After Jelena Ostapenko’s stunning win at the French Open, the tennis world gathers in London for the third major of the year at Wimbledon. With the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova still absent, this year’s championships may indeed produce another surprise winner.
2017 French Open seed report
- Angelique Kerber: Reached the quarterfinals of Eastbourne before losing to Johanna Konta. With finals points to defend from last year, her draw looks reasonable and she is due for a good major after her spectacular 2016. Karolina Pliskova could be her biggest obstacle to returning to the final.
2. Simona Halep: Halep is still probably not mentally over collapsing in the French final, up a set and 3-0 on Ostapenko with points to go up 4-0. Grass is her worst surface and she’s in a brutal quarter with Konta, Birmingham champion Petra Kvitova and last year’s semifinalist Elena Vesnina. It would be a big surprise if the Romanian is around deep into week two.
3. Karolina Pliskova: One of the favorites for the title, Pliskova won Eastbourne for her third Premier-level title of 2017. After her surprise semifinal showing in Paris, the Czech returns to a surface that suits her big, powerful game perfectly. Definitely in the easier half of the draw, she’s the favorite to reach the final.
4. Elina Svitolina: Still trying to get over her own collapse at Roland Garros, ironically against Halep, she led the Romanian by a set and 5-1, but failed twice to serve out the quarterfinal match. She says grass is her best surface, but drew a dangerous opponent in Round 1 in Ashleigh Barty, the Birmingham finalist. If Svitolina can navigate that, she could see Ostapenko in the Round of 16.
5. Caroline Wozniacki: The Eastbourne finals loss against Pliskova was her fourth Premier defeat of the season. The Dane is still seeking that elusive first major championship, but with Wimbledon being the only major where she’s never reached the quarterfinals and with Daria Kasatkina and Kristina Mladenovic in her section, that may not change this year. Also trying to come back from her own blown Paris match, getting overpowered by Ostapenko in the final two sets after winning the first comfortably.
6. Johanna Konta: The Brit reached the semifinals in Eastbourne before giving Pliskova a walkover. A spinal injury in her quarterfinal win over Kerber there has her health in question, which is a shame since she is one of the favorites to win her home Slam. In a bit of irony, she drew the same player that knocked her out in the first round of the French in Su-wei Hsieh.
7. Svetlana Kuznetsova: The Russian is a three-time quarterfinalist at SW19. In a terrific section of the draw, she very well could break through into her first semifinal in London. Lost in Eastbourne to Pliskova, her only grass warm-up event.
8. Dominika Cibulkova: It’s almost a waste of time trying to predict how the Slovakian will fare as she’s still the most inconsistent performer among the top players. Her draw includes Ana Konjuh, Barbora Strycova and Venus Williams. As I mentioned, guessing how far she will advance against those players is pointless.
9. Agnieszka Radwanska: Was fortunate to draw a player in the first round that is in even worse form than she is: Jelena Jankovic. A former finalist, perhaps the Pole has one more deep run at a Slam in her. Her crafty game should do well on the slick grass of London.
10. Venus Williams: A five-time Wimbledon champion, this is where Venus’ resurgence began last year, reaching the semifinals. No grass results to speak of this year, but is still one of the two or three favorites based on her history here. A quarterfinal is the worst she should expect with her draw.
11. Petra Kvitova: Her heartwarming comeback continued, winning her 20th career title over Barty in Birmingham. That win also cemented her status as the favorite, but her draw has her matched with either Caroline Garcia or Konta in the 16’s. If she gets by that, she should collect her third Wimbledon championship.
12. Kristina Mladenovic: Reached the quarterfinals at home in Paris, losing to Timea Bacsinszky. A very difficult draw has her matched with Coco Vandeweghe and Wozniacki, so her progression in London may not be as deep as at the French.
13. Jelena Ostapenko: Stunned the tennis world and quite possibly herself with her maiden title at Roland Garros. Rallying from a set down four times, including in the final, Ostapenko fired 300 winners in 17 sets, a scary statistic for her opponents. While she’s still prone to making many unforced errors (she had over 260 in Paris), her power game is overwhelming and grass only accentuates that. Will be forgiven if she crashes out early here as she gets used to being a major champion. Regardless, her future looks incredible.
14. Garbine Muguruza: The 2015 finalist is in the best possible quarter of the draw with Kerber and Radwanska. She’s looked better during the grass court season and won’t have a vicious home crowd against her as she had during her loss to Mladenovic in Paris. A semifinal showing is a distinct possibility for the Spaniard.
15. Elena Vesnina: The surprise of last year’s fortnight, reaching the semifinals, Vesnina will be hard-pressed to repeat that this year. Any one of Victoria Azarenka, Anastasija Sevastova or Halep could send her home. Then again, with the current state of the WTA, it would come as no surprise of she defeated of all the above.
16. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Still waiting for her major breakthrough, it likely won’t come here she is in the same section as Pliskova. The Russian has established herself as a solid Top 20 player and a second week Slam appearance could come with better luck in the future.
17. Madison Keys: An injury-plagued year, two coaching changes and nearly out of the Top 20, Keys badly needs a good run in a major. Her probable third-round match with Ostapenko will be exciting in many ways.
18. Anastasija Sevastova: She won Mallorca on grass, proving she’s not just a clay-courter. Despite Vesnina and Halep lurking in her draw, it would surprise no one if the “other” Latvian reached the quarterfinals.
19. Timea Bacsinszky: It was fun to watch the Swiss star work her magic in Paris, reaching her second semifinal there and despite a tricky opener against Monica Puig, it wouldn’t be shocking if she matched her best previous result in London, a quarterfinal appearance two years ago, after her first Roland Garros semi.
20. Daria Gavrilova: A non-starter on grass, Gavrilova will bow out to either Pavlyuchenkova or Pliskova as either one will blow her off the court.
21. Caroline Garcia: A few games away from reaching the semifinals at the French, Garcia drew the misfortune of playing Kvitova in the third round here. Lost to Sevastova in the Mallorca semifinals to tune up for Wimbledon.
22. Barbora Strycova: Reached the quarterfinals here two years ago and is a dangerous player with grass under her feet, but she won’t get past Venus.
23. Kiki Bertens: Faces a tough opening encounter against Sorana Cirstea. No grass results to speak of and with Muguruza waiting for her in the third round, the Dutchwoman can begin thinking about the summer hard-court season.
24. Coco Vandeweghe: A second major semifinal could be on the cards for the American as she loves playing on a fast surface like grass, but she would need to pull off the big upset against Pliskova in the quarters, the last eight being her best previous showing at Wimbledon.
25. Carla Suarez Navarro: A respectable showing against Ostapenko in Eastbourne, the Spaniard won’t be around long as she’ll lose to either Eugenie Bouchard in the first round or the rising young Czech Marketa Vondrousova in the second round.
26. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni: Not a big deal she lost early in Paris, but now back at the scene of her first major semifinal in 1999, no one is expecting her to get that far again. However, her game is good for grass and a quarterfinal showing is not out of the realm of possibility in a section of big hitters.
27. Ana Konjuh: A back injury last week in Eastbourne and a former Wimbledon finalist in the first round is bad news for the Croat. The good news is that Sabine Lisicki is a shadow of the player that came so close to winning the 2013 championship and if Konjuh is healthy, she could make some noise in London, as she should have last year before a horrific break against Radwanska last year.
28. Lauren Davis: Upset Radwanska in Eastbourne and could face her again in the fourth round if she can get past Kuznetsova the round before, a tough ask despite the American being in good form in 2017.
29. Daria Kasatkina: Took Venus to 10-8 in the third set in the third round last year. She looks set to meet Wozniacki in the third round and possibly Mladenovic in the Round of 16. Clearly having her best year on tour, the teenager is perhaps set to be the next surprise deep into a major championship.
30. Shuai Zhang: A good game for grass, Zhang is ranked right around where she should be. She’ll do well to make her third-round match against Pliskova close.
31. Roberta Vinci: Not much to see here. Could lose to any player in her section of the draw. Begins with Kristyna Pliskova.
32. Lucie Safarova: Retired against Kvitova in the Birmingham semifinals, but if healthy, could pose significant problems for Kerber in the third round.
Best first-round matches
Radwanska vs Jankovic: Both players are not nearly what they used to be, but they’re still “name” players and promise to offer a fun, competitive match nonetheless.
Donna Vekic vs Natalia Vikhlyantseva: Vekic upset Konta to win Nottingham while Vikhylantseva reached the finals of s’-Hertgoenbosch. Both young (Vekic is still only 21 despite being around a while. Vikhlyantseva is 18 and on her first full year on tour.) and both hard-hitters, this could be a very exciting encounter.
Barty vs Svitolina: An upset possibility here. Barty was magnificent in her run to the Birmingham final. Svitolina couldn’t have asked for a worse opener as she seeks to shake off her disappointment from Paris.
Azarenka vs CiCi Bellis : The Belarussian lost to Konjuh badly in Mallorca in her first tournament back from giving birth to her son. Bellis has added more power and pace to her shots and she should give Azarenka quite a workout in this one with a victory not out of the question.
Puig vs Bacsinszky: The Olympic champion vs the two-time Roland Garros semifinalist could be a very interesting matchup if both are playing at their best. Puig needs this one more.
Players to watch:
Anett Kontaveit: Won her first title over Vikhylantseva in s-‘Hertogenbosch and is now up to a career-high 37th in the rankings. Playing ith a tremendous amount of confidence and with big groundstrokes, not a player the top seeds want to see early.
Anastasia Potapova: The only reason the Russian is in this space is because at 15 she captured the junior girls’ championship. 12 months later, the 294th-ranked Potapova, now 16, qualified for the main draw in the senior tournament. Faces Tatjana Maria in her Grand Slam debut, a winnable match if she plays anywhere near her level in qualies.
Sloane Stephens: Overshadowed by the comebacks of Sharapova and Azarenka, Stephens is back at a major for the first time in almost two years. Tough opener against fellow American Alison Riske, but it’s nice to see the talented 24-year old back.
Semifinals: Pliskova def. Muguruza. This will be hard-hitting with not a lot of breaks of serve. First-strike tennis with short rallies will be the theme of this one and it could go either way, but Pliskova is in better form and that gives her the edge in what should be a very close match.
Kvitova def. Williams. Speaking of close matches, these two played one of the most memorable matches in tournament history in the Round of 32 three years ago. With Kvitova in splendid form and Williams at home at Wimbledon, an encore of that special affair could be on the cards again with the same outcome, but only just.
Final: Kvitova def. Pliskova. The two best Czechs on tour will duke it out on tennis’ biggest stage. Pliskova won’t be nervous as she reached last year’s U.S. Open final, but Kvitova rarely loses to her countrywomen and she should find a way to sneak in a break of serve or two. Her comeback has been breathtaking to watch and the fairytale will be completed when Kvitova holds up the Venus Rosewater Dish for a third time, cementing her place as a Hall of Famer in the process.