Serena returns as Wimbledon kicks off

THE Greatest of All Time (GOAT) is back on the WTA Tour, with American 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams returning via Wimbledon with the grass court major kicking off on Monday. It has been 12 months since Williams last took to the court, having to retire at three games apiece in the first round of Wimbledon last year. Her only lead-up tournament to the Grand Slam is Eastbourne where she played two doubles matches – no singles – with Tunisian star Ons Jabeur. It will be a different feel to the Grand Slam, with no points awarded to players due to the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players in a stance against the war in Ukraine.

Williams will return against French youngster Harmony Tan, before likely playing the lowest ranked seed in 32nd seed, Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round. Her draw gets tougher from there though, with Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, French Open finalist and American young gun Coco Gauff, and then fourth seed Paula Badosa en route to the semi-finals where number one seed Iga Swiatek will likely be waiting. In that same second quarter of the draw, past Grand Slam winners in Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep are situated, with Italian Camila Giorgi and young American 20th seed Amanda Anisimova are still there.

The top quarter is a potential gold mine of talent, with former world number two – now seeded 16th – Barbora Krejcikova potentially playing Swiatek in a third round match. In the same eighth, Jil Teichmann and Yulia Putintseva lurk, though both have tough first round matches against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic and France’s Alize Cornet respectively. Spanish Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza is also in that quarter, with the experienced talent to play either past US Open winner Sloane Stephens or Chinese rising star Qinwen Zheng. Another Grand Slam winner in Bianca Andreescu is in the same sub-section and could play Muguruza in the third round.

The bottom half of the draw is not quite as stacked, but still has some key players including Top 10 talents, Anett Kontaveit, Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Danielle Collins. British teenager Emma Raducanu has also landed in the section, with Belgium veteran Alison Van Uytvanck and then French danger Caroline Garcia her likely first two opponents. A couple of other dangerous seeds include former Wimbledon winner Angelique Kerber, and the likes of Jelena Ostapenko and Belinda Bencic. Future star, Denmark’s Clara Tauson could meet Estonian Kaia Kanepi in the second round in a mouthwatering clash.

Swiatek is the overwhelming favourite in the women’s and it is easy to see why, with a record modern day winning streak, the world number one has gone to another level this year. Though a complete dark horse, Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia has come from the clouds to collect two grass court titles leading up, and will face Slovenian Kaja Juvan in the opening round with Bencic a potential third round opponent. Jabeur is favoured to reach the final against Swiatek, though if Kontaveit can recapture her form, then anything is possible. Swiatek is the tip to take it out.


Looking to the gentlemen’s singles draw, and it is naturally weaker without the high-volume of Russian players. There will be no Daniil Medvedev or Andrey Rublev in the top-end, which allows a throwback to a bygone era where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are first and second seeds respectively. Djokovic takes on South Korean Soonwoo Kwon, with a likely second round date against Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis. Up the other end of the draw, Nadal takes on Francisco Cerundolo with American Sam Querrey his likely second round opponent. He has landed in-form Matteo Berrettini – who has claimed two grass court titles in the lead-up to the event – in his half, with the Italian to face out of sorts Chilean Cristian Garin in the first round.

The bottom half of the draw also features Australia’s top ranked singles player in Alex de Minaur, who is seeded 19th at the event. He takes on Bolivian Hugo Dellien then likely local hope Jack Draper before a nightmare draw kicks in. He would need to defeat the likes of 12th seed Diego Schwartzman, eighth seed Berrettini, fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and then both Nadal and Djokovic on his way to the title. The bottom half of the draw has good potential, with Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, Croatian Roland Garros semi-finalist Marin Cilic and another local hope in 28th seed Daniel Evans. Cilic has drawn Mackenzie McDonald, Auger-Aliassime will face Maxime Cressy and American seed Taylor Fritz will take on Italian young gun Lorenzo Musetti in a number of classic first round contests. One match to watch is also French talent Hugo Gaston up against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin. Fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios has a fairly winnable draw, with a British qualifier up first, though Tsitsipas could be waiting in the third round.

The pick of the top half first round matches is non other than Italian star Jannik Sinner up against Swiss Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka who will hope to have more luck and a sustained run after missing so much tennis through injury. Roland Garros finalist Casper Ruud, teenager Carlos Alcaraz and Polish talent Hubert Hurkacz are all in the top half of the draw. Australian James Duckworth has also copped an unlucky draw, going up against home court favourite Andy Murray in the first round. The top-ranked Brit is Cameron Norrie, who is seeded ninth at the All-England club, and will lock horns with Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the first round.

Overall it is no surprise that Djokovic is the favourite despite missing so much tennis this season. Berrettini’s form on the grass stacks up and it could be his best chance to crack through for a title. Without Medvedev and Rublev, it gives and opportunity to some lower ranked players, with Hurkacz, Auger-Aliassime and Alcaraz all among the favourites. It could be Berrettini’s time to shine, though the bottom half of a draw is a tough one.


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