Wimbledon 2017: Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep's shot at No 1 adds spice to wide open women's draw

Lush, pristine grass courts; spotless, white ensembles and an air of old-world gentility — welcome to The Championships, or as the world knows it, Wimbledon. It’s time for the third — considered by many as the most prestigious — Grand Slam of the year on the courts of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

The women’s draw is wide open; none of the top nine seeds have won the title before and there are no clear favourites in the absence of seven-time champion Serena Williams, who is out for a few months due to her pregnancy. The slick, fast grass courts only add to the intrigue in this tournament as traditional match-ups go out of the window.

Not only is the Venus Rosewater Dish up for grabs, we could also see a new World No 1 be crowned by the end of the coming fortnight.

Reigning World No 1 Angelique Kerber, who made the finals at Wimbledon in 2016, could be dethroned by either Simona Halep or Karolina Pliskova depending on how the results over the seven rounds pan out. Here’s a deep dive into the women’s draw, with predictions for who could emerge from each quarter.

Top quarter

Top seed Kerber headlines the first quarter, and she has not been handed an easy draw. She starts off against qualifier Irina Falconi and could have a tricky second-round encounter against Kirsten Flipkens or Misaki Doi.

Angelique Kerber reached the Wimbledon finals last year and will need to produce a similar result to hold on to her number one ranking. Reuters

Angelique Kerber reached the Wimbledon finals last year and will need to produce a similar result to hold on to her number one ranking. Reuters

Czech player Lucie Safarova, who made the semi-finals in 2014, could be Kerber’s potential third-round opponent. Even though Kerber has struggled all year so far, with only one final under her belt, grass is a surface that Kerber is quite comfortable on. She has made it past the quarters thrice here, and is coming off a couple of confidence-boosting wins at Eastbourne, where she lost at the last-eight stage.

Also in this section is Garbine Muguruza, the 2015 finalist. The Spaniard is another Major champion who is having a forgettable season. While her big-serving game is suited for grass, her 1-6, 0-6 loss to Barbora Strycova in the first round at Eastbourne did her no favours.

The bottom half of this section has ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska and seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. Radwanska also usually excels on this surface but her 11-10 win-loss record this year means she is far from a contender in 2017. Kuznetsova hasn’t made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon since 2007 and could lose to compatriot Ekaterina Makarova should the two meet in the second round.

First round match to watch out for: Monica Puig vs Timea Bacsinszky

Semi-finalist prediction: Kerber

Second quarter


Third seed Pliskova is the leading candidate to emerge as the World No 1 as she has the chance to earn maximum points among all contenders. She was knocked out in the second round last year, but since then has made quarters or better at each of the last three Majors — even on clay at French Open, a surface she admittedly does not prefer. Pliskova won Eastbourne on Saturday ahead of Wimbledon, and could produce a similar result at SW19 as well.

Karolina Pliskova won the grass court at Eastbourne ahead of Wimbledon and is in great form. Reuters

Karolina Pliskova won the grass court at Eastbourne ahead of Wimbledon and is in great form. Reuters

Pliskova could have a relatively untroubled path into the Round of 16, where she could potentially be up against Australian Daria Gavrilova or 16th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Also keep an eye out for Petra Martic, who came through qualifying, and had caused a few upsets on her way to the last-16 at Roland Garros.

Wozniacki, Pliskova’s opponent in the final of Eastbourne, at five is the second-highest seed in the second quarter. She is enjoying a career resurgence of sorts, and has at least made quarters in all but three tournaments in 2017. Grass-court expert Tsvetana Pironkova could be a very tough test for Woznaicki in the second round, as could be a third-round clash with rising Russian Daria Kasatkina or recent ‘s-Hertogenbosch winner Anett Kontaveit.

If the Dane comes through, she could have a potential fourth-round meeting with ever-improving Kristina Mladenovic or Australian Open semi-finalist CoCo Vandeweghe, whose powerful serve and groundstrokes could unleash a lot of damage on grass.

First round match to watch out for: Sloane Stephens vs Alison Riske

Semi-finalist prediction: Pliskova


Third quarter

Fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina heads the third quarter, but she has one of the most difficult opening rounds amongst the contenders against 21-year-old Ashleigh Barty. The Australian had switched to cricket in 2015 but just a year after making her return to tennis, she is already on the verge of breaking into the top 50. An accomplished doubles player, Barty reached the final at Birmingham last week.

Venus Williams has won Wimbledon five times before and is one of the strong contenders in 2017 as well. Reuters

Venus Williams has won Wimbledon five times before and is one of the strong contenders in 2017 as well. Reuters

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams is one of the other big names in this section, and has a fair shot at her sixth title over the next two weeks. Also in her half of the quarter are 2016 quarter-finalist Dominika Cibulkova, big-hitter Ana Konjuh and 22nd seed Strycova.

Venus could play French Open champion and fearless attacker Jelena Ostapenko in a delicious quarter-final match, which could eventually decide who comes out unharmed through his section of the women’s draw. Ostapenko might have to get past another big-hitter Madison Keys, and also has dangerous Alize Cornet and Australian Open semi-finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to watch out for.

First round match to watch out for: Sabine Lisicki vs Konjuh

Semi-finalist prediction: Venus Williams

Bottom quarter

The fourth quarter of the women’s draw is definitely the most loaded section, and features Halep, British hope Johanna Konta, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and plenty of dark horses.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova excels on grass and has a real shot at lifting the trophy again. Reuters

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova excels on grass and has a real shot at lifting the trophy again. Reuters

Sixth-seeded Konta withdrew from her Eastbourne semi-final due to a spinal injury after a freak fall, and is not 100 percent certain if she will be fit enough to play at Wimbledon. Should she play, her first round is against Hsieh Su-Wei, the same player who beat Konta at the French Open just a month ago.

Left-handed big-serve Kristyna Pliskova could be a potential third-round opponent for Konta, and if she loses early, the section opens up nicely for Kvitova, who is playing with great confidence after returning from a knife-attack that forced her to undergo surgery. Kvitova is one of the strongest contenders for the title thanks to her game, which is tailor-made for grass.

French Open runner-up Halep has 18-year-old floater Marketa Vondrousova, 2014 finalist Eugenie Bouchard and 25th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro as her potential opponents in the third round.

Wildcard Heather Watson, who is coming off a great week at Eastbourne, returning mom Azarenka, mercurial Yulia Putintseva, 15th seed Elena Vesnina, and upcoming teen Catherine Bellis further make Halep’s path one filled with landmines.

First round match to watch out for: Azarenka vs Bellis

Semi-finalist prediction: Kvitova


Published Date: Jul 01, 2017 06:59 pm | Updated Date: Jul 01, 2017 07:00 pm



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