Wimbledon is here! One of the highlights of the sporting calendar begins this week, and London has the absolute perfect weather for it (although it might be a bit warm if you’ve got to run around a tennis court).
Serena Williams is back. She has played just three tournaments in the last 12 months since giving birth but has been rewarded with the 25th seed.
Williams is ranked outside the top 150 in the world, yet it seems fair enough to give her the advantage of a seeding having won Wimbledon a monumental seven times, including the last two times she entered the competition.
We won’t know what sort of form Serena is in until we see her take the court this week. She might be ready to storm to an eighth title, she might struggle to make the second week. Whatever happens, there are too many unknowns with her performance to back her for the title.
World number one Simona Halep takes the top seed. Her victory at Roland Garros finally brought a first Grand Slam title, a long-awaited feat for the Romanian, who has been around the top of the sport for years. Her strong baseline game was key on the clay.
Halep’s record on grass is not impressive. She has only made the semi-finals once, which was back in 2014, and is not a good price to go all the way in south west London.
Caroline Wozniacki is seeded second. Like Halep, the 27-year-old enjoyed her first Grand Slam success earlier this year, winning the Australian Open.
Wozniacki’s record on grass leaves plenty to be desired, too, having won just two-thirds of her matches at Wimbledon and never made it past the fourth round.
There’s always reason for hope as the one and two seeds, but neither Halep nor Wozniacki have the track record or game on the grass to suggest they’re worth backing.
Reigning Wimbledon champion, Gabrine Muguruza, is obviously an interesting prospect in this market. While she has stated in the past that clay is her favoured surface, she has the power from her serve and groundstrokes to blow opponents away.
Muguruza’s build-up didn’t exactly go well, however. A straight sets defeat to Barbora Strycova in Birmingham meant the Spaniard only got two matches on the grass before being thrown into the first round of the competition proper. Having made two of the last three finals at Wimbledon, it’s still surely a bet worth considering.
Sloane Stephens, who lost the French Open final to Halep, is one of the best bets amongst the top seeds. Stephens hasn’t made it past the third round at Wimbledon since 2013 but is one of the most exciting players on the tour, and finally seems to be delivering on her sky-high potential.
The combination of a big serve and the ability to come to the net make Stephens a threat, even with her poor record. There’s still streakiness in her game, but she can be unstoppable on her day.
Johanna Konta is the only British representative with a chance of making the second week. Konta made the final in Nottingham but fell to Petra Kvitova in straight sets in Birmingham. The big server remains an outsider, though a run like we saw in 2017 is possible.
This draw is wide open. Upsets are likely for many of the supposed favourites, and there’s likely to be a surprise package or two in the quarter-finals. Stephens looks best value to go all the way at the moment.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*