With Wimbledon beginning today, let’s take a look at the 32 seeds, plus some predictions.
1. Serena Williams: The prohibitive favorite to complete the “Serena Slam” has won 21 consecutive Grand Slam matches dating back to a shock loss to Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet in the Round of 16 in this event last year. Her draw features a potential 3rd round match with talented but erratic Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia as well as a 4th Round encounter with sister Venus before a possible quarterfinal with 7th seed Ana Ivanovic. Still, it would be foolish to bet against the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
2. Petra Kvitova: the defending champion withdrew from Eastbourne last week, which was to be the extent of grass court preparation. Still, the lefty from the Czech Republic has only lost three times at SW19 since 2010, with two of those coming at the hands of Serena Williams. At her favorite event on her favorite surface and on the other side of the draw as Williams, a 3rd appearance in the finals is not out of the question.
3. Simona Halep: The Romanian fell to Kristina Mladenovic in the quarterfinals of Eastbourne last week and is in the midst of yet another coaching change. Her recent Slam results (2 losses to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni early at last year’s US Open and this year’s French plus a no-show quarterfinal effort against Ekaterina Makarova in the most recent Australian Open) don’t foreshadow good things. Her draw is especially difficult beginning with Svetlana Kuznetsova in Round 3 and a possible Round 4 match with this year’s French semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky or former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki. A repeat of last year’s semifinal run seems unlikely given the current state of the 3rd seed.
4. Maria Sharapova: the 2004 champion had the unfortunate luck of being placed in the same half of the draw as her nemesis Serena Williams. The Russian will start out with British wild card Johanna Konta, who reached the quarterfinals of Nottingham and Eastbourne. A relatively kind draw after that should see the Russian into a quarterfinal with either talented Czech Karolina Pliskova or French Open finalist Lucie Safarova, who defeated Sharapova at the French. Sharapova may well beat Serena once more before they are done playing and her next opportunity may come here, but the semifinals is as far as I see her going.
5. Caroline Wozniacki: The Dane retired from her match in Eastbourne against eventual champion Belinda Bencic after just three games. The 2-time US Open finalist has a rough draw with Birmingham semifinalist Katerina Siniakova in Round 2, s’Hertogenbosch champion Camila Giorgi in Round 3, and either Garbine Muguruza or Birmingham champion Angelique Kerber in Round 4. Much of the terms of these matches will be dictated by how Wozniacki’s opponents play, so any result here is possible.
6. Lucie Safarova: The veteran lefty from the Czech Republic had her major breakthrough here last year, reaching the semifinals and followed it up with a spectacular French Open, reaching the final, taking Serena Williams to 3 sets. A potential quarterfinal date with Sharapova, whom she beat in her run to the Roland Garros final, looms. She’ll have to potentially contend with American Sloane Stephens in Round 3 and Karolina Pliskova or Samantha Stosur in Round 4. Given her fine play in Paris and her career high ranking of 6, another deep run is definitely a realistic possibility.
7. Ana Ivanovic: The Serb reached the semifinals here in 2007, but hasn’t been past the Round of 16 since. After a trip to the French Open semifinals, Ivanovic has a nice looking draw into Round 3, where a possible encounter with another former semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova or rising star Belinda Bencic awaits. Carla Suarez Navarro or Victoria Azarenka could be a potential Round 4 roadblock before the anticipated quarterfinal matchup with Serena Williams.
8. Ekaterina Makarova: The quiet Russian has reached the semifinals in two of the last three majors and has a wonderful looking draw that could see her face defending champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. A possible Round 3 match with Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet, last year’s conqueror of Serena, is her only real tricky-looking affair. The steadiness of the Russian lefty should see her into Week 2.
9. Carla Suarez Navarro: The Spaniard has had a spectacular year, reaching the Top 10 for the first time with finals appearances in Miami and Rome. Her career best at SW19 is a Round of 16 appearance and that is a possibility once again, although Victoria Azarenka could be standing in her way in Round 3. If she gets by that, anything else, given the surface, is a bonus.
10. Angelique Kerber: The German has won 3 Premier titles on the clay of Charleston and Stuttgart and two weeks ago in Birmingham. Her draw is not easy, however. Countrywoman Carina Witthoeft is her Round 1 opponent, streaky Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Mona Barthel is looming in Round 2, Garbine Muguruza could be a Round 3 foe and either Caroline Wozniacki or Camila Giorgi is a possibility in Round 4. The 2012 semifinalist’s form suggests a long stay this fortnight. Her draw might prevent that from happening.
11. Karolina Pliskova: The big-serving Czech has already reached four finals in Sydney, Dubai, Prague (winning the title there), and most recently Birmingham, losing a thriller to Kerber in the final. Her draw looks OK into Round 3 until another fine server, Samantha Stosur, potentially awaits. A Round 4 meeting with Lucie Safarova is possibly in the offing. It’s only a matter of time before Karolina breaks through at a Slam and with her game perfectly suited for grass, this may very well be the place she does it.
12: Eugenie Bouchard: The Canadian took the Tour by storm last year, reaching the semifinals or better in the first three majors, including her first Slam final here. Her recent form has been horrible, losing 11 of her last 12 matches. A Round 3 matchup with American Madison Keys seems likely and if she gets by that, a Round 4 meeting with Ekaterina Makarova is potentially on the horizon. There is nothing to indicate a repeat of last year’s performance, so winning a couple of matches this year will have to qualify as success for Genie.
13. Agnieszka Radwanska: The 2012 finalist reached the semifinals of Nottingham, losing to Monica Niculescu, and the final of Eastbourne, falling to Belinda Bencic. Her steady game should see her into Round 3, where rising Ukrainian Elina Svitolina could be her foe. Should she pass that test, defending champion Petra Kvitova is likely to be her Round of 16 opponent. The Pole is playing better of late and has good memories here, but her draw suggests a R4/QF appearance could be her limit this time.
14: Andrea Petkovic: The German reached last year’s French Open semifinals, but has done little in Slams since. 2004 champion Maria Sharapova seems likely to end Petkovic’s stay in Round 3.
15. Timea Bacsinszky: The Swiss has been the Tour’s breakout star this season, reaching the semifinals of a major for the first time in Paris, taking eventual champion Serena Williams to 3 sets. Off the back of that and titles in Monterrey and Acapulco plus a finals appearance in Shenzhen at the beginning of the year, her form suggests a long stay, but Sabine Lisicki could end those hopes in Round 3.
16. Venus Williams: The 5-time champion took eventual winner Petra Kvitova to a 7-5 3rd set in the 3rd Round last year. That match was the Tour’s best in several years. A quarterfinalist in Australia this season, her sister Serena awaits in Round 4.
17. Elina Svitolina: The Ukrainian made her Slam breakthrough at Roland Garros, reaching the quarterfinals. Her grass court preparation consisted of a single match, losing to Heather Watson in Eastbourne. Her draw should see her to Round 3 against Radwanska and potentially into Round 4 against Kvitova.
18. Sabine Lisicki: The German always plays her best tennis at The Championships, with wins over Na Li, Sharapova, and Serena to her name. The 2013 finalist won’t be playing in the tournament’s final match, but a quarterfinal appearance is a possibility, despite the presence of Bacsinszky and Halep in her section of the draw.
19: Sara Errani: Not much of a threat on grass, the Italian faces Countrywoman Francesca Schiavone in Round 1, possibly another in Round 2 in Roberta Vinci and a Round 3 meeting with Venus Williams. In other words, don’t expect much from her.
20. Garbine Muguruza: The Spaniard burst onto the scene at last year’s French Open, reaching the quarterfinals, handing Serena the worst loss of her Grand Slam career in losing just 4 games. A quarterfinalist once again in Paris this year, her path to a last 8 appearance will have to see her negotiate(most likely) Kerber in Round 3 and Wozniacki in Round 4.
21. Madison Keys: The immensely talented young American reached her first career Slam semifinal in Australia this season and won her only career title on grass in 2014, defeating Kerber to win Eastbourne. Her draw sees her likely facing the slumping Bouchard in Round 3 before a stern Round 4 test against Makarova.
22. Samantha Stosur: The Australian has a game built for grass, but oddly has never been past Round 3 at SW19. That could be the case once again with Karolina Pliskova her potential Round of 32 opponent. If she gets by the Czech and into her first career 4th Round here, Safarova is likely to end her tournament.
23: Victoria Azarenka: The Belarusian is on the comeback trail and is on the verge of cracking the Top 20 again. A finalist in Doha, her path to a possible quarterfinal showdown with Serena includes the likely scenario of Suarez Navarro in Round 3 and Ivanovic in Round 4. Doable, the 2 time Slam champion should be interesting to watch on her continued comeback from injury.
24. Flavia Pennetta: The Italian’s career best performance here is the 4th Round (three times) and that’s entirely possible again, having to slip by most likely Petkovic in Round 3. Sharapova will send Penneta to the hardcourt summer once she reaches the Round of 16.
25. Alizé Cornet: The Frenchwoman is the last player to defeat Serena in a Slam, getting the job done here in Round 4 last year. Another long run could be on the cards, but her draw features Nottingham champion Ana Konjuh in Round 1, Makarova in Round 3, and Keys/Bouchard in Round 4.
26. Svetlana Kuznetsova: The 2-time major winner is a 3-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist, although that seems unlikely with Halep awaiting in Round 3 and Bacsinszky or Lisicki most likely in Round 4.
27. Barbra Strycova: The Czech reached the quarterfinals here last year, defeating Li Na in Round 3 in what was the Chinese star’s final career match. A repeat of that last 8 effort seems unlikely with a semi-resurgent Sloane Stephens in Round 1 and Safarova, Pliskova, and Stosur all in her section.
28. Jelena Jankovic: The Serb is likely to reach Round 3 where Kvitova awaits.
29. Irina-Camelia Begu: Probably the most unknown Top 30 player on tour, she reached the Round of 16 at a major for the first time in Australia. I don’t see that happening here with Sharapova looming in Round 3.
30. Belinda Bencic: The Swiss teenager has been the hottest player on grass this season, reaching the finals of ‘s -Hertogenbosch and winning Eastbourne, defeating Radwanska in the final. A quarterfinalist at last year’s U.S. Open, Bencic faces a tricky 1st Round match against grass court specialist and former semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova. Should she get by that, Ivanovic likely awaits in Round 3 and Suarez Navarro/Azarenka could be a Round of 16 foe.
31. Camila Giorgi: The Italian defeated Bencic to win her first career title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. As easily as she can overpower opponents, she can just easily hit herself out of a match and will likely face the steady Wozniacki should she reach Round 3 (it should be noted Giorgi beat the Dane at the 2013 U.S. Open to announce her arrival on tour).
32. Caroline Garcia: The Frenchwoman is talented, but has yet to make an impact at a Slam and to do it here, she’ll need to get past Serena in Round 3, which is unlikely.
Best 1st Round matchup:
Tsvetana Pironkova vs Belinda Bencic: grass court specialist and former semifinalist vs rising star and in-form grass player. Expect an enthralling affair.
Sleeper: Madison Keys. Hasn’t done much since her semifinal run in Australia with only a finals appearance in Charleston being noteworthy, but with former Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport in her corner and a good draw, she could reach the quarters.
Prediction: Williams over Sharapova, Kvitova over Lisicki in the semifinals. Williams defeats Kvitova to complete the Serena Slam, win her 21st major and head to New York with a chance to become the first player to win a calendar year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988.
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