It’s impossible not to get excited about the women’s draw this Wimbledon.
Once again it’s an open field and once again a lot is on the line. The world No1 ranking is up for grabs, and many players have the chance to become first-time Grand Slam champions.
The return of Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova has spiced things up considerably, while people like Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova have legitimate chances of dethroning Angelique Kerber at the top.
A new champion was crowned in Jelena Ostapenko in Paris a few weeks and many will be waiting to see how the 20-year-old does at the All England Club.
Here are a few things we learned from the Wimbledon women’s draw that was revealed Friday morning…
As of right now (before Saturday’s Eastbourne final), there are five players who can mathematically end Wimbledon as the world No1: Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki. A lot will depend on who will win the Eastbourne final between Pliskova on Wozniacki but even before then, it’s fairly obvious that the former is in a solid position to dethrone Kerber.
The tall Czech is defending just 70 points from last year’s Wimbledon, where she lost in the second round, and is thus in pole position for the top spot. She also has a favorable draw which could see her comfortably reaching at least the quarter-finals.
Halep will need to at least reach the quarter-finals to have a chance of unseating Kerber while the German must match her final run from last year to have a chance of keeping her top ranking.
Petra Kvitova, who will be playing just her third tournament back from being stabbed, and Victoria Azarenka, who will be playing just her second tournament since giving birth to a baby boy, have both landed in the same bottom quarter of the draw alongside second-seeded Simona Halep and sixth-seeded Johanna Konta.
Azarenka has played just two matches in 11 months, while Kvitova stunningly captured the Birmingham title in her second tournament back. Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, can prove a serious threat for Halep in the third round, while Azarenka will have her hands full with Catherine ‘Cici’ Bellis in the first round.
It’s fair to say all eyes will be on that loaded quarter.
Reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko has been handed a draw that is quite manageable and many will be following her closely to see whether she can back up her stunning Roland Garros success.
Ostapenko is a former Wimbledon junior champion and her game is perfectly-suited for grass. She has Madison Keys in her section but the American had been dealing with a wrist problem and is short on match play.
With her style of play, it’s hard to see Ostapenko performing on a consistent basis but she certainly has an opening to do well here this fortnight. She is seeded at a Slam for the first time and is looking to become just the eighth player in the Open Era to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon back-to-back.
Ons Jabeur backed up her historic Roland Garros third round appearance by qualifying for a first Wimbledon main draw. The young Tunisian is the first Arab woman since her compatriot Selima Sfar to feature in the Wimbledon main draw and faces a daunting opener against No7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Agnieszka Radwanska v Jelena Jankovic, Ashleigh Barty v Elina Svitolina, Dominika Cibulkova v Andrea Petkovic, Monica Puig v Timea Bacsinszky, Svetlana Kuznetsova v Ons Jabeur… the list goes on and on.
To those people who prefer to only tune into the Slams from the second week, we urge you to reconsider.
Just a few weeks after making a historic run to the third round at the French Open, Ons Jabeur has qualified for her first Wimbledon main draw thanks to an impressive victory over Asia Muhammad at Roehampton on Friday.
The 22-year-old Tunisian became the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam when she upset sixth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova at Roland Garros.
With her 6-4, 6-0 win over Muhammad in the final round of qualifying on Friday, Jabeur will become the first Arab woman to feature in a Wimbledon main draw since her compatriot Selima Sfar made the second round at the All England Club in 2005.
Jabeur had lost to Muhammad in Charleston qualifying a few months ago on clay, and had also lost in the final round of qualifying at two Slams this season, although she did make it into the Roland Garros main draw as a lucky loser.
The North African made sure she did not need to rely on luck this time around as she blasted through the qualifying draw in Roehampton without dropping a set.
“I played Asia before but I didn’t think about it much because it was on clay and today were on grass. I was more confident and I was relaxed. I tried to be focused during the whole match because I had lost a couple of qualifying third rounds at Grand Slams and this one I couldn’t miss it so I’m very happy with my performance,” Jabeur told Sport360.
“I think I played really good. I’m really happy to be in the main draw for the first time in Wimbledon. It’s been something I’ve been wanting for a long time and finally it happened. I think it happened in a good year, a year where I’m feeling confident and playing good tennis.
“So hopefully I will make a good impression at Wimbledon and go as far as I can, even better than the French Open.”
Jabeur will face No7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round and the Russian two-time Grand Slam champion is quite familiar with the youngster’s game.
“I saw her play quite a bit. She plays a very different game, she mixes up the style, she feels the ball really well, she’s not a great mover… She hasn’t been doing so well but when she’s on, she’s really tough. She plays a very interesting game, different than other girls,” Kuznetsova had said of Jabeur after the Tunisian beat Cibulkova in Paris.
The men’s draw revealed plenty of mouth-watering first rounds at Wimbledon, which means grounds pass holders can expect some fun match-ups on the outside courts.
Here are our picks for opening matches to watch at the All England Club…
Juan Martin del Potro v Thanasi Kokkinakis
Del Potro against Kokkinakis is not to be missed especially with the back story each one of them has. They’re both players who have had their careers derailed by unrelenting injuries and are real fan favourites.
Bernard Tomic v Mischa Zverev
Both love their grass courts but have different styles on the surface with Zverev a classic serve-and-volleyer and Tomic more proficient from the baseline. A match with lots of entertainment potential.
Andy Murray v Alexander Bublik
Bublik is a young up-and-comer showing lots of promise and despite the gulf in experience, this can make for a fun match-up and it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old will fare on Wimbledon Centre Court against the defending champion in just his second Grand Slam main draw.
Lucas Pouille v Malek Jaziri
Both are crafty players who can produce some beautiful tennis on grass. Pouille, a quarter-finalist here last year, is the favourite but first round jitters can make it a closer affair than expected.
Fernando Verdasco v Kevin Anderson
Verdasco has done well this year to get back into a seeding position for the Slams and he started his French Open last month by upsetting Alexander Zverev in the first round. Anderson almost beat Djokovic here a couple of years ago and is also back fit and healthy. The South African’s huge serve will cause trouble for Verdasco, a quarter-finalist here in 2013.
Marin Cilic v Philipp Kohlschreiber
An unfortunate opener for the seventh-seeded Cilic who is 3-6 head-to-head against the German. Kohlschreiber is always the unseeded opponent everyone tries to avoid in the first round at a Slam, especially at Wimbledon. Cilic is in-form but Kohlschreiber will have confidence considering he won their last two meetings.
Richard Gasquet v David Ferrer
The draw gods did not have mercy on a plummeting Ferrer, who has won just eight matches this season. Now down to No39 in the world, the Spaniard is unseeded and has drawn two-time semi-finalist Gasquet in the first round. Ferrer may be out-of-form but still Gasquet will not be too pleased with this match especially with his 3-9 head-to-head record against Ferrer.