2021 Wimbledon Preview

I’ve been waiting for this moment for two years… Wimbledonians! The grass court season feels extra special this year, and both sudden and rapid too after the delay of the French Open by one week. Ash Barty and Serena Williams are the two favourites with the bookmakers yet neither have played since the French Open. Barty hasn’t competed since retiring from her second round match in Paris. Just before the draw was made, Simona Halep pulled out of the tournament with the calf injury picked up in Rome which was just gutting news.

I’m now on holiday for the next ten days and ready to relax in front of the tennis. I feel underprepared for Wimbledon having not been able to watch much tennis over the past week since my trip to Eastbourne last weekend. Doing my draw has been one of the hardest – I just don’t have any strong vibes or see any clear contenders! Read on for my preview of the 2021 Wimbledon draw. Predictions to go up in the usual place once i’ve finished deliberating. Please sound off in the comments with your champs and thoughts!

NOTE: This preview has been updated to reflect Jo Konta’s withdrawal from Wimbledon

1st Quarter

Seeds 1️⃣: (1) Ash Barty, (5) Bianca Andreescu, (12) Victoria Azarenka, (14) Barbora Krejcikova, (17) Kiki Bertens, (24) Anett Kontaveit and (31) Daria Kasatkina

Unseeded loomers ⚡: Jelena Ostapenko, Katerina Siniakova, Anastasija Sevastova, Marta Kostyuk and Coco Vandeweghe

Blockbuster R1 matches 🎆: Omg so many! Of course I have to start with the feel-good match of them all, Ash Barty vs. Carla Suárez Navarro, which headlines the draw and was the first gasp of the draw ceremony. I’m delighted that Carla is guaranteed a good Wimby send-off after what happened in Paris as it has been been confirmed that this match will open Tuesday’s Centre Court proceedings. Elsewhere, there’s a Berlin rematch between Bianca Andreescu and Alizé Cornet, and the hipster’s pick of the bunch between the French Open champion, Barbora Krejcikova and Clara Tauson. There’s always one first rounder I can’t make my mind up about and right now, it’s Krejcikova-Tauson!

Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: The second round could throw up a pair of Eastbourne rematches with Sevastova-Kostyuk (R2) and Kasatkina-Ostapenko (R2) both potentially on the cards for Thursday. Delving deeper into the draw, the two projected last 16 match-ups, Barty-Krejcikova (R4) and Andreescu-Azarenka (R4) would both be blockbuster. Chances of both happening? I’d say slim!

Upset alerts 😮: The obvious upset based on seeding would be Marta Kostyuk over Kiki Bertens but it wouldn’t be classed as an upset as Kostyuk is the clear favourite with the bookmakers.

Dark horse 🐎: There are so many dark horses in this section. Anett Kontaveit, Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko all bring grass-court form into Wimby. Ostapenko, the Eastbourne champ, looks especially dangerous. Dare I even chuck Coco Vandeweghe in the mix (?!) who has history at SW19 and reached the semis of Birmingham.

Fun fact 🤓: The first quarter showcases players at opposite ends of their careers. Carla Suárez Navarro and Kiki Bertens will both play Wimbledon for the last time. I haven’t mentioned Kiki yet on the blog – that retirement announcement took me by surprise! Meanwhile, there are seven players who will be competing in the main draw of Wimbledon for the first time in their career. They are Marta Kostyuk, Jasmine Paolini, Clara Tauson, Barbora Krejcikova (!), Emma Raducanu, Leylah Fernandez and Greet Minnen.

Barty

2nd Quarter

Seeds 1️⃣: (3) Elina Svitolina, (6) Serena Williams, (9) Belinda Bencic, (16) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, (19) Karolina Muchova, (20) Coco Gauff, (25) Angelique Kerber and (30) Paula Badosa

Unseeded loomers ⚡: Camila Giorgi, Ana Konjuh, Magda Linette, Amanda Anisimova and Alison Van Uytvanck

Blockbuster R1 match 🎆: Nothing much grabs my attention from this quarter of the draw, unlike the first quarter. I’m hoping that Coco Gauff against Francesca Jones will get a big show court and Jones can play well.

Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: Just like the French, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber are projected to meet in the third round. It was an exciting prospect in Paris that didn’t materialise. Even more of a treat for Wimbledon where the pair have contested two of the past four Wimby finals. Bencic-Gauff (R3) could be a great contest on grass. The pair have played once before in Adelaide where Bencic won, 7-6(2) 6-7(4) 6-2 in two hours and 45 minutes.

Upset alerts 😮: I haven’t picked any seeded upsets in the first round. Svitolina’s opener against Alison Van Uytvanck could be interesting as AVU has form on grass this year having won an ITF tournament in Nottingham. The Belgian player also has seed-slaying history, having defeated Muguruza at Wimbledon in 2018. Wins and matches  on grass right now are precious. I also think the French Open finalist, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, could be vulnerable up against Ana Bogdan.

Dark horse 🐎: I fancy either Karolina Muchova or Camila Giorgi, projected to meet in the second round, to do things in this draw. Muchova hasn’t won a match on grass this year but she’s managed to come into Slams cold before and progress through the rounds. Like Muchova, Giorgi is a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist and has been in great form, beating both Pliskova and Sabalenka in Eastbourne. A question mark lingers as she was forced to pull out of her Eastbourne semi-final against Anett Kontaveit due to injury.

Fun fact 🤓: Magda Linette and Amanda Anisimova will play each other for the second straight Wimbledon. Back in 2019, Linette defeated Anisimova in the first round, 6-4 7-5, in a match that I watched live on Court 12!

Svitolina

3rd Quarter

Seeds 1️⃣: (4) Sofia Kenin, (8) Karolina Pliskova, (10) Petra Kvitova, (13) Elise Mertens, (22) Jessica Pegula, (23) Madison Keys, (28) Alison Riske and (29) Veronika Kudermetova

Unseeded loomers ⚡: Liudimila Samsonova, Danielle Collins, Donna Vekic, Kaia Kanepi and Sloane Stephens

Blockbuster R1 matches 🎆: Perhaps the stand-out match of the entire round will pit Petra Kvitova against Sloane Stephens. Surprisingly, the pair have played just three times before with their most recent meeting in Wuhanbledon in 2019 where Kvitova won, 6-3 6-3. Kvitova reached the semi-finals in Bad Homburg and the dodgy ankle from the French looks OK? Stephens has been trending upwards although she’s still prone to an off day. I think matches on this surface is even more important this year and I think Kvitova’s run in Bad Homburg could be key. I couldn’t help but laugh that Berlin champion and deserved wild card, Liudmila Samsonova drew Kaia Kanepi in a true helmets-at-the-ready clash.

Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: If Mertens-Keys (R3) were to happen, it feels like a crucial match-up in this quarter. Kvitova-Samsonova (R3) or Kvitova-Kanepi (R3) would continue the helmets-at-the-ready theme of this section.

Upset alerts 😮: The only first round match i’d tag with an upset alert is actually the highest ranked player in the quarter as Sofia Kenin takes on Wang Xinyu. The 19-year-old Chinese player successfully came through qualifying and has had plenty of matches on grass this year. Kenin, meanwhile, hasn’t played a competitive match on grass this year, which surprised me. Wang is talented and I feel like she is due a big win so it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened here against an undercooked, Kenin.

Dark horse 🐎 : I really, really, really like Madison Keys in this draw. Not sure if i’m deluded? I was impressed with Keys’s win over Sabalenka in Berlin which was an underrated match in my opinion. It’s the first time since 2016 (!) that Keys has played a grass court event before Wimbledon which I think is a big deal. I’ve always been baffled as to why Keys goes into Wimbledon cold when she has stated it is her favourite surface. Deep French Open runs in the past might have had something to do with it. Also, write off Alison Riske on grass at your own peril.

Fun fact 🤓: This is officially the American quarter featuring Ann Li, Alison Riske, Jessica Pegula, Kristie Ahn, Sloane Stephens, Lauren Davis, Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, Madison Brengle, Christina McHale and Sofia Kenin. That’s 11 Americans and over half of US singles contingent in this one quarter! Tend to think an American player will come out of this quarter…

Pliskova

4th Quarter

Seeds 1️⃣: (2) Aryna Sabalenka, (7) Iga Swiatek, (11) Garbiñe Muguruza, (15) Maria Sakkari, (18) Elena Rybakina, (21) Ons Jabeur, (26) Petra Martic and (32) Ekaterina Alexandrova

Unseeded loomers ⚡: Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Shelby Rogers, Hsieh Su-Wei and Vera Zvonareva

Blockbuster R1 match 🎆: I’m all in for Iga Swiatek against Hsieh Su-Wei. Gorgeous sounding match-up. Actually an early fun fact is that Hsieh won the joint most games off Swiatek during her 2020 French Open title run. Hsieh is arguably at her wily best on grass so I really do think this one will deliver despite Hsieh’s lack of matches and form heading into this one. For the ultimate clash in opposing game styles, Aryna Sabalenka against Monica Niculescu will be a beautiful sight. Chucked when I saw that qualifier placement! 😂

Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: Muguruza-Swiatek (R4) was “the one” at the French Open. It’s projected again for the fourth round but not so much attention this time round on grass which means it will probably happen! Slightly before that, i’d love to see Muguruza-Jabeur (R3). The pair’s only previous meeting took place in Hobart in 2020 where Muguruza saved match points to win, 3-6 6-3 7-6(4).

Upset alerts 😮: Again, not feeling many first round upsets from this quarter but rest assured they will happen. I wouldn’t put it past Niculescu causing Sabalenka some bother.

Dark horse 🐎: Elena Rybakina is my dark horse from this section. The run to the French Open quarters felt like a true breakthrough and her form on grass has been decent so far. Ons Jabeur is an obvious one to keep an eye on after winning Birmingham although she’s got a pretty tricky draw.

Fun fact 🤓: The bottom half is qualifier city with Katie Volynets, Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove, Claire Liu, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, Anna Kalinskaya, Danielle Lao and Monica Niculescu. That’s almost half of the qualifiers, seven, residing in the fourth and final quarter of this draw.  It’s not out of the realms that Sabalenka may have to play a trio of qualifiers to reach the second week.

Sabalenka

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10 thoughts on “2021 Wimbledon Preview

  1. Thanks James for your informative and insightful preview. Let’s hope that the weather will be better than forecast.

    I agree with you about not seeing any clear contenders and I do not have any strong feelings about who I think will win. My tentative vote goes to Petra Kvitova who loves it here. It is her favourite GS and she has won it twice and her 3rd quarter draw does not look that tough ( on paper anyway ! ). Her recent ankle injury is a concern and so is the fact that the players will not be staying in or near the Wimbledon Village which is one of the reasons why Petra enjoys this event so much but they will all be in the same hotel instead.

    Others who I think might do well are –

    Aryna Sabalenka who has improved this year and has a big serve and her game should suit the grass if it plays fast and is drawn in the bottom half which looks the easier imho.
    Anett Kontaveit who performed well and got to the final at Eastbourne last week and her only WTA title was obtained on grass.
    Belinda Bencic ( heart ruling head here as she is one of my favs ) who won her 1st WTA title on grass and was the losing finalist in Germany on grass recently before losing in the 2nd round at Eastbourne but she was not her usual self that day and seemed out of sorts. She can struggle against the big hitters though so will need some luck in the draw.
    Cori Gauff who should be suited by the grass surface but lacks experience and it might be expecting too much for her to win this at the age of 17.
    Elena Rybakina who is tall with a big serve and has the game for grass imho but she was struggling last week at Eastbourne in the semi’s with a bad foot and a bad back so will have to recover quickly if she is to have a realistic chance.

    However it could be that I am missing the obvious and Serena Williams will outclass everybody else and win Wimbledon again !

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    • Thanks, Peter. Hope you’re right about Petra. If she gets past Sloane first then I quite like her draw on paper. Watched her press conference where she said the ankle was ”stable”. Got the feeling it’s not 100%. Forecast had been looking great last week but now very unsettled. Hopefully not too many disruptions!

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  2. This one feels like such a toss up. I’m very surprised that people favour Serena – she remarked in an interview that she’s just trying to win matches at the moment. She just seems to get so nervous lately!

    I’m going for Barty, assuming she’s healthy. Kerber and Swiatek would round off my top three.

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    • I’ve gone for Barty in the end but obviously depends on the hip. She seemed positive in press. Yeah not sure about Serena. Not sure about anything for this tournament. A complete toss up!

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    • Serena wins here, and it could possibly ‘unshackle’ her play going forward. We could even have another win at the US Open. I’m sure she will definitely savour it either way!

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  3. I have to agree anything can happen. The match-ups are interesting. 😀 I too let slip a wry giggle, Niculescu against Sabalenka. But, as Barbora Krejcikova has proven, you show up with your ball and racquet in hand, and importantly, with a pocket full of belief and hope, seemingly magical things can happen. Niculescu like Strycova and others, on their good days, can play some tennis that will put an unsuspecting mind on the fritz. The french open was quite good tennis-wise, it has got me hoping for something similar here at Wimbledon. Just warmly satisfied to have the grass back again, been a while.

    Went through a couple of past matches and came across that run of Radwanska’s. Memories of what could have been, along with Sabine Lisicki and all those hopefuls. I wonder how they would have fared playing now.
    🙂 I’ll just take it all in, along with some strawberry and cream. If pressed, I think the winner is coming from the top half, likely a top 10 seed. The draw is quite skewed, there will be battle scars up top.

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  4. Well I hope nobody had money on Petra! I don’t understand what’s going on with her in Slams lately. Although it sounds like Sloane was ON.

    Muguruza with a very strong opener!

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