Wimbledon | Women’s Preview – Is this to be Swiatek’s year?

Despite the hiccup of human error in recording the draw for the Ladies Singles at Wimbledon on Friday, order was quickly restored and players now know who they will play in the 1st-round.

Last year's result was pretty nice. I feel, like, every year it's easier for me to adapt to grass. I deeply believe that the best players, they can play on all surfaces. I want to, kind of, become that kind of player, who can play well on grass, as well, and feel comfortable there. Iga Świątek

The world’s big guns, alongside their challengers and qualifiers number 128 hopeful of getting their hands on the coveted Venus Rosewater Dish on Saturday 13 July.

That’s a long way off, and the next Wimbledon champion must weather 7 rounds of matches in the meantime, some starting on Monday.

The favourite is World No 1 Iga Swiatek, who faces a blockbuster path to her potential first Wimbledon triumph, but she has yet to play on grass this year.

Nevertheless, Swiatek has stoked hopes that she might become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to earn a ‘Channel Slam’, a feat that is within reach of any player who wins in Paris, and can match it with the Wimbledon title.

“For sure it’s a huge challenge,” said Swiatek in Paris about competing at Wimbledon. “If I would lose here earlier, maybe I would be able to play two more weeks on grass, and then be a better grass-court player, but if I [have to] choose, I love playing on clay, so, I’m not going to give up that. Ever.”

Last year, the Pole battle into the quarter-finals, where she was beaten in 3 high-quality sets by a resurgent Elina Svitolina.

“Last year’s result was pretty nice,” Swiatek said of that run during the clay swing this year. “I feel, like, every year it’s easier for me to adapt to grass.

“I deeply believe that the best players, they can play on all surfaces. I want to, kind of, become that kind of player, who can play well on grass, as well, and feel comfortable there.”

The No 1 seed is currently on a 19-match winning streak after claiming her 4th Roland Garros title, and she opens her account at Wimbledon against 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, whom she toppled in the Paris final that same season, as well as in the 1st-round of this year’s Australian Open.

Wimbledon’s 2018 champion Angelique Kerber takes on recent Birmingham winner Yulia Putintseva at the first hurdle, and the winner could meet Swiatek in the 3rd-round.

Jelena Ostapenko could be Iga Swiatek's biggest challenge in the Last 16, since the Latvian holds a 4-0 record over the Pole

© Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

In another ‘popcorn’ opener, two-time quarter-finalist Ajla Tomljanovic and No 13 seed Jelena Ostapenko represent a possible Last 16 challenge for the top seeded Pole.

Swiatek has yet to defeat Ostapenko in 4 attempts, and, if she can make it to the quarter-finals, the 23-year old is slated to meet defending champion and No 6 seed Marketa Vondrousova, whose title defence starts with Spain’s Jessica Bouzas Maneiro, and who is projected to face No 31 seed Barbora Krejcikova in the 3rd-round, in what would be a first-time meeting between the Czech compatriots.

No 11 seed Danielle Collins is slated to be Vondrousova’s 4th-round opponent, but the American also has a tough opener against big-hitting Clara Tauson.

Swiatek and Vondrousova are in the same half of the draw as No 4 seed Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, who one of them will meet in the semi-finals, but the top half of the draw also includes 2022 and 2023 runner-up Ons Jabeur.

In short, if Swiatek is to lift a 6th Grand Slam title here, she will have to earn it.

Also, within the 2nd quarter, recent Berlin winner Jessica Pegula will be eager to have her say, within close range to Tunisian trailblazer Jabeur, last year’s semi-finalist Svitolina and British No 1 Katie Boulter.

Former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki will need to be sharp from the start in a battle with qualifier Alycia Parks.

First-round matches to watch: [1] Iga Swiatek vs. Sofia Kenin, Yulia Putintseva vs. [WC] Angelique Kerber, [27] Katerina Siniakova vs. [Q] Marina Stakusic, [WC] Ajla Tomljanovic vs. [13] Jelena Ostapenko, [11] Danielle Collins vs. Clara Tauson

Elena Rybakina practices at Wimbledon, seemingly over her recent health issues

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Health issues continue to plague Rybakina, and the Kazakh retired from her Berlin quarter-final last week due to stomach pain, and subsequently withdrew from Eastbourne.

She faces a variety of challenges in powerful qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse in the 1st-round, potentially followed by the variety of Laura Siegemund in the second.

Potential 3rd-round opponents include No 30 seed Leylah Fernandez, big-serving qualifier Alycia Parks and Wozniacki, the latter two of whom face each other in a contrasting 1st-round.

If Rybakina navigates past all of that, a strong grass-courter could await in the last 16, potentially ‘s-Hertogenbosch champion and No 15 seed Liudmila Samsonova, or Berlin runner-up and No 17 seed Anna Kalinskaya.

Rybakina’s projected quarter-final opponent is Pegula, who opens against rising 20-year-old compatriot Ashlyn Krueger.

Pegula has also landed in a section full of players who enjoy grass, and could face either 2-time Nottingham champion Boulter or former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria in the 3rd-round.

In the Last 16, Pegula is projected to face Jabeur, but the Tunisian will have to first get past No 21 seed Svitolina.

Meanwhile, the 1st-round clash between former Wimbledon quarter-finalists Viktorija Golubic and Jule Niemeier will be one for the purists.

First-round matches to watch: [3] Elena Rybakina vs. [Q] Elena-Gabriela Ruse, [WC] Caroline Wozniacki vs. [Q] Alycia Parks, Viktorija Golubic vs. Jule Niemeier, [32] Katie Boulter vs. Tatjana Maria, Ashlyn Krueger vs. [5] Jessica Pegula

Aryna Sabalenka (L) and Ons Jabeur take a selfie during practice prior to The Championships at Wimbledon

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Scanning down to the bottom half of the draw, World No 2 Coco Gauff and 2024 Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka headline the field.

Within that section 4-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka returns to SW19 for the first time since 2019 and the 26-year-old opens against French youngster Diane Parry.

Also, British wild-card Emma Raducanu, who reached the 4th round in 2021, will hope to transfer recent form over from Eastbourne in an encounter with No 22 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.

For Gauff, the American will duel with compatriot Caroline Dolehide, with Grand Slam champions such as Osaka, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens within close proximity.

Gauff is projected to take on Roland-Garros runner-up Jasmine Paolini in the Last 8.

No 3 seed Sabalenka will have to navigate past American Emina Bektas, with high calibre opponents such as Donna Vekic, Dayana Yastremska, Mirra Andreeva or No 14 seed Daria Kasatkina all possible first week clashes.

Sabalenka, a semi-finalist in 2021 and last July, is drawn for a projected quarter-final against No 8 seed Qinwen Zheng.

The Belarusian retired from her Berlin quarter-final last week due to a shoulder injury, and has a potential rough ride in the 3rd quarter, facing Vekic in the 2nd round, who has reached 4 tour finals on grass, and holds a 6-2 head-to-head lead over Sabalenka, including a 6-7(5) 6-3 6-0 victory in Dubai this year.

A year ago, Andreeva charmed Wimbledon as she carved her way to the 4th round as a 16-year-old qualifier making her tournament debut, and now she is seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time, having upset Sabalenka at Roland Garros to become the youngest major semi-finalist since Martina Hingis in 1997.

Andreeva faces fellow 17-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova, who is just 27 days older than her, in her opener, and the winner will take on a former Top 10 player making her way back from injury, either Karolina Muchova or Paula Badosa, in round 2, then, potentially, Kasatkina in the 3rd round.

Zheng is the projected quarter-finalist for whoever makes it out of the Sabalenka section, who starts against qualifier Lulu Sun, and is projected to face No 9 seed Maria Sakkari in the Last 16.

Sakkari, though, who has won just 1 match in her past 5 majors, will potentially have to navigate the challenge of either Alexandrova or Raducanu in the 3rd-round first. The Greek player opens against qualifier McCartney Kessler.

First-round matches to watch: [8] Zheng Qinwen vs. [Q] Lulu Sun, Taylor Townsend vs. [25] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, [22] Ekaterina Alexandrova vs. [WC] Emma Raducanu, [SR] Paula Badosa vs. Karolina Muchova, Brenda Fruhvirtova vs. [24] Mirra Andreeva

World No 2 Coco Gauff has designs on the Wimbledon title but has yet to get past the 4th round at the All England Club

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The key round for US Open champion Gauff will be the 4th, the stage she reached as a 15-year-old qualifier here in 2019, but Wimbledon remains the only major at which she has yet to progress beyond it.

This year, the 2nd seed is likely to face a formidable opponent there, although both Azarenka and Osaka face tough openers first, the Belarusian facing former US Open champion Sloane Stephens off the bat, while the Japanese takes on Parry and her one-handed backhand.

Former Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova is also lurking here, and could face Azarenka in the 2nd-round, but the Czech’s first opponent is the powerful left-handed 19-year-old Diana Shnaider, who could be the dark horse of the entire section.

Shnaider has reached her first grass-court final in Bad Homburg this week.

Roland Garros finalist Paolini, the No 7 seed, is Gauff’s projected quarter-final opponent, and the Italian made her first grass-court semi-final this week in Eastbourne, and opens against Sara Sorribes Tormo.

No 26 seed Linda Noskova, who stunned Swiatek at the Australian Open in January, is a potential 3rd-round opponent, with the 19-year-old possibly facing former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in round 2.

Andreescu, playing the 4th tournament of her come-back from a back injury, starts against Jaqueline Cristian.

First-round matches to watch: [7] Jasmine Paolini vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo, [SR] Bianca Andreescu vs. Jaqueline Cristian, Sara Errani vs. [26] Linda Noskova, [16] Victoria Azarenka vs. Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova vs. Diana Shnaider, [WC] Naomi Osaka vs. Diane Parry



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