Friday nights of Slam draws are my favourites… give me a draw to plough through and i’m happy! For profiles of the top 16 seeds at Wimbledon including recent form, previous Wimbledon performances, fun facts and general thoughts, check out my first preview for the women’s tournament HERE. This post focuses entirely on the draw, going through each eighth and picking out key players and match-ups. So finally, let’s take a look at the 2016 Wimbledon draw…
This will be the 14th consecutive time that Serena sits at the top of a Slam draw. In the first round of Wimbledon 2016, she will take on the qualifier and world number #150, Amra Sadikovic. The Swiss player will be competing in the main draw of a Slam for the first time in her career. This is a challenging draw for Serena, but there’s no-one on first glance that is going to shock or surprise her. There are quality players such as Svetlana Kuznetsova, Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens and Christina McHale, but Serena has played all of them and will unlikely underestimate them.
Serena would play either Christina McHale or Daniela Hantuchova in the second round; Serena last met McHale in Rome, saving a set point in the first set en route to a straight sets win. A potential second rounder against Hantuchova would be a special moment as the Slovak player is approaching the end of her career. Serena and Daniela have played each other at Wimbledon on three previous occasions and it would be a match befitting of Centre Court.
If Serena reaches the third round, she could face a French Open rematch against Mladenovic. The pair played at the same stage in Paris and the Frenchwoman played a great match, pushing the world number one in a tight two setter. Mladenovic has had a super grass court season, playing ten matches on the green stuff. If Serena’s rusty, Mladenovic’s sheer hours on the grass could be a factor. Also, watch out for Heather Watson (projected to meet Mladenovic in R2) who always seems to play her most forceful tennis at SW19.
The stand-out first round match that prompted the biggest ooooo features the number 14 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova up against Caroline Wozniacki. In Eastbourne, the Dane commented on her tough draws at Slams and here we go again with another stinker. Wozniacki leads the head-to-head, 5-4. Sloane Stephens is the other seed in this section and hasn’t played any matches on grass this year, mysteriously withdrawing from Eastbourne. On the WTA injury report, they stated that Stephens pulled out with an abdominal injury. The American plays the potentially dangerous and right-now-unheralded, Peng Shuai in the first round. If Stephens is fit, she could be a dark horse in this section as it’s a workable draw.
Best first round match-up: Svetlana Kuznetsova (14) v Caroline Wozniacki
One to watch out for on the outside courts: Sloane Stephens (18) v Peng Shuai
The two highest seeds in this eighth, Roberta Vinci and Timea Bacsinszky, both head into Wimbledon without a win on grass in 2016. Their first round draws are largely contrasting; Bacsinszky opens against the qualifier, Luksika Kumkhum, while Vinci faces the Nottingham finalist, Alison Riske. Bacsinszky suffered an early exit in Eastbourne, she sounded positive though in pre-tournament press about her chances on grass. Kumkhum should be a routine opener although qualifiers always add a slight element of danger because of match play.
The concern for Bacsinszky would be a potential second rounder against Monica Niculescu. In Eastbourne, Bacsinszky referenced the match-up against Niculescu (they played in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year) as “black beast” (a French saying) as she went into that match with a 1-4 head-to-head record. Of note, Niculescu hasn’t won a match on tour since missing match points against Petra Kvitova in Stuttgart and she skipped the grass court season due to a lower back injury. Niculescu’s first round match against the qualifier, Aleksandra Krunic, could be a intriguing affair.
Vinci’s opener against Riske has attracted the “upset alert” tag and based on their respective form, it’s a fair point. Riske has shown some nerves in closing out sets during 2016, but she’s got many more matches under her belt than Vinci who, although matching up well to the grass, doesn’t have the confidence of many match wins right now. Last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finalist, CoCo Vandeweghe is in the section as a seed (the other seeds breathe a sigh of relief) but she herself as a tricky draw. The American opens against Kateryna Bondarenko, who reached the third round in Eastbourne.
Vandewweghe has had a terrific grass court season, winning Rosmalen and reaching the semi-finals of Birmingham; all the time she looked good, but there seemed to be room for improvement. Timea Babos, who plays the Brit wildcard Katie Swan first up, could await Vandeweghe/Bondarenko in the second round. The Hungarian player has had a super consistent year and has won at least one main draw match at 12 out of her 16 tournaments in 2016. She is still seeking to make it past the second round of a Slam in singles though…
Best first round match-up: CoCo Vandeweghe (29) v Kateryna Bondarenko
One to watch out for on the outside courts: Monica Niculescu v Aleksandra Krunic
Agnieszka Radwanska has some danger lurking but on the whole, I think it’s a fair draw. She could come up against the powerful hitting of Ana Konjuh (possibly second round) and Caroline Garcia (third round). Both Konjuh and Garcia have super potential but whether they have the staying power to knock out a Radwanska would most likely require a career best performance. Radwanska played Garcia in the second round of the French Open last month; although the match was much more entertaining and competitive than the 6-2 6-4 scoreline in favour of Radwanska suggested, the current world number three always looked to have the edge. The grass suits Garcia’s game more, but the same can be said for Radwanska too who is not a fan of the clay.
Arguably the most exciting aspect to this section of the draw is a juicy duo of matches that involves Eugenie Bouchard, Magdalena Rybarikova, Johanna Konta and Monica Puig. As a former finalist, Bouchard loves Wimbledon and this year, has the benefit of not having to defend ranking points following a first round exit to Ying-Ying Duan in 2015. Bouchard plays Rybarikova who is fantastic grass court player, but has been injured for the past few months and pulled out of her last match in Nottingham with a knee injury. At the French Open, it looked like she had turned up for the prize money (no problem with this).
Puig v Konta pits Eastbourne semi-finalists against each other in another cracking opener. Both are having great years and their only previous match in Nottingham, which went to a third set tiebreak, could be a pre-cursor to what lies ahead… it really, really, really could go either way!
Also of note in this section is the Eastbourne champion, Dominika Cibulkova opening against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. The 1999 Wimbledon semi-finalist, MLB, played some superb tennis in Eastbourne (eventually retired with a gastrointestinal illness) and also reached the final of Strasbourg the week before the French Open. Cibulkova will have a wealth of confidence from Eastbourne and will have sure footing on the grass, but it’s never easy to transition to another tournament with just a few day in between. Cibulkova leads the head-to-head against Lucic-Baroni, 4-0. The winner of that match plays Daria Gavrilova or Qiang Wang… a Cibulkova v Gavrilova R2 match which would be precious.
Best first round match-up: Johanna Konta (16) v Monica Puig
One to watch out for on the outside courts:: Dominika Cibulkova (19) v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
This fourth section is PACKED full of grass court lovers… we have two-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova; 2015 Eastbourne champion, Belinda Bencic; 2010 Eastbourne champion, Ekaterina Makarova; 2014 and 2016 Birmingham finalist, Barbora Strycova; 2013 Eastbourne champion, Elena Vesnina; 2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist, Tsvetana Pironkova anddd two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist, Tamira Paszek. I haven’t even mentioned the number 32 seed, Andrea Petkovic who has looked in decent form on the grass this year!
Bencic opens against Pironkova which is a repeat first round match-up from Wimbledon 2015. I want to have faith in Belinda but with the injuries and still finding her way back to form, a fully fit grass court GOAT in Pironkova will be a sizeable challenge. Kvitova’s draw is equally brutal and doesn’t let up from the first round. The Czech player opens against Cirstea; their last four matches have all gone to three sets with Kvitova leading the head-to-head, 4-2. In the second round could be the Eastbourne quarter-finalist, Makarova. Kvitova and Makarova have a colourful head-to-head with little to call between them and the better player on the day often winning (by this, I mean it’s not mental in favour of one opponent). A different player has won their last four meetings.
Kvitova is seeded to meet Strycova in the third round, who can cause all kinds of problems on the grass with her prowess up at the net and solid serving. The 30-year-old reached the final of Birmingham and is enjoying a wonderful year. Strycova opens against Anett Kontaveit, who is not to be overlooked. The 20-year-old Estonian player defeated Caroline Wozniacki in Nottingham and then scored a double bagel win in the first round of Eastbourne qualifying over Irina Falconi. However, the consistency and tactics aren’t quite there yet, as demonstrated by a loss in the second qualifying round of Eastbourne to Kateryna Bondarenko.
Best first round match-up: Belinda Bencic (7) v Tsvetana Pironkova
One to watch out for on the outside courts:: Elena Vesnina v Tamira Paszek
Simona Halep gets a favourable opener at this year’s Wimbledon against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. It’s sad to see what is happening to the Slovak player this year who has lost her last 14 matches on tour. In fact, the only set she won was against the eventual French Open champion, Garbiñe Muguruza! From the second round, Halep’s draw isn’t all that clear and she’ll need to play quality tennis to keep progressing. Halep plays either Anastasija Sevastova or Francesca Schiavone in the second round. Sevastova, who had just three match wins on this surface and hadn’t played on grass since 2011, has had a decent grass court season. She pushed Karolina Pliskova to three sets in the first round of Nottingham and won four matches to reach her 2nd WTA final in Mallorca.
Halep is seeded to meet the surprise package of the French Open, Kiki Bertens in the third round. The 24-year-old hasn’t played since due to a calf injury. To add to her woes, she plays Jelena Ostapenko in the first round who has looked fearsome during this grass court season. While her bratty attitude doesn’t always help her cause, the way she can strike the ball is pretty awesome and her game adjusts beautifully to the grass. If she can keep her head screwed on i’d fancy Ostapenko to come through this mini-section.
Newly adorned to the top ten, Madison Keys has set up well for Wimbledon. If she can navigate her way through a potentially tricky first two rounds, I think she makes the final… i’m not sure if this is a bold statement because I feel like Keys has been steadily progressing all year and she’s ready, particularly mentally, for the next step-up.
Keys opens against Laura Siegemund; the German player defeated Keys in Charleston earlier this year. Siegemund has won just one singles match on the grass and pulled out of Eastbourne with a left wrist injury. Perhaps the hectic clay court season is finally catching up with her. I like Keys to come through that match because Siegemund is the type of player that can likely surprise you first time round with her aggressive and generally unorthodox game. This time round, Keys will be more aware of the threats that Siegemund poses.
In the second round, Keys could face former Wimbledon semi-finalist, Kirsten Flipkens (who plays Nicole Gibbs in the first round). This could be a super match; it’s a dangerous match-up for Keys with someone who can alter the pace and rhythm; it is worth noting that Keys did bag a comfortable win over the Belgian player earlier this year in Miami.
Best first round match-up: Madison Keys (9) v Laura Siegemund
One to watch out for on the outside courts: Kiki Bertens (26) v Jelena Ostapenko
Angelique Kerber heads into Wimbledon with just three grass court matches under her belt. First up is Laura Robson, who interestingly, knocked out the German player in the first round of Wimbledon back in 2011. Kerber has come on leaps and bounds since then, transforming her career through bundles of hard work and dedication. Robson is the type of the player that raises her level for the opponent so expect a feisty effort from the Brit. The upset though would be something extraordinary. Kerber’s draw has some dangers; she could play Varvara Lepchenko (R2) and Irina-Camelia Begu (R3) who are both players who have multiple wins over her. However, she has played neither player on grass before.
The Eastbourne finalist, Karolina Pliskova sits on the other side of the draw and will be seeking to reach the second week of a Slam for the first time in her career. With this draw, she won’t get many better chances! The caveat would probably be her first round opponent, Yanina Wickmayer, who can strike a mean ball and played some wonderful tennis in Birmingham to reach the quarter-finals. Pliskova’s third round opponent is projected to be Ana Ivanovic. This match-up, based on their last encounter in Stuttgart, has become a mental one for the Serb although if they were to meet, Pliskova would be dealing with plenty of pressure herself, trying to break new ground at a Slam.
Ivanovic on grass doesn’t fill me with much confidence and i’d actually go for Anna-Lena Friedsam to have a run here. The German player, who opens against Zarina Diyas and could play Ivanovic in the second round, has a super dynamic game and has improved the mental side of her game significantly in 2016. For Pliskova, all the matches on grass should give her belief but as has been the case before, she’s played a lottt of tennis.
Best first round match-up: Angelique Kerber (4) v Laura Robson
One to watch out for on the outside courts: Misaki Doi v Louisa Chirico
Last year Venus sailed into the last 16 of Wimbledon but was paired up with Serena in the blockbuster Magic Monday match. Her last two losses at Wimbledon have come against Serena and Petra. This year though the draw has been much kinder; in fact, if she’s feeling healthy and can find her rhythm on the grass early, there’s a good chance that Venus can do something noteworthy in this draw. Venus opens against Donna Vekic; the Croatian player has had excellent results on the grass before but she has lost her last four matches.
A potential third round match for Venus against Daria Kasatkina would be AWESOME. Kasatkina plays Victoria Duval, which is one of my favourite first round match-ups. This will be Kasatkina’s first main draw appearance at Wimbledon following her first pro match on grass in Eastbourne against Jelena Ostapenko where she played well considering the circumstances.
The second part to this eighth houses Jelena Jankovic and Carla Suárez Navarro. It’s one of those sections that will probably end up holding form but I am going for upsets galore! Jankovic had a great run at Wimbledon last year, defeating the defending champion in Petra Kvitova in the third round. Her year has been dogged with injuries but her form on the grass has been more-than-respectable. JJ broke a five match losing streak in Rosmalen and reached the semi-finals in Mallorca.
I’m intrigued to see how the qualifier, Marina Erakovic progresses at Wimbledon. She is hurtling back up the rankings having been sidelined by a serious knee injury. Erakovic reached the final in Rabat on clay earlier this year, winning seven matches, and she’s always had a solid game for the grass. Erakovic didn’t drop a set through qualifying at Roehampton. If she can hold her nerve then the third round is certainly attainable. Suárez Navarro had a great run in Birmingham but looked knackered in Eastbourne. She *should* come through her draw but players such Shuai Zhang, Denisa Allertova and Margarita Gasparyan are all capable of hitting form.
Best first round match-up: Venus Williams (8) v Donna Vekic (clutching at straws a bit on this one!)
Ones to watch out for on the outside courts: Daria Kasatkina (29) v Victoria Duval and Margarita Gasparyan v Denisa Allertova
Garbiñe Muguruza bookends the 2016 Wimbledon draw and will open against the enigma that is, Camila Giorgi. In fact, if Muguruza can navigate her way past that potentially tricky opener, her draw looks reasonably clear. Lucie Safarova is a potential third round opponent but she heads into Wimbledon with no wins on the grass. I watched all of her match against Anna-Lena Friedsam in Eastbourne and it was a tough watch as a fan of Lucie’s as she really struggled to impose herself on return. Also, chuck in that Safarova plays her doubles partner, Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round. Not only is Beth a great player on grass, but playing a good friend will be less than ideal.
The other half of this section is completely wide open for a shock run. The two seeds, Sam Stosur and Elina Svitolina are both not comfortable on the grass. Stosur won only three games in her first singles match on grass in 2016 against Caroline Wozniacki in Eastbourne, while Svitolina lost her first match in Birmingham to Carla Suárez Navarro, having served for the match at one point. If Stosur gets past Magda Linette in the first round (who had a knee injury in Eastbourne) then she will play either former Wimbledon finalist, Sabine Lisicki or Roland Garros quarter-finalist, Shelby Rogers.
I actually like this draw for Lisicki as it contains quite a few hard hitters. It’s the players who have more variety that cause her the problems; for example, Mariana Duque Mariño in Mallorca last week. Lisicki’s form has been very disappointing this year but she did manage a victory over Kristina Mladenovic in Mallorca, a quality result. If Lisicki can draw on Wimbledon joy then I still think she’s capable of going deep in this draw. Like no other Slam, some players have an affinity to the grass at Wimbledon and can seemingly turn it on at the flick of a switch. As draw gods go, I think the draw has been kind to Lisicki and it could be a great opportunity to rediscover some form but most importantly, confidence and belief. A fun fact… Lisicki
Best first round match-up: Garbiñe Muguruza (2) v Camila Giorgi
One to watch out for on the outside courts: Lucie Safarova (28) v Bethanie Mattek-Sands
I’m pretty set on my finalist from the bottom half… Madison Keys. I feel like she’s ready for the next step. Admittedly I am nervous for her first two rounds, but *if* she can get through them, I think she’s set on a nice path. Top half is where i’m indecisive as anything. I’ve had my doubts about Serena but the facts are that she has still been super consistent this year when she’s played and on grass, the surface will give her a helping hand on serve. The draw is difficult but she’ll know what to expect.
Kvitova scares me, but I can’t ignore her Wimbledon form and she’s won the title before with a leg injury so a Tuesday start should give her time to prepare. I like Radwanska’s draw but the fear is that one of those big hitters will have a good day against her. In the end, it’s a Serena v Madison final for me. And in that situation, i’d go for Serena’s experience to prevail, despite her record in finals this year.
These could change because i’m still mulling over them…
Quarter-Final Predictions: S.Williams v Bacsinszky, Radwanska v Kvitova, Keys v Kerber, V.Williams v Lisicki
Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Keys