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]
Margaret Court’s Tennis To Be Celebrated At Australian Open But Not Her Politics
Margaret Court will be invited to the Australian Open this year despite her political views.
Tennis Australia will be celebrating Margaret Court’s tennis at the Australian Open in January but not her politics.
Margaret Court has won 24 grand slam singles titles, the most of any female player in history as of now, and has been invited to celebrate 50 years since winning one of 11 Australian Open titles.
That year, she would also win all four grand slam titles, marking a historic year for Court in the context of her tennis career.
But for many Australians and people around the world that is not the way she is being remembered lately as it’s her politics that are taking over.
Just before the Gay Marriage Referendum vote in 2018, Margaret Court expressed her rather hateful views towards the LGBTQ community, calling transgender children the work of “the devil.”
Furthermore she claimed that tennis was full of lesbians, “Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing there were only a couple there but those couple that led took young ones into parties,” Court told Vision Christian Radio in 2017.
Those views have been criticised by many with the likes of Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova wanting her name stripped from the second biggest court at the Australian Open.
Now, a couple of years later after much debate, Court will be invited to the Australian Open for her incredible achievement 50 years ago as Tennis Australia announced today.
The Australian was thrilled to hear the truce given by Tennis Australia, “This is an incredible milestone for me, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone. It’s always wonderful to catch up with my fellow legends and I’m grateful to Tennis Australia,” Court said in Tennis Australia’s press release.
During the event a special documentary of Court reflecting back on that achievement will be released as well as this there will be in-stadium entertainment celebrating the event as well as a legends lunch.
But once again Tennis Australia once again distanced themselves from Court’s political views as they stated in their press release, “As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years,” Tennis Australia said.
“They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion. Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.
“#Open4All encompasses events such as the Glam Slam, an international LGBTQI tournament that has been held at the Australian Open for the past few years, and will be back for AO 2020.
“We have also hosted events for the National Inclusion Conference and have ongoing working relationships with the Pride in Sport Index and Stand Up Events. A full program of #Open4All events at Australian Open 2020 will be released in the coming weeks.
“The Australian Open is for everyone, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Melbourne in January 2020.”
Although, Court will continue to cause controversy especially considering Tennis Australia’s ‘tale of two halves’ press release.
The Australian will hope that it will be her tennis that will be remembered in January, but it won’t be a smooth ride on the road to being appreciated.
Tennis Australia Face Calls To Honour Margaret Court In 2020 Amid Potential Backlash
The 77-year-old is regarded as one of her country’s greatest-ever tennis players, but has been criticised for a series of homophobic comments she has made.
Controversial tennis legend Margaret Court has said she wants to be treated the same as fellow former great Rod Laver concerning the upcoming anniversary of one of the biggest milestones she has ever achieved in her career.
2020 will mark 50 years since Court won all four grand slam titles within the same season. An elusive achievement in the world of tennis. Only three women in total have managed to complete a calendar grand slam – Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the others. Court also still holds the record for the most grand slam singles titles ever won by a tennis player at 24. One ahead of Serena Williams.
Court said she has received no contact from Tennis Australia regarding any plans to mark her milestone. Laver, who is the only man to ever complete the calendar grand slam twice, was honoured this year for his accomplishment. It is the 50th anniversary of when he claimed the four major trophies back in 1969.
“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me (about the anniversary),” Court told Nine News Australia.
“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come.”
Any move to honour Court at the Australian Open in January is likely to split opinion. The 77-year-old has been criticised for a series of homophobic remarks she has made for many years. In 1990 she once said that Martina Navratilova was a bad role model for children because she is gay. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, she said in another interview in 2017 that tennis was ‘full of lesbians’ and those who identify as transgender were ‘the work of the devil.’ In another incident, Court wrote a comment to an Australian newspaper is which she said took a swipe at former player Casey Dellacqua after she announced the birth of her child. Dellacqua is in a same-sex relationship.
There have been calls for Court’s name to be removed from one of the premier stadiums at the Australian Open in light of hew views. Billie Jean King, who is one of the founding members of the WTA, has previously called for the arena to be renamed.
“I don’t feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career,” Court told The Sydney Morning Herald about calls for her name being removed. “It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
“Many gay people think my name shouldn’t come off it. There are many gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies.”
Whilst her comments have triggered controversy, Court has insisted that she has nothing against gay people. Claiming she has members of the LGBT community attend her church. Following retirement from tennis, Court became a Christian pastor.
“I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can’t say what the Bible says, there is something wrong.”
The ball is now very much in the court of Tennis Australia, who oversees the running of the Melbourne major. Although coming to a decision will not be easy. In June they were named as one of the best sporting organisations for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the annual Pride Sport Awards in Melbourne.
“As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.” A statement from Tennis Australia reads.
During her career Court won 140 titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards). 92 of those were in singles and 48 were in doubles. At the 1963 Australian Open and 1970 US Open she won all three titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
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.
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