Serena Williams will arrive in Wimbledon as the heavy favourite to win the Venus Rosewater Dish for the 6th time. Serena is on a 29-match winning streak and there is certainly an uneasy feeling in the air that this could be a walk in the park… but will it? Serena opens up her title defence against Mandy Minella before taking on Caroline Garcia or Zheng Jie in the second round. Garcia lost to Serena at this same stage of Roland Garros this year, meanwhile Zheng pushed the American all the way in a fantastic third rounder at Wimbledon last year. Serena’s first seed could be Tamira Paszek although the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist has been struggling with injuries and form, and pulled out of her first match in Eastbourne with a hamstring injury.
I really like Alison Riske‘s chances in this section as she was deservedly given a late wildcard into the tournament following her sterling efforts in Birmingham. She has a drawn a seed in Romina Oprandi, but she has won their two previous encounters and has lots of grass court matches under her belt. Kirilenko has drawn home favourite, Laura Robson in the first round, but the rest of her draw looks relatively clear. I will be cheering for Laura, but I think Kirilenko is the type of player who will get a lot of balls back and frustrate Laura into making unforced errors.
Agnieszka Radwanska was a surprise Wimbledon finalist last year and with a rather tame draw, she could easily defend the majority of those points. Just like 2012, Aga comes into Wimbledon with one grass court match under her belt having lost first round at Eastbourne. Yvonne Meusberger will provide no problems in the first round. Mona Barthel is a likely 3rd round opponent, but I think it is more likely to be Madison Keys, who takes on the Brit Heather Watson in round one. Barthel has been incredibly fragile of late in trying to close out sets / matches so I will be surprised if she wins her first round match against Monica Niculescu. Nadia Petrova looms for Radwanska in the 4th round, but she has not won a match since Madrid. I think Tsvetana Pironkova is the one to watch in this section; the former Wimbledon semi-finalist takes on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round. Pav always seems to flop at the important tournaments and has never done anything special on the grass.
Sara Errani certainly does not hide the fact that she is not at home on the grass courts and she was on the wrong side of a golden set last year when she lost to Yaroslava Shvedova in the third round. To be honest, her draw has been very kind and I would have loved to see one of the dangerous floaters in this section. Errani takes on Monica Puig first up, a real up-and-comer, but she didn’t look that impressive at Eastbourne falling in the second round of qualifying. Errani’s first seed could be Varvara Lepchenko; I was not blown away by the American at Eastbourne, but she has beaten Sara before and I would back her to make it in the last 16.
The most intriguing mini-section features the pick of the first round matches, which I have spent the last day deliberating over. The Eastbourne runner-up (who based on next week’s rankings would have been seeded), Jamie Hampton has drawn Sloane Stephens. Hampton will be ultra confident following wins over Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, but she had to play 8 matches in Eastbourne and although Sloane has no matches on grass, she will be fresh. I expect the winner of that match to sweep through to the quarters. They will likely play Wozniacki in the third round, who will have a tough second round match against Petra Cetkovska or Birmingham finalist, Donna Vekic. Wozniacki had a good week at Eastbourne, but I do not see her as being a threat at all at Wimbledon.
Maria Sharapova has a pretty cushy draw as it always seems to be in the Grand Slams. I am intrigued though by her opener against Kristina Mladenovic, who has a big game and might grab a set. Lucie Safarova is the first potential seed in round three for Maria and she always runs Maria close, but she is too mentally fragile to be a threat. Marion Bartoli and Sorana Cirstea are the other two seeds within this section, which could pave the way for an interesting third round match if both get there. Bartoli was forced to pull out of Eastbourne through illness, but looked reasonably good in her first match against Flavia Pennetta. Cirstea has been marginally more consistent this year, but can still deliver up a shocker (against Vekic in the Birmingham quarter-finals was a prime example).
All season I have been waiting for a match-up between Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka and once again, they have been drawn to meet in the quarters. Kvitova won the Wimbledon title back in 2011, but has really struggled for any consistency since winning the title in Dubai earlier this year. She does love this surface though and if she hits a hot patch of form then she might be the only who can legitimately challenge Serena. Kvitova plays Coco Vandeweghe in round one before potentially meeting Yaroslava Shvedova (in round two) and Ekaterina Makarova (in round three). Makarova beat Kvitova at Eastbourne last year and is a very competent grass courter. However like Kvitova, her concentration wavers dramatically. Ana Ivanovic and Carla Suarez Navarro are both in this section and I do not fancy either to have great tournaments. Perhaps Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who beat Bartoli here last year, is worth a punt for a good run in this section.
The new world number 2, Victoria Azarenka opens up her Wimbledon campaign against Maria Joao Koehler and will meet either Elena Baltacha or Flavia Pennetta in the second round. The British players have all got tough draws, but Baltacha is the only Brit I predict will make the second round. Vika is due to meet Alize Cornet in the third round, who gave her a stern test at Roland Garros, but watch out for Hsieh Su-Wei who is pretty nifty on grass. Jelena Jankovic and Kirsten Flipkens are the top seeds in the section that could meet Vika in round 4. Jankovic has no grass court matches this year and this is by far her weakest slam. A duo of Belgians will not be easy; Yanina Wickmayer in round two would be tough, but I think she will come unstuck against Flipkens in the third round. The Belgian number one opens against Yulia Putintseva and may have to play Ajla Tomljanovic again, who she sneaked past in Birmingham.
1st Round Predictions: Shvedova to beat Bertens in 3 sets, Lucic-Baroni to beat Arvidsson in 2 tight sets, Voskoboeva to beat Bouchard in 3 sets, Ivanovic to beat Razzano in 2 sets, Jankovic to beat Konta in 3 sets, Tomljanovic to beat Jovanovski in 3 sets, Flipkens to beat Putintseva in 2 sets, Baltacha to beat Pennetta in 2 tight sets and Azarenka to beat Koehler in 2 easy sets
You can view my full predictions for the womens draw at Wimbledon HERE