Before the French Open, the talk on the women’s side was about how wide open the draw was. Serena Williams was absent in body, and Angelique Kerber was largely absent in spirit. The tournament did indeed end up with a surprise winner in unseeded Jelena Ostapenko, but it wasn’t complete chaos along the way, either. The best players generally played well.
With Wimbledon set to begin, Serena is still missing, and Kerber is still subpar. Are we in for something similar—a blend of the sane and the insane—over the next fortnight? I’m thinking that, either way, it could have a distinctly Czech flavor. Here’s a look at how the draw might play out.
Kerber comes to Wimbledon in slightly better shape than she was in Paris. She picked up a couple of wins in Eastbourne, and she knows she’ll feel more comfortable at the All England Club, where she reached the final last year. But getting there again won’t be easy, even if she’s back in form. Kerber could play either Kirsten Flipkens or Misaki Doi in the second round; 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist Lucie Safarova in the third round; 2015 Wimbledon finalist Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth round; and the ever-dangerous Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters.
Also here: French Open semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky
First-round throwback match to watch:
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Jelena Jankovic
Can we trust Karolina Pliskova? It’s starting to look that way. The No. 3 seed has been famously hit-and-miss in the past, but in the last three majors she has reached the final, the quarters and the semis. Her run to the semis in Paris, where she had never been past the second round, was especially impressive. Can she do it again? Pliskova also has never made it out of the second round at Wimbledon. Her draw makes another breakthrough look plausible. The highest seed in Pliskova’s half here is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and the second-highest seed in this quarter is Caroline Wozniacki, who has never made the quarters at Wimbledon.
Also here: 2017 French Open quarterfinalist Kiki Mladenovic, and 2015 Wimbledon quarterfinalist CoCo Vandeweghe. They could meet in the third round.
If we’re calling the women’s draw wide open, what would we call its third quarter? Door blown off? The top seed in this section is Dominika Cibulkova, who has been struggling all year. The second seed is Elina Svitolina, who has never been past the second round at Wimbledon. The third-highest seed is Venus Williams, who will be dealing with the aftereffects of a tragic, fatal car accident in Florida earlier this month. And the fourth seed is Ostepenko, who, while she’s the French Open champion, is 1-2 for her career at Wimbledon.
This means opportunity. For Madison Keys, who likes grass; for Ana Konjuh and Barbora Strycova, who have played well here in the past; for Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who reached the semis at Wimbledon all the way back in 1999; even for Sabine Lisicki, the 2014 finalist who is returning after yet another injury.
First-round matches to watch:
Cibulkova vs. Andrea Petkovic
Konjuh vs. Lisicki
Svitolina vs. Ashleigh Barty
We have questions for this section.
First, will No. 6 seed Johanna Konta recover in time from a nasty fall in Eastbourne to play?
Second, can No. 2 seed Simona Halep bounce back from her loss in the French Open final? She let another lead slip this week, to Wozniacki in Eastbourne.
Third, where is Victoria Azarenka in her comeback? The former No. 1, who will be playing just her second event of 2017, starts against CiCi Bellis, and could face 2016 semifinalist Elena Vesnina in the second round.
Finally, is Petra Kvitova really ready to win seven matches in two weeks, just a few months after enduring a knife attack in her home? For now, of the four contenders I just mentioned in this section, Kvitova seems to be in the best place physically and mentally. The Czech fought hard to make it back to Centre Court this year; you get the feeling she’ll fight just as hard to stay there for as many rounds as she can. She’ll start against Johanna Larsson.
First-round matches to watch:
Azarenka vs. Bellis
Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Eugenie Bouchard
Semifinals: Ka. Pliskova d. Safarova; Kvitova d. Lucic-Baroni
Final: Kvitova d. Ka. Pliskova
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