With Wimbledon 2019 kicking off on Monday, we look at four key players in the women’s draw who will be either looking to hold on to supremacy, regain or attain glory. Some notable mentions will also be included as the excitement builds among fans awaiting another dramatic fortnight of tennis action on the SW19 lawns.
The women’s tournament at Wimbledon has always been unpredictable, with surprise names having success virtually every year. With a generally strong field throughout with a mix of veteran campaigners, young teenage talents and players who haven’t yet reached their promised potential, the tournament will undoubtedly be fun to watch and will be intriguing to see if we get another first-time winner.
Newly crowned world number 1, Ashleigh Barty, of Australia will be full of confidence after her French Open win, with grass being her self-confessed favourite surface and a legitimate chance to win another Slam and solidify ranking. Defending champion Angelique Kerber will be looking to turn around a forgettable 2019 and fight for more success on the hallowed green turf, while young teenage prospects will look to keep proving the kids are all right, after the recent breakout of talents like Amanda Anisimova and Marketa Vondrousova.
Defending Champion: Angelique Kerber (5)
The reigning champion will come into this year’s tournament with a seeding of five and off the back of a highly disappointing 2019 so far. Kerber has struggled to replicate any of the form she showed here 12 months ago and this was compounded by a first-round exit at Roland Garros just a few weeks ago.
Grass is undoubtedly her favoured surface though, and it would not be wise to discount Kerber producing more success this year. After a strong run in the pre-Wimbledon Eastbourne tournament, Kerber should once again have the confidence to produce her best tennis and she will be hoping to do just that.
Conversely, being a defending champion brings its own set of problems and pressures and shock early defeats for defending champions have happened more than once. Kerber’s draw could be fairly tricky on paper and the German will have to continue her recent upturn in form in order to go deep into the tournament.
If she does, however, find the level she showed 12 months ago and is able to push herself deep into the second week of the tournament, she certainly has the ability to defend her title.
Key Challenger: Ashleigh Barty (1)
Ashleigh Barty’s recent rise has been a remarkable story in many ways. Just a few years after taking a self-imposed break from tennis due to the stresses at the top of the sport, Barty has returned reborn and redefined as a player.
After a strong but unspectacular start to the 2019 season, Barty finally staked her claim as the best player on the women’s tour at Roland Garros a month ago. After a solid but unassuming start to the tournament, she managed to come back from the brink against Amanda Anisimova in the semi-finals and followed that effort up with a dominant and destructive two set win against another teenager, the Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who was touted as the biggest breakout star during the tournament.
With this, Barty achieved not only her maiden Grand Slam title but also the world number 1 ranking, which she took from Naomi Osaka. Barty surprised many, and even herself, mostly due to the fact that she confessed to clay not being one of her favoured surfaces. That honour goes to grass, and Barty backed up that statement by making a seamless transition to the green turf by winning her next tournament after the French Open, the Birmingham Open. In the process, she solidified herself in her ranking at the top of the tree and certainly sent out a statement of intent to the rest of the field.
The Australian looks well-deserving of her number 1 seeding and she should deservedly go in as a favourite to immediately add to her Grand Slam tally. It certainly won’t be easy but the dogged Barty has already shown that she has the attitude of a true winner.
Young Prospect: Cori Gauff (Q)
A name that most have been unaware of, or are still unaware of, is that of Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff. At just 15 years of age, the world number 301 has become the youngest player to ever qualify for the main Wimbledon draw in the Open Era. The American talent has certainly made a splash among the tennis world but, with her extreme youth, this should only be the beginning of a journey to serious success.
Certainly, this is by no means guaranteed and many young women have been in similar positions of breaking out on the tour in their teens with the potential and promise to be future Grand Slam winners. Far from all of them manage to follow this road to success but Gauff certainly looks to be a unique talent that can have the potential to emulate her fellow Americans such as the great Williams sisters.
It would be somewhat naïve to expect Gauff to make a huge splash in the main draw of the tournament but successfully going through qualifying is an achievement in itself that should not be taken for granted. At this point, Gauff has many years ahead of her but this tournament provides a rare opportunity in which there is no pressure, nothing to lose, yet so much to gain. The American youngster will face a legendary compatriot in the first round in Venus Williams, a player 24 years her senior. The test will be huge, but it would not be surprising to see Gauff continue to make history and continue her winning run in the first round and, possibly, far beyond.
Dark Horse: Amanda Anisimova (25) or Petra Kvitova
The women’s tour is a general hotbed of outsiders and these players can be seen in almost every tournament that is played. However, the Grand Slams of recent times have certainly been the breeding grounds of unexpected players suddenly coming to the forefront of public attention, either for the first time or in miraculous and unpredictable comebacks. Two particular dark horses can be identified this year, and both have very different reasons and stories.
For the American teenager Anisimova, this will be the first Wimbledon she has ever played. As such, it is difficult to make any sure predictions of her potential for success here. What has been shown, however, is Anisimova’s penchant to perform on the biggest stages. The 17-year-old was a breakout star at the Australian Open, with a strong showing in reaching the fourth round.
She beat this achievement convincingly when she reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros, beating defending champion Simona Halep on the way, and was somewhat unlucky to let slip a dominant leading position in the semi-finals against eventual winner Barty. Anisimova has a big game but somewhat limited movement, and the grass should suit her big serve and strong groundstrokes. As such, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see her beat her Grand Slam success streak once again.
Kvitova, a former champion here twice, is a dark horse for another reason. After an inconsistent 2019 with several injury problems compounding in having to pull out of the French Open on the eve of the tournament, Kvitova has faced continued adversity. It is easy to forget that the Czech star was told she would likely never be able to hold a racquet again after a horror knife attack at her home, but she showed her fighting qualities in coming back to the top of the tour – even reaching the Australian Open final this year.
Wimbledon is somewhat of a spiritual home for Kvitova, and although she is not classed as a traditional outsider by the bookies due to her former success here, her recent struggles with form and injury do not place her in the best conditions that she would ideally like to be heading into the tournament. Regardless, a deep run at SW19 would not be a surprise but would be a feel-good story which would reaffirm Kvitova’s leftie talents and more importantly her courage and fighting spirit to fight back and return when the odds said it would be almost impossible.