I’m back from Eastbourne and ready to jump into Wimbledon festivities. The draw for the 2017 Wimbledon Championships was unveiled on Friday and as to be expected, has thrown up some exciting first round match-ups. Much like the French Open, it’s another wide-open draw – be ready to expect the unexpected! I’m off work until next Wednesday so Moo’s Tennis Blog will be with you every step of the way until then covering the women’s draw. Let’s take a look at the draw…
Section 1 – Kerber’s Eighth
Opening up Centre Court proceedings on Tuesday in the absence of the defending champion, Angelique Kerber headlines the 2017 Wimbledon draw. Kerber will open against the qualifier, Irina Falconi and is seeded to meet Lucie Safarova in the third round. Draw-wise, I think this is a decent draw for Kerber early doors. Winning a pair of matches in Eastbourne was vital, but her form and confidence still remain questionable.
Safarova played eight matches through Nottingham and Birmingham, of which six went to three sets. The Czech player found her grass feet but was forced to retire from her semi-final match in Birmingham against Petra Kvitova with a leg injury. If she has recovered in time, i’d give Safarova a fair shot with this draw. I was a little worried as there was no sighting of Safarova at the Player’s Party or at Wimbledon, but she finally posted on social media on Saturday that she is at SW19. Oceane Dodin in the first round terrifies me slightly 😂.
Garbiñe Muguruza is projected to meet Kerber in the fourth round. Muguruza continues to puzzle me greatly with her results this year – there’s been the good, the bad and the ugly! The Spaniard showed some decent form in reaching the semi-finals of Birmingham, but then won just one game in a second round thrashing by Barbora Strycova. While it was disappointing to watch, I don’t think too much can be read into that loss in terms of preparation for Wimbledon. Muguruza tweeted that she will be working with Conchita Martinez this week because her coach, Sam Sumyk has had to fly home due to a family issue (see tweet below). I actually think this could be a blessing in disguise and with this draw, Muguruza could be one to watch.
First up for Muguruza is Ekaterina Alexandrova who beat Ana Ivanovic in the first round of Wimbledon last year. The first seed that Muguruza could meet is Kiki Bertens in the third round. Bertens though will be vulnerable with Sorana Cirstea up first (who I was really impressed with in Eastbourne) and the dangerous, Bethanie Mattek-Sands lurking in this section too.
Section 2 – Kuznetsova’s Eighth
Svetlana Kuznetsova has not lost her first match at a tournament since Eastbourne last year but she’ll need to be on the ball to get past the in-form qualifier, Ons Jabeur in the first round. Ekaterina Makarova is also present in this section and remains one to keep an eye on on grass despite her inconsistencies through 2017. Kuznetsova showed some decent form in Eastbourne with gritty wins over Mona Barthel and Kristina Mladenovic, before a three set loss to Karolina Pliskova in a match where she had the ascendancy in the third set (oh Sveta!). This section of the draw is particularly open and I remain confident of having no idea which Kuznetsova will turn up – she’s capable of reaching at least the quarter-finals, but also nosediving in the first round!
Former Wimbledon finalist, Agnieszka Radwanska gets Jelena Jankovic in the first round. Truth be told, I was chuckling when this match-up was announced. Both players have been slumping in 2017 and neither has picked up a victory during this grass court season. Therefore, this could open the door for the number 19 seed, Timea Bacsinszky. The Swiss player is also winless on grass in singles this year, but should arrive with a fair amount of confidence after a superb run to the semi-finals of Roland Garros. Bacsinszky plays Monica Puig in the first round – always a danger on paper, but Puig hasn’t played since Roland Garros due to illness.
Section 3 – Pliskova’s Eighth
Karolina Pliskova arrives in Wimbledon as the Eastbourne champion and with a few days off before a Tuesday start. The Czech player has probably been the most reliable and consistent player on the WTA tour during 2017. Before last year’s US Open, Pliskova had never made it past the third round of a Slam. One year on and Pliskova has reached at least the quarter-finals at her last three Slams. Pliskova plays Evgeniya Rodina in the first round with her first noteworthy challenge likely to come in the second round against Monica Niculescu or Magdalena Rybarikova, who play each other in an eye-catching first rounder.
The draw on the whole is pretty fair for Pliskova with projected seeds including Zhang Shuai in the third round and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth round. Pavs opens against Arina Rodionova and like Roland Garros, has another great draw – this seriously worries me! Two comeback players well worth a follow in this section are Petra Martic and Zarina Diyas. Martic made a comeback from injury in early April on the ITF circuit. The Croatian player has won 24 of 28 matches this year and also qualified for the French Open draw where she reached the last 16 and was on the verge of beating Svitolina. Diyas had wrist surgery last year and came back in February. The Kazakh player is already pushing onto the world’s top 100, currently ranked at #130, and she won the Manchester $100k tournament on grass a few weeks back. Martic gets a shot at Daria Gavrilova, while Diyas has a very winnable opener against Han Xinyun.
Section 4 – Wozniacki’s Eighth
Eastbourne finalist, Caroline Wozniacki tops the fourth quarter of the draw, which is one of my favourites with a plethora of talent and grass court GOATs. Wozniacki will take on Timea Babos in the first round. The Hungarian player is a threat on her day, yet that is unlikely to be the case in this match-up as Babos is currently riding an eight match losing streak and lost 1-6 1-6 to Elise Mertens in Eastbourne.
Tsvetana Pironkova and Anett Kontaveit are both lurking in Wozniacki’s section – Pironkova is a former Wimbledon semi-finalist and has had plenty of matches during the grass court season, while Kontaveit won her first WTA title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and has been a revelation in 2017. Daria Kasatkina is the seed set to meet Wozniacki in the third round, yet the Russian player has not played since Roland Garros after pulling out of Birmingham and Eastbourne due to the ankle injury picked up in Rome.
Kristina Mladenovic sits on the opposite side of this eighth and plays fellow compatriot, Pauline Parmentier in the first round. The winner of this all-French meeting will play the winner of an all-American meeting between Alison Riske and the returning, Sloane Stephens. This will be Stephen’s first tournament since the Olympics injury having been hampered by a foot injury. In all honesty, i’m rather stunned to see Sloane in the main draw since she couldn’t put weight on her foot in Charleston. If she’s here, i’m guessing she is ready and while Riske is a great grass-courter, it’s been a good match-up in the past for Stephens with two previous wins.
Another quality first rounder to watch out for features CoCo Vandeweghe against Mona Barthel. CoCo is one of the best players on grass but arrives at SW19 with a little uncertainty after injuring her ankle in Birmingham. Barthel, while not naturally possessing a game for the grass, has had a superb year and played five matches on the grass.
Section 5 – Cibulkova’s Eighth
One of the star’s of last year’s grass court season, Dominika Cibulkova has a lot of points up on the chopping block this time round. Cibulkova plays Andrea Petkovic in the first round – while the German player continues to labour a tad with her tennis this year, it’s a match-up that has always favoured Petkovic and she has won their last five matches with their last meeting in 2015.
Another cracking first rounder will see Ana Konjuh take on 2013 finalist, Sabine Lisicki. On the comeback from a shoulder injury, Lisicki returned in Mallorca where she reached the quarter-finals. Konjuh has shown glimpses of quality on the grass. She reached the semi-finals in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, quarter-finals in Mallorca, but retired hurt in the first round of Eastbourne. I’m expecting Ana to be fine for Wimbledon where she was so close to upsetting Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round last year, before later injuring herself by stepping on a ball.
A week ago I would have had Venus Williams as a contender for the title. After the recent news that broke, I am wondering where Venus’s head will be at and questioning whether she will be able to concentrate on tennis. In a Roland Garros rematch, Venus will play Elise Mertens in the first round who is playing Wimbledon for the first time in her career. Venus could play Wang Qiang in the second round, another player who she faced in Paris earlier this year.
The other seed in this section is Barbora Strycova who is always one to watch out for on grass and a former quarter-finalist. The Czech player gets Veronica Cepede Royg in the first round, who reached the last 16 in Paris and has won four matches on the grass. The winner could play Naomi Osaka in the second round – Strycova vs. Osaka would be awesome!
Section 6 – Svitolina’s Eighth
Elina Svitolina heads into Wimbledon having played just two matches on the grass in Birmingham and under an injury cloud as she revealed in Birmingham that she was bothered by an achilles injury. Svitolina likely won’t be too thrilled by her draw, up against one of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw and the Birmingham finalist, Ashleigh Barty. The Aussie has had bundles of time on the grass having also reached the finals of doubles with Casey Dellacqua in Birmingham and Eastbourne. The other seed in this quartet, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni will play Carina Witthoeft, which is also a match i’d tag with an upset alert. Witthoeft has reached the third round at three of the last four Slams, while Lucic-Baroni was sporting heavy strapping on her shoulder in Eastbourne.
Heavy hitters reunite in the section that will produce Svitolina’s projected fourth round opponent – Jelena Ostapenko, Madison Keys and Camila Giorgi are all present and alert! Ostapenko gets Aliaksandra Sasnovich first up, which won’t be a walk in the park, while Keys and Giorgi could meet in the second round. Giorgi opens against Alizé Cornet, which could be a treat for their differing game styles and emotions! Note that it was revealed via WTA Insider that Keys had minor wrist surgery after the French Open. I’d assumed this would be curtains for her but it sounds like she should be good to go and is now officially pain free (see tweet below).
Section 7 – Konta’s Eighth
Johanna Konta has never made it past the second round of Wimbledon and she’ll have to play well to achieve that feat this time round. The Brit could have to play two players who have beaten her in the last month or so. Konta faces a Roland Garros rematch against Hsieh Su-Wei in the first round. On grass, Konta should be more comfortable but there is also a case that the same applies to Hsieh. If she were to advance through the first round, Konta would play Donna Vekic or Natalia Vikhlyantseva. Both players have had great grass court results – Vekic won Nottingham, beating Konta in the final with a ballsy close of the match, while Vikhlyantseva made the final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Vinci is Konta’s first projected seed although the Italian faces a tricky opener against Kristyna Pliskova who has won their two encounters in 2017.
The inspiration that is Petra Kvitova is the number 11 seed. After winning Birmingham, Kvitova propelled herself forward as one of the leading contenders in this wham bam wide open draw. Kvitova’s draw features players she has struggled against before, such as Johanna Larsson and Madison Brengle, but I wouldn’t necessarily fear for Kvitova on grass. Kvitova’s first potential seed is Caroline Garcia who faces a Mallorca rematch against Jana Cepelova. Duan Ying-Ying is one to keep an eye on in this section after a series of impressive displays in Eastbourne.
Section 8 – Halep’s Eighth
Simona Halep returns to Slam action up against qualifier, Marina Erakovic in the first round. The Romanian player had three matches on the grass at Eastbourne and all three went the distance, so she’s had plenty of time on the grass. There’s a case that Halep will have mental baggage after the French Open. She was very honest in press in Eastbourne about her feelings after the final against Jelena Ostapenko and I actually think she’s in an OK place right now.
This eighth of the draw features the pick of the first rounders and two matches i’m still deliberating on as I type this – Victoria Azarenka will play CiCi Bellis, while Carla Suárez Navarro gets former finalist, Eugenie Bouchard. Azarenka made her comeback in Mallorca where she saved match points to beat Risa Ozaki before losing in straights to Ana Konjuh. At the same tournament, Bellis reached the semi-finals in her first professional tournament on grass. Last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist, Elena Vesnina is one not to overlook, getting Azarenka or Bellis in the second round. Also, Mallorca champion, Anastasija Sevastova is here, Eastbourne semi-finalist, Heather Watson and one of the hipster first round matches from the bottom half, Peng Shuai vs. Marketa Vondrousova. So yeah, it’s a packed section!
Records in Wimbledon
Of the top eight seeds, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Angelique Kerber have the most wins at Wimbledon with the latter defending finalist points. Three of the top eight have never made it past the second round – Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Johanna Konta. The Brit, Konta won her first ever match at Wimbledon in 2016.
In the band of players between 9 and 16, the stand-out name is of course, Venus Williams – the American has amassed an incredible 81 wins at SW19. Radwanska and Kvitova also have great records, and with the in-form, Kristina Mladenovic rounding out the 9-12, it’s a star-studded quartet. The French Open champion and former Wimby juniors champion, Jelena Ostapenko will be playing her third Wimbledon and aiming to make it past the second round for the first time in her career.
First Round Polls
More polls are up on the predictions page…
WWW Wimbledon Poll
Pliskova is my pick for Wimby who I had already decided on before Saturday’s Eastbourne final. I feel like the Czech player is ready for that next step and I like her draw. A Tuesday start after winning Eastbourne is crucial too. My final pick of Halep is likely to get battered but I was really impressed, both on and off the court, with her in Eastbourne. Regular readers will know i’m very, very fond of Kvitova but I appear to hold more caution towards her than most. Despite what she achieved in Birmingham (AMAZING), i’m still wary as to whether she can go through seven matches across two weeks. My dark horse picks for the week to cause some rumblings in this draw are Ashleigh Barty and Anett Kontaveit
Final Prediction: Pliskova d. Halep