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Wimbledon Women's Preview: Is Iga Swiatek ready to dominate grass, too? Is there a past champion who could turn back the clock?
Or will someone new emerge victorious at the All England Club?
Published Jun 24, 2022
The discussion of this year’s Wimbledon women’s tournament has to begin with top seed Iga Swiatek. That’s because (a) Swiatek has dominated the WTA for the last four months, and (b) virtually no one else in the tour’s Top 10 made it past the third round at the last major, in Paris. If you’re not picking Swiatek to win Wimbledon, you’re probably picking a long shot, a first-time Slam Cinderella, or a former champion trying to turn back the clock. Like, maybe, Serena Williams?
Swiatek will bring a 35-match win streak to the All England Club, but her opponents should take heart from the fact that her grass game is still a bit of an unknown. She has played Wimbledon twice, losing in the first round in 2019, and the fourth round, to Ons Jabeur, last year. After winning the French Open, she has skipped all of the grass tune-ups.
There are good players and former Slam winners in Swiatek’s quarter: Barbora Krejcikova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Jessica Pegula, Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens, Jim Teichmann, Alizé Cornet. It’s just that, even if Swiatek is 80 percent of what she was on clay, she’ll still beat them comfortably.
First-round matches to watch:
- Pegula vs. Donna Vekic
- Cornet vs. Yulia Putintseva
Karolina Pliskova is a tempting sleeper pick. Just a year ago, she was a set away from winning the tournament, and she’s the No. 6 seed this time. But a year ago feels a long way away for the Czech, who ended 2021 with injury problems, and started 2022 with rust problems that have yet to recede. Still, she remains a player to consider on grass.
Is that still true for the top seed in this section, Paula Badosa? The Spaniard was among the many highly-ranked disappointments at Roland Garros, and that negative trend continued with her first-round loss in Eastbourne this week.
What can we expect from seven-time winner Serena Williams? The 40-year-old will start against 113th-ranked Harmony Tan of France, and might get Pliskova in the third round. Serena is the ultimate wild card. She hasn’t played in a year, and it’s hard to know how she’ll hold up over two weeks. But if she gets a couple of wins under her belt, she could also become unstoppable.
Along with Serena, that may leave two other players as legitimate contenders from this quarter: Coco Gauff, the French Open runner-up who has twice made the fourth round at the All England Club; and Simona Halep, 2019 Wimbledon champion. Halep has a potentially tricky opponent in Karolina Muchova to start, while Gauff could face fellow American and 20th-seeded Amanda Anisimova in the third round.
Player of Interest: Petra Kvitova. The two-time Wimbledon champ is in the Eastbourne final. But since her 2014 title run, she hasn’t been past the fourth round at the Big W.
When it comes to Ons Jabeur’s chances of winning her first major title, there’s a lot to consider, both positive and negative. On the upside, she has been one of the WTA best performers of 2022, and she likes grass; last year, she made the quarters at Wimbledon, and last week she won a tune-up title in Berlin. On the downside, she wilted under the expectations in Paris, where she lost in the first round, and she had to pull out of Eastbourne with a knee issue.
Healthy or not healthy, Jabeur could face a few stiff tests in her quarter, from Kaia Kanepi in the third round, Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, and possibly Madison Keys, Danielle Collins or Emma Raducanu in the quarters.
The 34-year-old Kerber is a player who, if she can settle into a calm groove on grass, can still go very far. She won the title in 2018 and made the semifinals last year.
Anett Kontaveit and Maria Sakkari spent much of 2021 and the early part of 2022 rising in the rankings together, all the way into the Top 5. They’re still in that rarefied air—Kontaveit is the second seed, Sakkari the fifth—but the momentum and confidence that took them there has faded. Kontaveit hasn’t won a match since Stuttgart in April, while Sakkari is coming off a second-round loss at Roland Garros and an up-and-down grass season so far.
Who might benefit most if they can’t turn things around next week? Jelena Ostapenko is in the final in Eastbourne. Belinda Bencic made the final in Berlin before having to retire with pain in her ankle. No. 23 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, winner in Nottingham and Birmingham and semifinalist in Eastbourne, may be the most in form player in the entire tournament.
Semifinals: Swiatek d. Halep; Kerber d. Ostapenko
Final: Kerber d. Swiatek
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