seeded Czech begins her Wimbledon campaign on Monday against Veronica Cepede Royg. The Paraguayan almost reached the quarterfinals at the French Open but lost to Karolina Pliskova in three sets. Strycova is set to play Naomi Osaka or Sara Sorribes Tomo, should she win her first round match.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is one of the headline acts in the sixth section of the draw. The 20-year-old shocked the world when she won the French Open, defeating Simona Halep in the final. The Latvian is seeded 13th and she was junior Wimbledon champion in 2014. Ostapenko has a good part of the draw as she faces Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round, and Canadian qualifier Francoise Abanda or Kurumi Nara in the second round.

17th seed Madison Keys is Ostapenko's projected third round adversary. Both players hit the ball hard, and will not be holding back. The American reached the quarterfinals at SW19 in 2015, and she takes on Nao Hibino in the first round. Keys' second round opponent will be tricky against Alize Cornet or Camila Giorgi, who have both reached the fourth round at Wimbledon before.

The headline of this quarter of the draw is fourth seed Elina Svitolina. The Ukranian could be an early casualty at Wimbledon as she is suffering from a foot injury, and has said that it is painful when she walks. Nonetheless, she has been practising at Aorangi Park ahead of the third major of the year. She has a tough first round opponent in Ashleigh Barty. The young Aussie reached the final in Birmingham narrowly losing to Kvitova in three sets.

Svitolina's best run at Wimbledon has been second round finishes in the last couple of years. Should the fourth seed defeat Barty, she will face 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, who is participating at her last Wimbledon or Mandy Minella in the second round. Svitolina is in the running of claiming the world number one ranking.

This year's Australian Open semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni reached her first Slam semifinal since achieving it at Wimbledon in 1999. The Croat opens her campaign against Germany's Carina Witthoeft in the first round, and a qualifier or Irina Khromacheva could be her second round opponent. The hard-hitting Croat could face Svitolina in the third round, and on grass, she may fancy her chances against the Ukranian.

 

The five-time champion will be looking to defy the odds at the age of 37 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)
The five-time champion will be looking to defy the odds at the age of 37 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)


Quarterfinal: Williams - Ostapenko

Semifinalist: Venus Williams 

First round matches to watch out for: Cibulkova - Petkovic, Brady - Kovinic, Broady - Begu, Lisicki - Konjuh, Strycova - Cepede Royg, Mertens - Williams, Ostapenko - Sasnovich, Giorgi - Cornet, Hibino - Keys, Lucic-Baroni, Witthoeft, Barty - Svitolina


Halep's Quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Konta (6) v Halep (2)

This bottom section of the draw is arguably the strongest in the tournament. Britain's sixth seed Johanna Konta faces Su-Wei Hsieh for the second consecutive Grand Slam first round. Konta lost to the player from Chinese Taipei in the first round at Roland Garros, despite being in cruise control. Konta's grass court form has been impressive as she reached the final in Nottingham, lost in the third round in Birmingham but had to withdraw in the semifinals in Eastbourne. Konta sustained a nasty tumble against Kerber in the quarterfinals, which led her to withdraw from her semifinal match with Pliskova.

Nevertheless, Konta has never gone beyond the second round at SW19 and should she get her revenge against Su-Wei Hsieh, she will face Donna Vekic, who beat her in the final in Nottingham or young rising star Natalia Vikhlyvantseva. Konta's projected third round opponent is the 31st seed, Roberta Vinci. The Italian has struggled since reaching the US Open final in 2015, and she could be set for an early exit at Wimbledon once more. She faces Kristyna Pliskova in the first round.

Katerina Siniakova and Maria Sakkari will clash in the first round to earn the right to face the Italian or Pliskova for a place in the third round.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is playing scintillating tennis on her comeback to tennis. In just her second tournament back from a horrific knife injury to her hand back in the Czech Republic, Kvitova won the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, her 20th WTA title, and first since Wimbledon three years ago. The 11th seed begins her quest for a third title at SW19 against Johanna Larsson.

Should Kvitova reach the second round, she will face Madison Brengle or Richel Hogenkamp. Which could prove to be a tricky test for Kvitova but based on current form, she should get past either of them. Her projected third round opponent is the 21st seed, Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Paris earlier this month but failed to go further as she lost to Pliskova in straight sets. Garcia has a tough first round encounter with Jana Cepelova. The Slovak is a giant-killer at Wimbledon as she defeated Halep in the first round in 2015, and Muguruza in the second round last year.

Garcia's potential second round opponent is Ying-Ying Duan or Romania's Ana Bogdan. Moreover, a mouthwatering fourth round clash between Konta and Kvitova could be on the cards. Kvitova defeated Konta in the fourth round of the US Open in 2015, and the Brit would be out for revenge should they meet.

This final section of the draw is extremely brutal. Last year's semifinalist Elena Vesnina, has plenty of points to defend. The 15th seed hasn't kicked on since winning the biggest title of her career at the Premier Mandatory event in Indian Wells. She begins her campaign against compatriot Anna Blinkova in the first round but could be set for an early departure in the second round.

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka marks her return to the Grand Slam stage after missing the last four Slams due to pregnancy. The two-time Australian Open champion returned to Mallorca where she saved match points in her first round match but lost to Ana Konjuh in the second round. Nonetheless, the Belarusian is a two-time semifinalist at SW19 losing to eventual champions Kvitova and Serena Williams in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Azarenka lost early in 2013 and 2014 but on her last visit to SW19, she lost to Serena in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Azarenka has a first round clash with Catherine Bellis, which is mouthwatering, and she is favoured to reach the fourth round at least. Should Azarenka defeat the young American, she could face former doubles partner Vesnina in the second round.

Mallorca Open champion Anastasija Sevastova is Vesnina or Azarenka's potential third round opponent. The 18th seed reached her first Slam quarterfinal at the US Open last year until injury cruelly intervened which hampered her chances of beating Wozniacki in the quarterfinals. Sevastova faces Yulia Putintseva in a tough first round clash, and Heather Watson of Great Britain could await in the second round.

The British wildcard lost to Wozniacki in a three-set tussle in the semifinals in Eastbourne, and she will be full of confidence heading into Wimbledon. Watson takes on Belgian Maryna Zanevska in the first round, and she will fancy her chances of reaching the third round once more.

The headline act in this bottom section of the draw is second seed Simona Halep. The Romanian suffered another three-set loss in a French Open final. Nonetheless, Halep will have to put that out of her mind as she chases her dream of winning a Slam title, and the world number one ranking.

Halep reached the semifinals in 2014, and she lost to Kerber in the quarterfinals last year. She opens her campaign on Monday against a qualifier Marina Erakovic, and another Brit lurking in this part of the draw is Laura Robson. The Brit plays Beatriz Haddad Maia in the first round and could have a go against the second seed in round two.

The Romanian's projected third round opponent is 25th seed, Carla Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard has struggled with injuries this year, and she has a tough first round encounter with 2014 runner-up Eugenie Bouchard. Bouchard has struggled for form over the past couple of years, and after defeating Sharapova and Kerber in Madrid, she is full of confidence.

The winner of that tough clash will face the WTA rising star in Marketa Vondrousova or Shuai Peng in the second round. It is a tough section of the draw, and everyone would like to see Azarenka play against Halep in the fourth round.

The two-time Wimbledon champion is in good shape ahead of another title charge at SW19 (Photo by Ben Hoskins / Getty)
The two-time Wimbledon champion is in good shape ahead of another title charge at SW19 (Photo by Ben Hoskins / Getty)



Quarterfinal: Kvitova - Azarenka

Semifinalist: Kvitova

First round matches to watch out for: Konta - Hsieh, Vekic - Vikhlyvantseva - Siniakova - Sakkari, Kr. Pliskova - Vinci, Garcia - Cepelova, Larsson - Kvitova, Azarenka - Bellis, Putintseva - Sevastova, Suarez Navarro - Bouchard, Vondrousova - Peng

Semifinals and Final prediction:

Pliskova defeats Kerber
Kvitova defeats Williams

Final: Kvitova d. Pliskova

 

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