2018 Wimbledon Ladies' Singles Preview: Garbine Muguruza looks to defend crown against arrray of contenders

2018 Wimbledon Ladies' Singles Preview: Garbine Muguruza looks to defend crown against arrray of contenders

Several intriguing storylines merge together over the coming weeks at the All England Club, with several women vying for the Wimbledon title when the tournament begins on Monday.

oliver-dickson-jefford
Oliver Dickson Jefford

After three weeks of grass court build up, one of the most recognizable and iconic sporting events in history is set to start once again this Monday, with Wimbledon set to take place in what is set to be a hot British summer this year.

The tournament was open last year and there proved to be a slightly surprising champion with Garbine Muguruza, seeded 13th and out of form following her French Open triumph the previous year, dropping just one set as she stormed to her first title at SW19 after losing in the final two years prior.

Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep will once again be in contention for a Slam title (Getty/Jean Catuffe)
Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep will once again be in contention for a Slam title (Getty/Jean Catuffe)

Muguruza, seeded third, is once again a title contender this year, though there is a strong contingent of women who are all potential contenders. Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, the top two seeds, have both claimed their maiden slam titles this season, whilst fourth seed Sloane Stephens fell to Halep in the French Open final and is the reigning US Open champion; all four will believe they can add to their slam collection.

Slightly further back, eighth seed Petra Kvitova has struggled at both slams this year, though has won five WTA titles and having won this title twice, will be another strong contender. Her compatriot Karolina Pliskova is seeded seventh and will be hoping for a huge breakthrough at a tournament she has not thrived at in the past, whilst Elina Svitolina and Caroline Garcia are also seeded in the top eight and could well go deep.

Serena Williams will be aiming for an eighth Wimbledon title (Getty/Clive Brunskill)
Serena Williams will be aiming for an eighth Wimbledon title (Getty/Clive Brunskill)

However, perhaps the biggest story of them all is the return of Serena Williams, seven times a Wimbledon champion, who is playing at the tournament for the first time since becoming a mother. Thanks to the tournament’s discretion, she will be seeded 25th, whilst Venus Williams, the runner-up last year, is seeded ninth and will be hoping for a strong showing after first round losses in Melbourne and Paris. Meanwhile, tenth seed Madison Keys and 2016 finalist Angelique Kerber are arguably two more women to keep an eye on throughout the tournament.

First Quarter

Projected Q/F: (1st) Simona Halep vs (8th) Petra Kvitova

After finally capturing a Grand Slam title, Halep will be full of confidence, and though she has not always found her best form on grass, the Romanian will be incredibly tough to face here. The world number one should face little trouble in the opening two round, with a potential third round match against 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova likely to be her first test- one she should be able to pass. More trouble could loom in the second week, with 22nd seed Johanna Konta, who beat her in the last eight looming, as well as 16th seed Elise Mertens, though the Belgian has lost handily to Halep twice this season.

Petra Kvitova defended her title in Birmingham just last week (Getty/Jordan Mansfield)
Petra Kvitova defended her title in Birmingham just last week (Getty/Jordan Mansfield)

Kvitova has a poor slam record of late, though five titles this season, including one on grass in Birmingham, mean she is undoubtedly a huge contender to win her third title here. Whilst an opening few rounds that includes Aliaksandra Sasnovich to open and 26th seed Daria Gavrilova in the third round seems manageable, it is hard to tell whether the Czech will have a good day or not, though she could have a lot of confidence coming in. Also looking for big runs will be 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko, looking to move on from her French Open loss, and former champion and 24th seed Maria Sharapova; they are set for a blockbuster third round clash.

Prediction: Kvitova def Halep

Second Quarter

Projected Q/F: (3rd) Garbine Muguruza vs (6th) Caroline Garcia

Muguruza has look a lot more composed over these past twelve months than she did in the year following her 2016 French Open victory, and she will need to be playing at her best to come through what has proved to be a tough draw. Though her first two rounds should be simple, she could come up against 28th seed Anett Kontaveit after that, and then 17th seed Ashleigh Barty or 14th seed Daria Kasatkina in the fourth round. Another noticeable presence here is Eugenie Bouchard, the 2014 finalist who looks to be getting some form back after winning three qualifying matches to reach the main draw.

After a poor 2017, former finalist Angelique Kerber is putting together a solid 2018 season (Action Plus/Hongbo Chen)
After a poor 2017, former finalist Angelique Kerber is putting together a solid 2018 season (Action Plus/Hongbo Chen)

Garcia, meanwhile, has had a solid season so far following an incredible end to 2017, though has an incredibly tough opening round match against Belinda Bencic. Further danger could await in the likes of Alison Riske and 27th seed Carla Suarez Navarro later on, though a huge factor here, and in the draw full stop, is 11th seed Angelique Kerber, back playing high-quality tennis after an awful 2017. The German should start well against qualifier Vera Zvonareva, the 2010 finalist who came back to tour last year, though an incredibly intriguing third round match against 18th seed Naomi Osaka could prove to be a classic should it happen.

Prediction: Muguruza def Kerber

Third Quarter

Projected Q/F: (7th) Karolina Pliskova vs (4th) Sloane Stephens

Pliskova has always struggled at Wimbledon, never making it past the second round, and could have a huge test early on: Victoria Azarenka is her likely second round opponent this year, though the Belarusian has had a tumultuous two years and much prefers hard courts. 29th seed Mihaela Buzarnescu could be a third round danger for either of those two, though perhaps the biggest name in this part of the draw is ninth seed Venus Williams, a five-time champion. However, the runner-up last season has not been at her best this year, and with the likes of 20th seed Kiki Bertens also here, this may be an open part of the draw.

Pliskova has never thrived at Wimbledon but is generally a great grass court player (Action Plus/Hongbo Chen)
Pliskova has never thrived at Wimbledon but is generally a great grass court player (Action Plus/Hongbo Chen)

Stephens struggled after the US Open last season, where she took the title despite having been back on tour for just a few weeks, though her Miami Open wins and French Open final prove she is back to her best, and she could take the number one ranking here if things go her way. She does, however, have a tough opener against strong grass courter Donna Vekic, though if she passes that the road seems good for the American, with the likes of 31st seed Shuai Zhang and 13th seed Julia Goerges unlikely to pose too much trouble on grass.

Prediction: Stephens def Pliskova

Fourth Quarter

Projected Q/F: (5th) Elina Svitolina vs (2nd) Caroline Wozniacki

Though Svitolina is the highest ranked player in her mini-section, undoubtedly the huge presence here is that of Serena Williams, with the American and Ukrainian set for a third round clash; the fifth seed is not at her best on grass, though we do not really know what to expect from Serena in just her fourth tournament this year. Though those two attract most the attention, also here is 19th seed and 2017 semifinalist Magdalena Rybarikova, who reached the final in Birmingham recently, and also tenth seed Madison Keys, who has become a solid slam player and has huge weapons which could be lethal on this surface.

Keys has become a solid Grand Slam performer (Getty/Al Bello)
Keys has become a solid Grand Slam performer (Getty/Al Bello)

Wozniacki has never had too much success here, failing to reach the last eight despite being a junior Wimbledon champion, and the Dane once again has a tricky draw, with Ekaterina Makarova or Petra Martic set to provide a real test in the second round, and 32nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska potentially looming in the third round. Meanwhile, Wozniacki is in fact set for a rematch of her fourth round match from 2017 this year at the same stage against 16th seed Coco Vandeweghe- a match which the American won. The American loves playing on grass, though has a tough start against Katerina Siniakova, and would have to deal with the likes of Aleksandra Krunic, Camila Giorgi, or 21st seed Anastasija Sevastova early on as well.

Prediction: Keys def Wozniacki

Semifinal

Kvitova def Muguruza

Keys def Stephens

Final

Kvitova def Keys

 

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