Wimbledon 2017 officially gets underway on Monday and weeeeeee i’m excited! The first round matches from the bottom half of the draw will be contested on Monday and there are a couple of crackers. For a preview of the main draw on Moo’s Tennis Blog, click HERE. Predictions and polls will go up in the usual place during Sunday.
1. Victoria Azarenka vs. CiCi Bellis (Court TBA)
In an all unseeded match and arguably one of the most intriguing from the full slate of first round matches, Victoria Azarenka will play CiCi Bellis. Azarenka made her return to the tour in Mallorca after the birth of her first son. Her champion qualities shone through in a brutal first round match against Risa Ozaki where she saved three match points to win, 6-3 4-6 7-6(7). A second round loss to Ana Konjuh demonstrated both that the tour has moved on in the last year and that there’s a lot of hard work ahead for Azarenka. Still, it was a promising start and wonderful to see Vika back competing again.
In her first full year on the tour, Bellis is having a superb year and goes from strength-to-strength. The American has shown her versatility, securing nine top 50 wins across a range of different surfaces. Bellis had never previously played a professional-level match on grass, yet managed to reach the semi-finals of Mallorca with wins over Carla Suárez Navarro, Mona Barthel and Kristyna Pliskova.
Of all the first round matches, this is the match where I cannot make my mind up about who wins! Azarenka’s experience far outweighs Bellis to the point that the American is actually playing her first main draw in Wimbledon. However, Bellis’s quality of tennis has been on point for much of the year and she’s demonstrated bundles of grit and mental fortitude this year. 51-49 in favour of Bellis…
2. Ana Konjuh vs. Sabine Lisicki (4th up on Court 14)
Two big hitters with a soft spot on the grass, Ana Konjuh and Sabine Lisicki, will meet in a hard-hitting first rounder at Wimbledon. Lisicki is a former finalist at Wimbledon and has frequently burst into life at SW19. The German player has endured a tough few years and played her first tournament of the year in Mallorca following a spell on the sidelines for a shoulder injury. Lisicki beat Kiki Bertens and Shelby Rogers en route to the quarter-finals.
Konjuh played three grass court warm-up events, securing five wins along the way and showing an improvement in form after a pretty ropey few months stretching back to Dubai. The Croatian player won her only WTA title in Nottingham and her game matches up well to grass. Konjuh retired after a set in Eastbourne against Mona Barthel but it seemed more precautionary than anything.
While Lisicki’s love affair with Wimbledon is pretty strong, in the last two years she has only reached the third round – “only” sounds harsh, but vaild considering she posted a sensational run of semi-finals, quarter-finals, final and quarter-finals between 2011 and 2014! For Konjuh, all the matches on grass so far this year will likely have given a much-needed boost of confidence. I’d take the increased exposure to grass and match play this year for Konjuh, feeding into a superior mental toughness as the key factor.
3. Elina Svitolina vs. Ashleigh Barty (2nd up on Court 3)
The first round matches on Monday are lit, as the kids would say 😂. The number four (!) seed Elina Svitolina faces a very testing opener against the in-form and comfortable-on-the-grass, Ashleigh Barty. The Aussie had a tremendous week in Birmingham where she beat the likes of Marketa Vondrousova, Barbora Strycova and Garbiñe Muguruza en route to the final. Add to that, Barty has reached the doubles finals in both Birmingham and Eastbourne with partner, Casey Dellacqua.
Svitolina has played just two matches on grass this year, losing out to Camila Giorgi in the second round of Birmingham. The Ukrainian player remarked in press that Wimbledon was a doubt due to an achilles injury. It would seem that she’s set to play the third Slam of the year, but with some uncertainty. Furthermore, Svitolina has never managed to play her best tennis on grass, posting a 5-11 career W-L record on grass.
In their only previous meeting, Svitolina beat Barty in Fed Cup action earlier this year, 4-6 6-1 6-2. Without doubt, this match will come with an upset alert – in my opinion, Barty for the win.