Wimbledon 2016: Decoding the women's draw
American World No. 1 Serena Williams, top-seeded and in the top half at Wimbledon 2016, has a relatively easy path at the Championships. The reigning champion has won the tournament six times, and is up in the first round against No. 126 – a lucky loser or a qualifier, whichever is the case. The player will probably not consider themselves ‘lucky’ in that situation.
She is in the same half as Petra Kvitova, Timea Baczinsky and Belinda Bencic.
Williams could face either Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia or American Christina McHale in the second round. She will not be concerned with either match-up – the world no. 1 has thoroughly routed Hantuchova in their past meetings. Should they meet at R2 at Wimbledon this year, it will be their fourth meeting at the Championships – where the Slovak is yet to beat her.
Hantuchova may be known as a hard-hitter, but is more known for her precision than her power serve; Williams, meanwhile, is famed for her powerful service and looks likely to rout her.
She could meet Briton Heather Watson in the third round. That will be a tricky match for the American, who met Watson at the same point at Wimbledon in 2015, with the Briton even scalping a set off her.
Her most interesting potential matchup remains against Italy’s Roberta Vinci. Until the 2015 US Open, many would not have considered the 33-year-old significant competition for the American; Vinci proved to be a giant-killer at Flushing Meadows, ousting Williams from the semi-finals of her home Grand Slam.
This could be their first match against each other since that US Open semi-final, and thus a revenge match for the American, who has been victorious on every other occasion the two have played each other.
French Open winner and World No. 2 Garbine Muguruza, who reached the finals at Wimbledon last year, eventually losing the title to Serena Williams, will face Camila Giorgi of Italy in the first round; Interestingly, although Muguruza, fresh off her maiden Grand Slam victory, is in significantly superior form, it is the Italian who has beat her on 2 of the 3 occasions they have played each other in the past.
Although she is at #2, she will not have an easy run through the tournament, up against a number of experienced campaigners – all former top 10 players. She could potentially face Lucie Safarova, Samantha Stosur, Carla Suarez-Navarro and perhaps in her biggest test of all, former World No. 1 Venus Williams. The American made a comeback to the top 10 in late 2015, and Muguruza is yet to beat her.
Venus Williams last played Muguruza in late 2015, up 6-3, 3-0 before her rival retired. Each of their matches has been on hard courts, however, so it will be interesting to see how their gameplay adapts to the fast-moving grass surface. That said, Williams, as a five-time Wimbledon winner who has fought her way back despite struggles with autoimmune disease, is another strong contender this year.
Given that sisters Venus and Serena are in opposite halves, we could possibly see a final between the two.
Camila Giorgi has beaten Muguruza on both hard courts and clay, although the Spanish 22-year-old has taken the most recent victory – at the Round of 64 at the French Open last year. The Italian has been taken to three sets on both occasions she has beat Muguruza.
World No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska looks to be on course for a semi-final match-up against Serena Williams. The Polish ace has never beaten the American in the ten times the two have played each other, and was bageled by Williams the last time the two met at Wimbledon, in 2008 – where Williams made the final, only to eventually lose to older sister and former World No.1 Venus.
The Pole has a relatively easy start to the tournament, playing Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine. This will be 22-year-old Kozlova’s first Wimbledon outing – and likely an easy move to the second round for Radwanska.
She could face Caroline Garcia next, a match that will not trouble her given she beat the Spaniard in straight sets at their most recent outing at Roland-Garros. Next up could be either British No 1 Johanna Konta, whom she has never faced in the past, or Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.
Breakout star Konta, who is known for her power serve, could be a new demon for Radwanska.
The quick and aggressive Cibulkova is known for her fast power serve – which is a component majorly lacking in Radwanska’s game, although she is regarded as one of the most strategic players in the sport today. Her tactical style of play has been instrumental in several of her wins despite a relatively weak service, but given the surface it will be interesting to see how each player will perform.
Venus Williams, who only towards the end of last year has enjoyed rejuvenated form, making a return to the top 10, will play Donna Vekic in the first round. The 112th-ranked Croat has never before met the older Williams sister on the professional circuit, and given Williams’ experience will likely lose to the American.
World No. 4 Angelique Kerber may have upset champion Serena Williams at the Australian Open this year, but has seen a steady decline of form since. Placed in the same quarter as Simona Halep, the German will not fancy her chances. The pair have met on four past occasions, with Halep winning three times.
They have never faced off on grass, however, and with aggressive baseliners on both sides of the net, this one promises to be a good match, although it is Halep who looks the more powerful here.
Kerber has a difficult draw this time around; she could also meet American Madison Keys. The young American, who has been in a significant upswing of form recently, became the first American in a decade to break the WTA top 10 – a feat last achieved by reigning No. 1 Serena Williams herself.
Keys finished at the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year, and with her performance quickly improving, the World No. 10 looks set for a possibly improved finish this year. She recently won the title at the WTA Birmingham Classic, played on grass, so will look positively at Wimbledon this year.
It looks likely to be another Serena Williams final, and given older sister Venus’ grass court prowess, we could possibly see an all-American, all-Williams final here. That said, Madison Keys has exhibited great grasscourt form and although significantly younger than many other contenders, could play her breakthrough Wimbledon this year.