Wimbledon 2019: Women's singles draw analysis, preview and predictions
The stars of the women's game have arrived at SW19 in pursuit of one of the most coveted trophies in world tennis: the Venus Rosewater Dish.
With as many as six former champions spearheading the field, it is set to be an exciting fortnight at the All England Tennis Club.
Here is a look at the prospects of the top players in the draw.
Expected quarterfinal: Ashleigh Barty vs Angelique Kerber
Any player would find it tough to come through this part of the draw, even if that player is playing as well as Ashleigh Barty is at this point in time. Four of the six former champions taking part in this event have been placed in this extremely competitive quarter.
Barty could face one of the former champions, Garbine Muguruza, in the third round, if she manages to past the evergreen Svetlana Kuznetsova early on. The winner of the Kaia Kanepi-Belinda Bencic and Alison Riske-Donna Vekic duels that headline the other part of the section awaits her in the fourth round. This one is the hardest to call.
Potential third-round encounters between Serena Williams and Julia Goerges (a repeat of last year's semifinal) and Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber will surely be the highlights of the first week.
Moreover, there is no scenario where a Williams-Sharapova fourth-round encounter will be played anywhere but Center Court. However, Goerges and Kerber have been striking the ball extremely well and one of them should be able to come through.
My picks: Ashleigh Barty vs Julia Goerges/Angelique Kerber
Expected quarterfinal: Kiki Bertens vs Petra Kvitova
This quarter is led by two of the best performing players of 2019. Both Kiki Bertens and Petra Kvitova would be gunning for a shot at the title, and while they might encounter a few interesting opponents, they should be able to make it to the last 8.
Bertens has to be wary of grass-court specialist Barbora Strycova and the ever-dangerous Andrea Petkovic. But if her serve is working well, she should have enough in the tank to make it through these matches.
The scenario is similar for Kvitova; opponents like Kristina Mladenovic and the Roland Garros sensation Amanda Anisimova might cause her some problems, but they lack the firepower to truly hurt the Czech. If Kvitova is fit enough (she was sidelined for a couple of months due to an arm injury), she would have her eyes on the prize.
My picks: Kiki Bertens vs Petra Kvitova
Expected quarterfinal: Elina Svitolina vs Karolina Pliskova
The two top seeds in this quarter have been in very different form in the lead up to the event. Elina Svitolina has struggled to string two match wins together and from the looks of it, she could very well be the first seed to fall this year.
She has an easy few first rounds but will surely be tested by Maria Sakkari, a potential third round opponent. I would also back Petra Martic and Anastasija Sevastova to make deep runs.
Karolina Pliskova has a few players to worry about. Two of them, Hsieh Su-Wei and Jelena Ostapenko, will play each other in what should be one of the most intriguing first round matches in the women's draw. The winner of this match will most likely end up facing Pliskova for an all-important last-8 spot.
My picks: Petra Martic vs Karolina Pliskova
Expected quarterfinal: Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka
Simona Halep has three Belarusian players standing in her way of a last-8 spot. A first-round clash against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and potential third and fourth-round matches against Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka respectively makes for a tricky path. However, Halep should have enough in the tank to come through these challenges.
Naomi Osaka, on the other hand, has a few big-hitting opponents is her section. Camila Giorgi, who could trouble anyone on her day, will pose a tough test.
Osaka will have to be at her best (something that was missing in her last couple of losses) because Giorgi goes for broke on every single ball and trying to outhit her might not be wise in the long run.
The Japanese second seed also has Sofia Kenin and Caroline Wozniacki looming large in the later rounds, but those should be relatively easier matches if she manages to play herself into form early on.
My picks: Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka/Camila Giorgi
Notable first round matches:
Hsieh Su-Wei vs Jelena Ostapenko
Belinda Bencic vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Andrea Petkovic vs Monica Niculescu
Sloane Stephens vs Timea Bacsinszky