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Wimbledon Women's Preview: Time for another first-time Slam champ?
Will the WTA’s Wimbledon elite rise to the occasion again, or will someone new join their ranks?
Published Jun 28, 2019
View the entire women's bracket at our Wimbledon tournament page.
At first glance, we might say this is another “wide open” women’s Grand Slam. As good as Ashleigh Barty has been of late, few would claim that the world’s new No. 1 is a lock to win a tournament where she is just 2-3 lifetime. But Wimbledon does tend to have a more exclusive ruling class of players than the other majors. Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza, Petra Kvitova: they’ve been reliable performers at the Big W for years, and it won’t be a surprise if they are again in 2019.
That said, it also won’t be a surprise if there’s a brand-new major champion holding the winner’s dish in two weeks. Here’s a look ahead at who that might be.
Barty’s game would seem to be a natural fit for grass. She can pop aces, finish points at net, change spins and speeds. And she showed off all of those skills in winning the Wimbledon tune-up event in Birmingham. But Wimbledon itself has been a different story so far for the Aussie; in her three main-draw appearances, she has yet to get past the third round. If Barty is going to go much farther than that this year, she’s going to have to earn it. The draw gods haven’t done their top seed any favors. Serena, Kerber, Muguruza and 2004 champ Maria Sharapova are all in this section, as well as other second-tier threats like Belinda Bencic, Julia Goerges and Donna Vekic.
The match that most WTA fans will already have circled is the fourth-rounder between Kerber and Serena. That was the final in 2016 and 2018; Serena won the first one, Kerber the second. If they meet again this year, the winner could pick up the momentum needed to go all the way—or at least knock off Barty in the next round. Kerber has already begun to round into her usual July form; she’ll play the Eastbourne final on Saturday. And while Serena has had what she calls a “grueling” 2019, she almost always rises to the occasion at Wimbledon.
Potential third-round matches to watch: Barty vs. Muguruza; Kerber vs. Sharapova; Serena vs. Goerges
Perhaps the most significant question mark at the start of the tournament hangs over Petra Kvitova. The No. 6 seed pulled out of Roland Garros last month, and says a wrist injury may force her to do the same at Wimbledon. If Kvitova isn’t fit to go, that would seem to open this section to two players in particular. The first is No. 4 seed Kiki Bertens, who reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year, the final at ’s-Hertogenbosch two weeks ago, and the semis at Eastbourne this past week. The second is home favorite Johanna Konta, a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist who caught fire again in Rome and Paris this spring. We’ll see how Bertens and Konta handle the different pressures they’ll be under: Bertens to perform better at a Slam, and Konta to perform for her country.
First-round matches to watch: Amanda Anisimova vs. Sorana Cirstea; Sloane Stephens vs. Timea Bacsinszky
Not for the first time, Karolina Pliskova is a player to watch heading into a major. She seems perpetually due to win her first Slam, but then...doesn’t. Last month, she won the title in Rome and looked like a contender in Paris, before an off day against an in-form Petra Martic sent her out. Now she’s in the Eastbourne final, and, with her power serve and flat ground strokes, she would seem to be a Wimbledon contender as well. Can Pliskova avoid having that one bad day over the coming fortnight? She’s never been past the fourth round at the All England Club, but she’ll be the favorite to make it out of this section. The second-highest seed here, Elina Svitolina, struggled with an injury all spring and lost in the first round at both of her Wimbledon tune-ups.
Player of Interest: Marketa Vondrousova. How will the Roland Garros runner-up’s game translate to grass? She could face Pliskova in the fourth round.
First-round match to watch: Su-Wei Hsieh vs. Jelena Ostapenko
One thing Naomi Osaka doesn’t have to worry about is dealing with the pressure of being a No. 1 seed at a Slam; with Barty’s rise, Osaka has dropped to No. 2. What she probably should worry about, though, is her first-round opponent. Two weeks ago in Birmingham, Osaka lost to Yulia Putintseva; now she’ll have to play her again.
But that will be just the start. Like the top quarter, the bottom one is rich with talent: Simona Halep, Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Caroline Garcia, and Sofia Kenin would all seem to be credible threats to make the semifinals. Keys, in particular, is due for a deep run at Wimbledon, while Halep will want to avoid the early-upset bug that has sent her home before the fourth round on five occasions, including last year.
First-round matches to watch: Osaka vs. Putintseva; Sabalenka vs. 2017 semifinalist Magdalena Rybarikova; Halep vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich; Azarenka vs. Alizé Cornet
First-round match to watch, and think about: Venus Williams vs. 15-year-old American qualifier Coco Gauff. The 24-year age ga between is the biggest age difference in a GrandSlam singles match in the Open Era since 2004. (At Wimbedon 2004, Martina Navratilova, 47 at the time, lost a second-round match to 19-year-old Gisela Dulko.)
Semifinals: Kerber d. Konta; Keys d. Pliskova