Most of the top seeds in the Ladies’ Singles had a disastrous time at Wimbledon in 2018. Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep all lost early on, and they were far from the only big stars who fell to unheralded opponents.
So is the same kind of carnage going to happen again this year? Hopefully not to the same extent, but you never know with the women’s tour because it is so competitive at the moment.
Likely Wimbledon Winners
Defending champion Angelique Kerber is on fire in Eastbourne this week. She is yet to drop a set and she took down Simona Halep with a brilliant performance in the quarter-final.
On the strength of those displays, and her past record on grass, the German should be regarded as the best player on grass and the favourite to win Wimbledon. However, she does have a very tough draw to contend with.
Karolina is also in brilliant form. She is storming through the draw at the Nature Valley International and looks imperious on grass at the moment.
Before 2018, the Czech had never made it past the second round at Wimbledon. Last year, she finally broke that streak by reaching the fourth round, and it seems very likely that this time she will go even further.
Considering how well she is playing, Pliskova can definitely win Wimbledon this year. She has a favourable draw, and a potential third-round meeting with the mercurial Jelena Ostapenko could prove to be the biggest obstacle she faces before the semi-final.
Barty may suffer early exit from the quarter of death
You may be wondering why you did not see new World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the previous section. She will be flying high after lifting her first Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros and then immediately following it with a Premier title in Birmingham.
However, the Australian faces probably the most difficult draw imaginable. She is seeded to meet 2017 champion Garbine Muguruza in the third round, Belinda Bencic or Donna Vekic in the fourth round, and then Kerber in the quarter-final. If she somehow gets through that minefield, anything is possible.
As it that quarter did not sound loaded enough already, it also features Serena Williams, Julia Goerges and Maria Sharapova. The 23-time Grand Slam champion is in poor form and short of match practice. Therefore, she will probably lose in the third round to Birmingham finalist Goerges. Sharapova will almost certainly lose to Kerber at the same stage – if she gets that far.
Osaka, Svitolina and Stephens also look vulnerable to upsets
The rest of the draw are probably delighted to see that medley of grass court specialists thrown in together. However, that does not mean there will not be any other shocks.
Ninth seed Sloane Stephens really struggles on grass. She could theoretically lose at any time. One thing is certain: she will be very worried about a potential third-round meeting with Johanna Konta.
Eighth seed Elina Svitolina still does not look comfortable on grass. Furthermore, she is yet to reach peak match fitness after her knee injury, so she will probably lose to either Margarita Gasparyan in the second round or Maria Sakkari in the third round.
No.2 seed Naomi Osaka also looks all at sea on the lawns, so she could lose at any time. Her first match will be against Yulia Putintseva, the player who beat her in Birmingham.
The Japanese player may also succumb to Dayana Yastremska, Camila Giorgi or Mallorca champion Sofia Kenin in the third round. If she makes it past that stage, she could fall to Caroline Garcia or Caroline Wozniacki in the last 16.
Two other seeded players could be particularly vulnerable at Wimbledon. French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova has only won four of the 11 matches she has played on grass since turning professional. Therefore, she could lose to Madison Brengle, Anett Kontaveit or Heather Watson.
Meanwhile, Elise Mertens has also struggled on the lawns in the past, so she could be knocked out by Andrea Petkovic or Monica Niculescu in the second round.
Who else could win Wimbledon?
While the favourites are easier to identify than last year, there is a long list of other potential winners.
If Barty or Serena emerge from the quarter of death, they could win. If Osaka finds her feet on grass, she could take home the title. And if Petra Kvitova is fit enough to play and gets through the early rounds, she could claim a third Wimbledon crown.
Then there are several players who are definitely capable of winning the title but will need to step up at crucial times.
Madison Keys is a superb grass-court player. However, she may not be fully fit and she will probably have to beat Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep to reach the last eight. Halep finds grass the most challenging surface but she will have a chance if she can get past Keys.
The draw has been kind to Johanna Konta, particularly if Kvitova withdraws, so she could go a long way if she can handle the weight of expectation from the home crowd.
Then there are four other players in the quarter of death – Muguruza, Bencic, Vekic and Goerges – who could go on to great things if they survive. There are also two big-hitters elsewhere in the draw who can beat anyone on their day: Sabalenka and Ostapenko.
[Also published on womenssporthub.com]
Simona Halep To Change Grand Slam Schedule Ahead of Olympics
The Romanian is set to play extra events in the majors in a bid to boost her chances of winning a medal in Tokyo.
Former world No.1 Simona Halep has her eyes set on winning more than one medal at the 2020 Olympic Games after confirming she will play extra matches during three grand slam tournaments next year.
The 28-year-old intends to participate in the mixed doubles along with a yet to be decided compatriot. It will be a rare appearance for Halep, who has only played in two mixed doubles tournaments throughout her professional career so far. Doing so at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open with Horia Tacu.
Despite her lack of experience in the discipline, the Romanian is hoping to build some momentum in the grand slams next year. A two-time grand slam champion, she has focused solely on singles competition at every major for over four years.
“I have only Melbourne, maybe French Open, and grass. Grass is a little bit dangerous because the surface is tough and you can get hurt a little bit with the men’s serve.” Halep told reporters in Beijing.
“But the goal is to play all the time mixed doubles with my partner to get used to the game, to be able to achieve a good result at the Olympics.”
Halep made her Olympic debut back in 2012, but opted not to play in the 2016 edition. In London she lost in the first round of both the singles and women’s doubles competition. Halep is bidding to become only the third Romanian tennis player in history to win an Olympic medal. Following in the footsteps of Tecau and Florin Mergea, who won a silver medal together in Rio 2016.
“I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfil everything I have done in tennis,” Halep said following her triumph at Wimbledon in July. “It is a chance to play for my country and I have always loved to do that. The disappointment from [losing in Fed Cup] this year really hurt me so to play well to get a medal, it would be a dream.”
The world No.6 has also been confirmed as her country’s flag-bearer for the upcoming event in Tokyo.
Playing through the pain
Whilst her long-term goal has been set out, Halep’s focus for the immediate future is on this week’s China Open. She kicked-off her campaign on Sunday with a clinical 6-1, 6-1, win over Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. Peterson was her first real test since withdrawing from Wuhan due to a back injury. Whilst the score looks positive, she is not getting too ahead of herself.
“I’m not 100 percent recovered, I still feel pain,” said the sixth seed.
“Always when you have an injury, it’s a little bit risky.
“But I accepted it, I took the risk.”
A former runner-up of the tournament, Halep is hopeful of having a strong run. Beijing is her first tournament since turning 28 on Friday. To mark the occasion, she celebrated the milestone at one of the world’s most prestigious landmarks.
“Every year it’s nice to come back here,” she said. “This tournament’s a big tournament and important for everybody, and the atmosphere is very nice. You can see everyone is focused on their job.
“This year I celebrated my birthday at the Great Wall. It was actually the first time I’ve visited the Great Wall after coming here many years in a row. I think it’s going to be a good week for me—even if I was a little bit injured last week, I feel good now. I’m feeling good to play and to win matches.”
Halep will play Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round on Monday.
Roger Federer Can Win Australian Open, Says Laver
The 81-year-old speaks out about the world No.3.
Tennis legend Rod Laver has back world No.3 Roger Federer to add to his record-breaking grand slam tally in the future.
The 38-year-old currently holds the record for most major singles won by a man at 20. However, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are closing in on that tally. Djokovic is currently on 16 and Nadal in one adrift on 19 following his latest triumph at the US Open. Meanwhile, Federer has only featured in the final in one out of the last six grand slam tournaments. Doing so at Wimbledon in July where he failed to convert two championship points against Djokovic. His last major title took place at the 2017 Australian Open.
Despite the recent lack of major silverware for the Swiss Maestro, Australian great Laver believes he can still challenge for the biggest titles in the sport. Saying that it is possible that Federer could continue playing until the age of 40.
“He seems to be fine and that’s what counts. If you love the game as much as you do, that’s fine.” He commented on Federer’s longevity in the sport.
“I also give Roger a very good chance of winning the Australian Open again in Melbourne in January.”
Laver admits that it is possible that the two other members of the Big Three could end their careers with more titles than Federer. Nadal is five years younger than him and Djokovic is six. However, he believes there is one thing that separates him from the others.
“Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all big champions. But Roger surpasses tennis, the world of sport, and sports in general in a way that no one in history has done before him. He is the most recognized athlete in the world and a figurehead for this great game.”
The first encounter between Laver and Federer took place 13 years ago in Melbourne at the Australian Open. Since then, the two have formed a bond with Laver saying they ‘clicked’ straight away.
The biggest example of the friendship between the two is perhaps best illustrated by the Laver Cup. An annual team tournament where Europe takes on the rest of the world. Similar to that of Golf’s Ryder Cup. Named in honour of the tennis great, Federer is one of the co-founders of the event. Which has since been granted a place within the ATP Calendar. Although no ranking points are on offer.
This year’s edition will be held in Switzerland for the first time. Critics have been quick to point out the disparity between the two teams. Europe consists of all players ranked inside the top 20 compared to one from the world team. However, Laver dismissed the significance.
“I do not think so. The team World has excelled in both Laver Cups in doubles and also celebrated one or two big victories in singles. I expect it to be exciting.” He said.
The three-day 2019 Laver Cup will get underway in Geneva on Friday.
List of players participating
Daniil Medvedev Gave Rafa Fans The Scare Of A Lifetime
Charleston Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on the US Open men’s final and what the future might have in store.
NEW YORK — Rafa, you gave your followers quite a scare.
No. 19 looked like it was in the books when you got the first break point of the ninth game of the third set. But it wasn’t, and the second break point flew by as well.
Oh well, it was just 5-4, Daniil Medvedev. There was still time to close out the match in three sets. But after deadlocking the set at 5-5, you won only one point in the last two games of the set.
IT MIGHT BE A LONG NIGHT
Settle back, Rafa Nadal fans. It might be a long night.
The men’s final of Sunday’s U.S. Open was going the distance, even though Nadal served with double game points in the decisive 10th game of the fourth set, but still lost the set.
Nadal even served for the match with a 5-2 lead in the fifth set. He lost that one on a time violation first-serve penalty leading to a double fault to end the game.
Was it time to get worried about Rafa getting No. 19 this night? Was this going to be a Serena-like case of bad fortune for Nadal? Of course, Serena Williams one day earlier had failed again for an all-time tying No. 24 Grand Slam title.
It could have happened to Nadal, too. Anything could have, judging from the way his tall and amazingly agile and quick Russian opponent was playing.
MIGHTY SERVE ENDED A HISTORIC FINAL
Nadal looked like he had a lock on No. 19 again before wasting two match points with Medvedev serving the ninth game of the fifth set.
Rafa even had to fight off a break point in the 10th game before ending the nearly five-hour marathon with a perfectly place serve down the middle.
He went flat on his back in disbelief, and Medvedev went around the net. The two embraced.
It, indeed, was one of the most memorable moments in the history of Grand Slam tennis.
Finally, a 7-5, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory that pushed Nadal’s Grand Slam championship total to within one of Roger Federer’s all-time record.
AN AMAZING PERFORMANCE BY BOTH PLAYERS
This was simply an amazing match that left a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, mostly of Nadal supporters, drained. It was that riveting.
This had to be one of the greatest U.S. Open finals ever.
Medvedev put on an unthinkable display of grit and talent, a sheer desire to win. Medvedev and Nadal were like acrobats at times as they moved around the court to pull off amazing tennis stunts. Anything was possible because of the two players’ athletic abilities.
Nadal is definitely for real. But if his 23-year-old Russian opponent is for real, as he certainly appeared Sunday night, the Australian Open isn’t going to be a picnic for Federer, Nadal or the injured Novak Djokovic, or anyone else.
And then there’s the French Open where Rafa will be heavily favored to get No. 20 if he fails in Melbourne. Of course, if Rafa plays the way he did in the first two sets on Sunday, he may notch No. 20 Down Under.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? WHY NOT A DRAW?
What happens if both Nadal and Federer are tied for the all-time lead with 20 Grand Slam titles each?
If they’re deadlocked in another year or two, it might be time for a permanent dual timeout for both players. As sad as such a day would be, it would be a day to celebrate. Co-record holders wouldn’t be a bad way to go since retirement is inevitable for these two great players.
Although Federer demonstrated at Wimbledon and Nadal showed Sunday night, they can still rival the best tennis has to offer, but the rest of the men’s tennis game isn’t going to take a break waiting for these two greats to retire. Medvedev and his likes will continue to close the gap until there isn’t one.
PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD
As a result of what happened in Sunday’s U.S. Open final, the days ahead will add even more pressure for both Nadal and Federer each time a Grand Slam rolls around.
Federer already has felt that pressure, both here and at Wimbledon, as he tried to widen his lead over Nadal and Djokovic. Even Nadal seemed to feel some of the same pressure Sunday night while trying to close out Medvedev.
After defeating Federer in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic called Federer “one of the greatest ever” in his acceptance comments after the match. Federer frowned, but Djokovic was right.
Djokovic knows, because he’s not out of the all-time race just yet.
It would be nice if Federer and Nadal could/or would retire at the same time, and join Rod Laver as the greatest men’s tennis players ever. But just not quite yet.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
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