Players to Watch – The Top Dogs
Serena Williams –Serena looks farther ahead of the pack than perhaps at any other point in her career. Her Roland Garros campaign was scratchy and her title run seemed as much about willpower and perseverance as tennis, but the trophy—and her 32-1 year-to-date record—says all that needs saying. She's captured the year's first two Slams, so the coveted single-season Grand Slam is still in play. Steffi Graf was the last woman to achieve that feat in 1988 and, incidentally, is the only woman ahead of Serena on the Open Era Grand Slam singles titles list. All the pieces are there for Williams and the title seems to be hers to win or lose.
Petra Kvitova – Kvitova has two Wimbledon titles in her pocket—including last year's trophy—but she's always been streaky. Her quarter is tough and features young players like Elina Svitolina and Madison Keys who have enough game to challenge Kvitova, especially if she's having an off day.
Simona Halep – Halep simply hasn't managed to break through since arriving at the top level of women's tennis and lately she's been switching coaches like it's her job. Wozniacki is the next highest seed in Halep's quarter, but Sabine Lisicki, Timea Bacsinszky, and Svetlana Kuznetsova are here too. Everyone in Halep's quarter is beatable, but Simona just hasn't been stringing wins together consistently enough to look like a serious challenger.
Prediction: 4th Round
Maria Sharapova – Sharapova may have the easiest quarter out of all of the top four seeds. A still unproven Lucie Safarova could await in the quarterfinals, but other than that, there aren't a whole lot of obstacles. Unfortunately, Sharapova is in Serena's half of the draw, so if she wants to make the final, she'll have to get through Williams—and that hasn't happened since 2004.
Caroline Wozniacki – Like Halep, Wozniacki simply hasn't threatened for Grand Slam titles, even though she's back near the top of the game. She's never made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon and she's sitting in a dangerous quarter. It's hard to imagine her making a really deep run this year.
Prediction: 4th Round
Players to Watch – Everyone Else
Sabine Lisicki – She just set the WTA record for most aces in a match with 27 and she's never better than when she's at Wimbledon. Watch out for her during the fortnight.
Madison Keys – An injury derailed her last year, but her big-serving, big-hitting game is well-suited to grass. Her quarter is loaded, but aside from Kvitova, the other big names have looked vulnerable.
The Best Matches of the First Round
Belinda Bencic v. Tsvetana Pironkova – Bencic has slowly been climbing up the rankings and she's made two tournament finals on grass (as of this writing, she's slated to play Aga Radwanska in the finals at Eastbourne). Pironkova has had her best Grand Slam results at Wimbledon, with a seminfinal in 2010 and a quarterfinal in 2011, but her results this year have been so-so.
Heather Watson v. Caroline Garcia – Watson is still making her way back from injury, so Garcia looks to be the slight favorite in this one, but both ladies are capable players and should produce an exciting match.
Sara Errani v. Francesca Schiavone – Neither of these two Italians plays a particularly powerful game so there should be plenty of crafty play on this court. Plus, I get the feeling that Schiavone is close to calling it a career and there may not be too many chances to watch her versatile game.
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