It seems strange to see, but the tennis calendar has already reached the third stop on its annual tour of the majors. Even with an additional week thrown in for the first time, with extra carefully manicured lawns and more events dotting the British and German landscapes, it feels like it was only yesterday when we watched Serena Williams overcome her nerves to take home her twentieth major title and Stan Wawrinka in those shorts (which, to be quite honest, I liked them!) stunning the world with bold play against the world’s number one en route to his second major title. But now we’ve left the land of the crushed brick and moved onto the softer confines of grass court tennis. Yes, it’s time to put on your pure whites, enjoy some strawberries and cream, and brush up again on your proper British lingo: the Championships at Southwest 19 are back for another iteration. It’s time to look at the Wimbledon draws. Now we focus on the women—excuse me, ladies, and you’ll be able to find the men—gentlemen!—here.
Seeds: (1) Serena Williams, (16) Venus Williams, (19) Sara Errani, (32) Caroline Garcia
Serena Williams is trying to go for her second career “Serena Slam”, holding all four major titles at one time. She’s still in contention for the calendar slam, but if she wants to complete this leg of the journey, she’ll have her work cut out for her. The big name that everyone will be circling is, of course, the former five-time champion at Wimbledon and Serena’s sister in the fourth round. We haven’t seen Venus since her first round exit in Paris, which while normal for the Williams sisters (they don’t play Wimbledon warm-ups), feels strange with the extra week thrown in. Many people believed that had Venus beaten Petra Kvitova in that fantastic second round match last year that the elder Williams would be trying to defend the title this year. Serena’s got other tough competition ahead though: she could see Petra Cetkovska, an often-injured Czech whose game is well-suited for the grass, in the second round. Any number of threats lurk as a third round opponent: an improving Caroline Garcia, the feisty Heather Watson, former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Daniela Hantuchova, or the diminutive but hard-hitting Dominika Cibulkova.
Upset Alert: Watson over (32) Garcia. This feels more like wishful thinking as both haven’t played great tennis on the grass with neither getting to the quarterfinals of any grass event they entered this summer, but Watson has the better win (defeating Elena Svitolina) and has the homecrowd behind her. Watson’s also had success on the lawns before, making a run to the semifinals in Birmingham. With neither coming in with a whole lot of momentum off of the end of the clay season either with early exits at the French Open, it might be wise to go with the player who can recall fond memories of playing on a grass court.
Quarterfinalist: Serena Williams.
Seeds: (7) Ana Ivanovic, (9) Carla Suarez Navarro, (23) Victoria Azarenka, (30) Belinda Bencic
This section of the draw is so incredibly hard to choose one player. Ivanovic would seem to have a game well-suited for grass, but she’s crashed out of Wimbledon early way too often in her career to be considered a reliable bet. Suarez Navarro has one Round of 16 appearance at SW 19 to her credit. Azarenka comes in with injury concerns as she withdrew from Birmingham with a foot injury. Belinda Bencic might be the pick here: she’s reached two grass court finals this year, losing to Camila Giorgi in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and reaching the penultimate match in Eastbourne this week. However, that means she’s played a lot of matches of late; in fact, she’s played every week in this grass court circuit, and if her result in Birmingham (the event after ‘s-Hertogenbosch) is any indication—a second round exit—she could be primed for a quick exit. In addition, there are dangerous players lurking outside the seeds here: Kristina Mladenovic has had a very solid 2015 campaign overall, Kirsten Flipkens is a former semifinalist at Wimbledon, and Tsvetana Pironkova might as well be considered a grass-court specialist and faces Bencic in the first round.
Names You Remember From the French Open: Anna-Lena Friedsam and Alison Van Utyvanck. Both of these ladies are in the draw (actually next to each other, though they won’t be facing off). Friedsam is the German who had people perk up when she stunningly seized the first set from Serena in their second round matchup. Her game isn’t necessarily suited to grass, though, so she could be an early exit. Van Uytvanck had a storybook run to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros this year. She’s playing in just her second Wimbledon event (she won her debut match last year but then lost to her next opponent). She might be riding high on confidence coming in, but she’s also playing against American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the quirky Minnesotan who is riding high on confidence herself following her doubles titles at the first two majors this year.
Quarterfinalist: Belinda Bencic.
Seeds: (4) Maria Sharapova, (14) Andrea Petkovic, (24) Flavia Pennetta, (29) Irina-Camelia Begu
It’s been eleven years since Maria Sharapova stunned the world in defeating Serena Williams on Wimbledon’s Center Court to win her first major title. She’s never been able to hoist the trophy again in London, but if she’s to do it in 2015, she’s got a decent start of a draw. She opens up against wildcard and British hopeful Johanna Konta, who went on a bit of a tear in Eastbourne this week in taking out Ekaterina Makarova and Garbine Muguruza to reach the quarterfinals. That being said, Maria should be able to handle that match. From there, it’s tough to see who might be Sharapova’s sternest challenge. It certainly looks like it could be Flavia Pennetta, who seems to bring her best for the big tournaments and matches. She’s beaten Maria before, most recently rallying from a set deficit this year at Indian Wells, and she actually holds an advantage in their head-to-head. But she’s also never been past the Round of 16, even when she was ranked higher than now.
Upset Alert: Gavrilova over (29) Begu. Gavrilova reached the quarterfinals in Eastbourne this week, though she did withdraw due to an injury concern. If it’s a legitimate injury to worry about, her chances of pulling the upset will go way down. But Gavrilova’s got power to her game, and though Begu’s the higher ranked player, the Romanian has done much of her damage on the slower clay, having compiled a pretty poor 1-4 record at Wimbledon in her singles career.
Quarterfinalist: Maria Sharapova.
Seeds: (6) Lucie Safarova, (11) Karolina Pliskova, (22) Samantha Stosur, (27) Barbora Strycova
Surprise French Open finalist Lucie Safraova highlights this part of the draw. She’s had success at Wimbledon too—in fact, you could argue her ascension into the Top 10 started with her semifinal run last year at SW19. She doesn’t have an easy draw though. Safarova starts off against American Alison Riske, a player who excels on the grass, and then she could get the hard-hitting Estonian Kaia Kanepi in the second round. Her third round opponent could be a former quarterfinalist at Wimbledon: either Barbora Strycova or Sloane Stephens. And that’s just to get to the best day in all of tennis: the second Monday of Wimbledon when all Round of 16 matches are played. She’ll likely have to face Karolina Pliskova, a player who is hard charging up the rankings this year and did reach the finals of the event in Birmingham last week.
The American contingent. As previously mentioned, Alison Riske—who made an early career for herself winning grass-court matches—and Sloane Stephens—who feels confident and reached the semifinals of Eastbourne this week—are flying the American banner in this section of the draw. But they’re not alone. Two more Americans also sit in this group of sixteen players. Coco Vandeweghe is a hard-hitting, sometimes reckless player who has one title to her name, the grass court event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last year. Vandeweghe could get a crack at Pliskova in the second round. And Lauren Davis, a small, hard-working player, may not have the weapons to win a ton of matches, but her ability to stay in rallies frustrates opponents and coaxes errors from them. She takes on an up-and-down player in Polona Hercog in the first round with a potential shot at Sloane Stephens in the second.
Quarterfinalist: Lucie Safarova.
Seeds: (5) Caroline Wozniacki, (10) Angelique Kerber, (20) Garbine Muguruza, (31) Camila Giorgi
Caroline Wozniacki heads the top part of the bottom half of the draw. She’s been talking about wanting to be recognized as a threat to win Wimbledon, and while she does perform better on the lawns of London than the terre battue of Paris, her game just doesn’t seem to be suited to win seven matches, especially if pitted against a great server. Further complicating matters is her result at Eastbourne this week. She reached the semifinals, which is to be commended, but then she withdrew early in the semifinal against Belinda Bencic with a back injury. If Wozniacki isn’t near to full strength, she’s going to have trouble as the tournament progresses. This year’s ‘s-Hertogenbosch winner, Camila Giorgi, looms as a third round opponent. The Italian also has a win over Wozniacki on a big stage, thrilling fans to her victory at the US Open a few years back. Birmingham champion Angelique Kerber could be a fourth round opponent. Kerber bested Wozniacki in the finals of Stuttgart, and while the German doesn’t have a huge weapon, she’s got more power than Wozniacki and has those lefty spins to help her out.
Unseeded 1st Rounder to Watch: Lucic-Baroni versus Shvedova. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is a former semifinalist at Wimbledon… from back in 1999! But she’s enjoying her second career and has made small runs at other majors recently: fourth round at the 2014 US Open and third round at the French Open this year. Yaroslava Shvedova is another player to watch. She’s got a big serve, and it’s helped her on the grass courts. She’s reached the Round of 16 twice in her career at Wimbledon, most recently just last year. She also can claim to be part of a winning doubles team at Wimbledon, pairing up with Vania King to take the title in 2010. These two players face off against each other in the first round, and the winner could be primed for a good run.
Quarterfinalist: Angelique Kerber.
Seeds: (3) Simona Halep, (15) Timea Bacsinszky, (18) Sabine Lisicki, (26) Svetlana Kuznetsova
It’s tough to get a great read on who might be the last lady standing from this group. Simona Halep appears to be in a bit of a funk as she learns for the first time how to defend points at big events. She’s a semifinalist from last year at Wimbledon, and while she’s not in a complete tailspin (that distinction is saved for another player), she’s had some distressing results that look almost like she’s not putting in effort on the court. Timea Bacsinszky is a great story, having revived her career and turning into a top twenty ranking. But no one knows what she’s going to do on the green grass. Lisicki is a former finalist at Wimbledon and has the game to win matches here (that also doesn’t translate to any other major), so she’s likely the safest bet. If her “boom boom” serve is on (which by all accounts after breaking the WTA record for most aces in a single match just a couple weeks ago, it is), she could blitz her way through to the second week.
We’re twins! No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The draw features another Czech with the name of K. Pliskova. But it’s not the Pliskova who’s been winning bunches of matches this year. Rather, it’s Karolina’s twin sister, Kristyna. (Why their parents chose to name them so similarly seems to be meant just to torture people.) Kristyna hasn’t experienced the same success as Karolina, but she’s still having a decent career to date. She entered Wimbledon through main draw acceptance, and while she lacks the firepower that her sister possesses, she might be able to draw on that mysterious synergy that twins possess to collect a win or two at SW19.
Quarterfinalist: Sabine Lisicki.
Seeds: (8) Ekaterina Makarova, (12) Eugenie Bouchard, (21) Madison Keys, (25) Alize Cornet
If you’re looking for a player in a tailspin, look no further than last year’s Wimbledon finalist in Eugenie Bouchard. Last year, the Canadian was the new “it” girl, poised to be the next super-marketable crossover star after her deep runs at the first three majors of 2014. Now, she’s barely able to win matches. She’s collected a win on the grass—her first since early May!—but still hasn’t won back-to-back matches since Indian Wells in March. Furthermore, she withdrew from Eastbourne with an injury, which could even further derail her chances at any sort of run. Thankfully, her draw for the first two rounds doesn’t look too perilous (but then Eugenie has lost to players she shouldn’t have several times this season). Her third round opponent is likely Madison Keys, the young American who has all the tools to become the next great American on grass, but her warmup preparations have been woefully disappointing.
Also here: Alize Cornet. The “Serena Vanquisher” also sits in this part of the draw. As the last woman to beat the world number one in a major here at Wimbledon last year, she has to have good vibes returning to the lawns. But Cornet has failed to live up to those big moments: she’s pretty much stalled out as a Top 20-30 player. She’s also opening up against a young, talented Croatian named Ana Konjuh, who won her first career title just a few weeks ago on the grass courts in Nottingham. Cornet should be able to deal with Konjuh in the first round, but you never know where her head might be at.
Quarterfinalist: Ekaterina Makarova.
Seeds: (2) Petra Kvitova, (13) Agnieszka Radwanska, (17) Elina Svitolina, (28) Jelena Jankovic
The defending Wimbledon champion sits at the very bottom of the draw this year, as Petra Kvitova will look to defend her title in 2015. All in all, she’s been given a pretty light draw to begin her campaign. The other big names here—Radwanska and Jankovic—have fallen on hard times. Radwanska may be turning around with her run to the finals of Eastbourne, but she’s had a terrible year as her partnership with legend Martina Navratilova turned into a spectacular failure. Jankovic also isn’t a threat on grass anymore; she hasn’t won back-to-back matches at Wimbledon since 2010. Quite frankly, the Serb just doesn’t seem to like the grass; after all, this is the same lady who complained it was “womanly issues” that resulted in her upset loss to Melanie Oudin six years ago.
On the comeback trail: Tamira Paszek and Laura Robson. Two players situated at the bottom of the draw are making their first big stage comebacks in quite a while. Tamira Paszek is an up-and-down player who suffered a prolonged down spell. She exploded onto the scene as a teenager years ago, and she’s got a game suited for grass, but she’s also prone to negative feedback loops when she starts losing that completely derails her game as well as strings of injury. Laura Robson is a talented Brit who won the junior Wimbledon title a few years back. She’s been out of the game for over a year while recovering from a wrist surgery in 2014, which derailed what was quickly becoming a promising career. She returned in the Eastbourne qualifying tournament but could only muster a single game to Daria Gavrilova. Still, it’s great to see these two talents back on the big stage.
Quarterfinalist: Petra Kvitova.
Serena Williams defeats Angelique Kerber in straight sets.
With the final eight ladies slotted, one thing becomes even clearer: this is Serena’s to lose. Being tested early on always gets Serena super motivated at a major, and she’s bound to have that determination after seeing her draw. Given that she’s also suffered shock upsets at SW19 in the last few years, it’s clear that she wants this title badly. Bencic’s quick strikes could give her some headaches in the quarterfinals, but Serena should be able to handle them to set up a showdown with either Sharapova or Safarova. That quarterfinal appears to be too close to call: Sharapova fell to Safarova at the French Open, but the Russian was clearly not at her best in dealing with a sickness. But Safarova is energized and confident that she can beat just about anyone following her run to that French Open final and three-set loss in that match to Serena. Regardless, I can’t see Serena falling to either woman; her head-to-head record against both shows she rarely drops sets to them and hasn’t lost to either since 2004. On the other side, an all-German quarterfinal appears close, but Angelique Kerber has quietly put together a great season. While Sabine will get her fair share of aces on Kerber, Angelique’s confidence and more solid all-around game should allow the world number 10 to prevail. And in the final quarterfinal, two lefties face off. Kvitova appears to have the perfect game for Wimbledon’s grass courts, but she’s also prone to having her game implode. With her lefty spins and serves being neutralized by the fact that Makarova is also a southpaw, the better consistency of the Russian could prevail over the explosive-but-error-prone Czech. Makarova and Kerber will once again be a battle of lefties (which, I’m sure, is a super rare occurrence). In that match, Kerber’s better form has the potential to prevail. But, to be honest: whoever comes out of that bottom half is playing for the runner’s up trophy. Serena has the serve, the groundstrokes, and the athletic abilities to win easy points, blow people off the court, and hang in rallies. Barring an injury or a very bad day from the world number one, Serena Williams will hold all four major titles concurrently for the second time in her career.