Unbelievably, play will kick off at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club tomorrow morning. The grass season’s yielded some great tournaments and results so far and Wimbledon is almost as wide open as this year’s Roland Garros was. My predictions for the Grand Slams haven’t gone particularly well so far, with my predictions of Pliskova in Melbourne and Kuznetsova in Paris failing to make it particularly deep into the tournaments. Here’s hoping I’ll do better this time round!
First round shocks
The biggest upset I can see coming in the first round is 4th seed Elina Svitolina going out to in-form Ash Barty. The Ukrainian doesn’t have a good record at Wimbledon and has been struggling with a foot injury. Barty, on the other hand, is at home on the grass and had great runs to reach the quarter finals in Nottingham and the final in Birmingham, with only Jo Konta and Petra Kvitova able to stop her.
I’ve also marked down eight other seeds to lose their first round matches, though they’re also seeded in the twenties or thirties. I can see Caroline Garcia losing to Jana Cepelova; Kiki Bertens going out to Sorana Cirstea; CoCo Vandeweghe being beaten by Mona Barthel (my most marginal of all the upsets); Carla Suarez Navarro losing to Genie Bouchard; a lack of recent match practice contributing to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s demise against Carina Witthoeft; Lauren Davis being edged out by fellow American Varvara Lepchenko; Daria Kasatkina, who’s played very few matches in recent months, going down to Saisai Zheng; and Italian veteran Roberta Vinci being beaten by Kristyna Pliskova.
Second round upsets
I can see more big names going out in the second round. 5th seed Caroline Wozniacki could play one of the names no one wants to see near them when the draw comes out – Tsvetana Pironkova. The Bulgarian’s greatest moments have come at Wimbledon, with runs to the semis and quarters and wins over the likes of Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli and Vera Zvonareva. Wozniacki has never came to life at Wimbledon and an in-form Pironkova could see her off.
Another big name to lose early could be 12th seed Kristina Mladenovic who could face another grass-court fiend, Alison Riske, in the second round. Mladenovic hasn’t been at her best on grass this year, while Riske plays well above her ranking on this surface.
Trouble could be on the horizon for last year’s surprise semi finalist Elena Vesnina. Since capturing the biggest title of her career at Indian Wells in March, the Russian’s form has nosedived. She has a very tricky second round, no matter who comes through, with either Victoria Azarenka or CiCi Bellis awaiting her. I’d be surprised if Vesnina beats either of them.
I also foresee three more seeds losing at this stage: 16th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova going down to Zarina Diyas; a post-surgery Madison Keys, seeded 17th, being beaten by the explosive Camila Giorgi; and 30th seed Shuai Zhang being edged out by Lesia Tsurenko.
3rd round – seedings to hold
The biggest upsets I see coming here are losses for Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka Radwanska. I think the Slovak will lose to rising star Ana Konjuh while the Pole will be edged out by Timea Bacsinszky. I think Anastasija Sevastova will also have enough to see of Victoria Azarenka, given the Belarussian’s lack of matches. I expect very close matches between Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova, Daria Gavrilova and Zarina Diyas, and Venus Williams and Barbora Strycova, but think the higher ranked players will win those ones.
A KERBER (1) bt L SAFAROVA (32)
G MUGURUZA (14) bt B Mattek-Sands
T BACSINSZKY (19) bt A RADWANSKA (9)
S KUZNETSOVA (7) bt V Lepchenko
Ka. PLISKOVA (3) bt L Tsurenko
D GAVRILOVA (20) bt Z Diyas
A Riske bt M Barthel
A Kontaveit bt T Pironkova
A KONJUH (27) bt D CIBULKOVA (8)
V WILLIAMS (10) bt B STRYCOVA (22)
J OSTAPENKO (13) bt C Giorgi
A Barty bt C Witthoeft
J KONTA (6) bt Kr. Pliskova
P KVITOVA (11) bt J Cepelova
A SEVASTOVA (18) bt V Azarenka
S HALEP (2) bt M Vondrousova
4th round – shocks in the bottom half?
I think this round will really see the draw open up, with exits for Simona Halep, Jo Konta and Venus Williams, at the hands of Anastasija Sevastova, Petra Kvitova and Ana Konjuh respectively. I think Kerber vs. Muguruza has the potential to be spectacular, for the right and wrong reasons, while I also think Anett Kontaveit will be the only unseeded player to make the last eight.
A KERBER (1) bt G MUGURUZA (14)
S KUZNETSOVA (7) bt T BACSINSZKY (19)
Ka. PLISKOVA (3) bt D GAVRILOVA (20)
A Kontaveit bt A Riske
A KONJUH (27) bt V WILLIAMS (10)
J OSTAPENKO (13) bt A Barty
P KVITOVA (11) bt J KONTA (6)
A SEVASTOVA (18) bt S HALEP (2)
Quarter finals – biggest names left to go out
I’m going out on a limb in predicting that world number one Angelique Kerber will make it as far as the quarter finals, given her lack of form so far this year, and I think Svetlana Kuznetsova will manage to just edge her out in the quarter finals. I expect the biggest shock of the round will be Petra Kvitova, many people’s tip for the title, losing out to in-form Latvian Sevastova, who recently won a title on grass in Mallorca.
S KUZNETSOVA (7) bt A KERBER (1)
Ka. PLISKOVA (3) bt A Kontaveit
J OSTAPENKO (13) bt A KONJUH (27)
A SEVASTOVA (18) bt P KVITOVA (11)
Semi finals – Latvia vs. Latvia
Latvia recently had its first ever Grand Slam champion as Jelena Ostapenko powered her way to Roland Garros glory, and I expect the 20-year-old will follow it up with a deep run here. I’m predicting that her compatriot will edge her out in the semis and make a surprise run to the final. In the other semi, I expect the pre-tournament joint favourite Karolina Pliskova to see off Kuznetsova.
Ka. PLISKOVA (3) bt S KUZNETSOVA (7)
A SEVASTOVA (18) bt J OSTAPENKO (13)
Final – Pliskova to win and become world number one
For the second time in three Grand Slams, I’m backing Karolina Pliskova to win her first, which would also see her replace Kerber at the top of the rankings. Given the unwarranted criticism of the openness of women’s tennis in recent months, this would be an excellent outcome, showing that the rankings reflect who the strongest players in the game are.
Ka. PLISKOVA (3) bt A SEVASTOVA (18)