Before each day's play at Wimbledon 2019, we'll preview three must-see matches.
Unusually tough, strangely high-profile early-round matches? Welcome to Azarenka’s world. Unfortunate draws have prolonged her various comebacks over the years. Now, though, after a season in the wilderness, she seems to be approaching her old self again. She has won her first two matches this week in straight sets, and she was a few points from knocking off top seed Naomi Osaka at the French Open. But Halep will be a step up; the Romanian has won their last two meetings, including a straight-setter at Wimbledon two years ago. Still, Halep is not a natural on grass, and this is a big opportunity for Azarenka to put herself back in the high-level WTA conversation. Winner: Azarenka
Coco Gauff vs. Polona Hercog
When Gauff came off the court after her win over Magdalena Rybarikova on Wednesday, she was asked how she felt about playing her next opponent—Caroline Wozniacki. Hopefully, Gauff hasn’t spent the last two days preparing to play the Dane, when it’s the 60th-ranked Hercog she’ll actually be facing. Should she be pleased with the switch? On paper, yes; Hercog is 28 years old, ranked 60th in the world, and is perhaps best known for her arm-length tattoos. But the steady, 6’1” Slovenian has been winning some matches lately, including nine during this year’s grass-court season. As she did in a three-set loss to Sloane Stephens in Paris, Hercog will make Gauff hit her share of balls. Will the 15-year-old be up to the adult challenge again, or will she come down to earth? As of now, we have no way of knowing. Winner: Gauff
Around the time that Opelka reached 6-6 in the final set in his last match, against Stan Wawrinka, the consensus on Twitter was that Wimbledon’s new 12-12-in-the-fifth tiebreaker system was going to come into play for the first time. Alas, Opelka broke at 7-6 to win the match. But tennis historians should be on the lookout for another opportunity on Friday; Opelka and Raonic, two of the game’s premier ace machines, could take us all the way. If you love short points, close sets and potentially very long matches, this is the one to watch. The American and the Canadian have never played each other; while the much-more-experienced Raonic should be favored, this feels like it could be a breakout moment for Opelka. Winner: Opelka