Coming off an unpredictable French Open which featured a final between Barbora Krejcikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, it's quite possible that this year's Wimbledon unfolds in a similarly unexpected fashion.
The absence of several top contenders such as defending champion Simona Halep (calf) and the 2021 Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka (personal) only adds to the possibility for lower-ranked players to have the best tournament of their career at the All England Club.
The top half of the women's draw looks like it will be challenging for top seed Ashleigh Barty to advance through, given her lack of success at the event and the presence of several threatening opponents.
The No. 1-ranked Australian has not advanced past the fourth round of Wimbledon in her career, which is a bit surprising considering her ability to play an all-court game. Barty could face the French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round, if she even makes it that far considering she's been hampered by a hip injury dating back to late in the clay-court season.
Barty could face No. 27 seed Johanna Konta (3-1 H2H) in the third round, which could be a tricky matchup, especially considering that the Brit will have the home crowd on her side.
Other challengers in the top half of the draw include:
- No. 6 seed Serena Williams: Williams has reached four Wimbledon finals in a row and is the two-time defending runner-up. The 39-year-old American has reached the semifinals and fourth round at the first two slams of 2021.
- No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina: Svitolina reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2019, which was as far as she's gone at any major in her career. This season, her draw looks favorable for a possible deep run.
- No. 5 seed Bianca Andreescu: Andreescu is making just her second appearance at Wimbledon after she lost in the first round in 2017. The 21-year-old Canadian went 1-2 across two warmup tournaments on grass and lost in the first round of the French Open, so a deep run is unexpected.
- No. 31 seed Daria Kasatkina: Kasatkina is a former quarterfinalist at the All England Club in 2018 and she's been strong in 2021, with two titles already on the season. The 24-year-old Russian went 6-2 across two warmup tournaments on grass.
- No. 20 seed Coco Gauff: Gauff reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2019 at just 15 years old, and she's rocketed up the rankings since then. The 17-year-old American's breakthrough at a major is likely coming sooner rather than later, and she's coming off her first slam quarterfinal at Roland Garros.
The bottom half of the women's draw looks fairly wide open, with two former winners in No. 11 seed Garbine Muguruza (2017) and No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova (2011, 2014). Muguruza and Kvitova have each won titles in 2021, and both could plausibly make deep runs in the bottom half.
No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka has had an excellent season, but she doesn't usually play well at majors and has never advanced past the second round at Wimbledon. The Belarusian had a disappointing Round 3 exit at Roland Garros and went 2-2 across two grass-court events ahead of the year's third major.
Outside of a few of the players mentioned above, here are a few others that could realistically make a run to the second week:
- No. 18 seed Elena Rybakina: Rybakina will be making her first appearance at Wimbledon after a quarterfinal run at Roland Garros. The 22-year-old is plenty talented but sometimes struggles with consistency. She went 4-2 across two pre-Wimbledon grass-court events, with a win over Elina Svitolina.
- No. 15 seed Maria Sakkari: Sakkari narrowly missed out on a final berth at Roland Garros and didn't play a single grass-court tournament after that deep run. The 25-year-old Greek hasn't advanced past Round 3 at Wimbledon in her career, but she's hit a new level in 2021.
- No. 21 seed Ons Jabeur: Jabeur won her first title a few weeks ago in Birmingham on grass, and she's reached at least the third round in each of her last five major showings. The 26-year-old Tunisian could be poised for a lengthy stay at the All England Club if she's able to spring an upset or two.
- No. 23 seed Madison Keys: Keys hasn't had such a great 2021 season, but she's in a favorable section of the draw if she's able to find some decent form. The 26-year-old American's best showing at Wimbledon came in 2015 when she reached the quarterfinals. The likes of No. 13 seed Elise Mertens (2-0 H2H) and No. 4 seed Kenin (2-1 H2H) in her section are good matchups for Keys on grass courts.
Round 1 matches to watch
Swiatek has made just one appearance at Wimbledon back in 2019 when she made a Round 1 exit. It wouldn't be too surprising if she made another early exit given her matchup with the always-tricky Hsieh. The 35-year-old from Chinese Taipei is always a threat to upset a top player at a Grand Slam event, and she's reached at least the third round of Wimbledon in each of her last two appearances.
This matchup pits two Grand Slam champions against each other in the first round, but it's Kvitova who will be the clear favorite this time over Stephens. The 28-year-old American has previously reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2013 and hasn't advanced past the third round since then. Stephens is coming off a Round 4 showing at the French Open, while Kvitova struggled with an ankle injury in Paris.
Cornet defeated Andreescu 7-6 (2), 7-5 on grass courts in Berlin a few weeks ago, so the No. 5 seed will get a chance at revenge at Wimbledon. The 31-year-old Frenchwoman played good tennis in the two grass-court events ahead of Wimbledon, so she has a legitimate chance to pull off another upset here. The 21-year-old Canadian is just 1-3 in her last three tournaments.
Quarterfinals: Krejcikova d. Kasatkina, Svitolina d. Gauff, Kvitova d. Keys, Muguruza d. Sabalenka
Semifinals: Svitolina d. Krejcikova, Kvitova d. Muguruza
Final: Kvitova d. Svitolina