The women’s draw for Wimbledon was announced Friday morning.
Here it is:
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 26, 2015
The first thing which stands out about the women’s draw is that the bottom half is a vast green field (word choice intentional, since this is lawn tennis) of opportunity for everyone in it.
Petra Kvitova has to be very happy with the path laid out before her. In the photo above, tweeted by Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times, you will notice some names highlighted in white. Those are the seeded players in the field. In the bottom half of the draw — which appears in the third and fourth columns in the photo, Kvitova faces a number of seeded players who are struggling. Simona Halep, a 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist, has been running through coaches like a marathoner running through Gatorade. Eugenie Bouchard, who lost to Kvitova in the finals last year, has struggled to win single matches at tournaments in 2015, let alone anything beyond that.
Ekaterina Makarova and Madison Keys are the two most dangerous players in Kvitova’s quarter, and 2013 finalist Sabine Lisicki could be tricky in Kvitova’s half, but that’s about it. Kvitova is the player in the bottom half who marries huge weapons with proven championship experience. She’s been given a draw perfectly suited for her as she tries to defend her Wimbledon title. If she can succeed, her already-transformative 2014 title would give way to a far more impressive achievement: going back-to-back at the Big W.
If Kvitova doesn’t make the final from the bottom half, someone else is going to make history. Lisicki and Bouchard have already made a Wimbledon final, but the other names mentioned above — Halep, Makarova, Keys — have not. Given that Bouchard is extremely unlikely to go deep in this tournament, a Kvitova stumble would give us the assurance of a first-time Wimbledon finalist unless Lisicki is able to stand in everyone else’s way. What a golden chance for someone to step out of the shadows and make a memory at SW19.
Why else should Kvitova love her draw? Venus Williams, who engaged Kvitova in last year’s third round — quite possibly the best match of the whole tournament, either gender — is in the other half, left to face Serena in a possible fourth-round encounter. The top half of the women’s draw is jammed with the seasoned and proven grass-court contenders the bottom half lacks. Victoria Azarenka, who has made the semifinals twice at Wimbledon, is a possible quarterfinal opponent for Serena. In the other quarter of the top half, French Open runner-up and 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist Lucie Safarova should be regarded as more of a favorite to make the semifinals than Maria Sharapova.
Should Serena be expected to defeat Safarova if the two players meet in the semifinals? Yes. However, Serena would have been so much happier to see other options in that round of the tournament. Serena’s possible path to the title over the course of the last four rounds? Venus. Azarenka. Safarova. Kvitova.
Kvitova’s last-four path to the title? Agnieszka Radwanska (suffering through a terrible season in her own right), Makarova/Keys, Halep/Lisicki, Serena.
Serena should be favored over Kvitova if the two manage to meet, but Kvitova certainly has the better draw over the course of the first six rounds.
What other players stand out as deserving of at least some attention in this draw? Look to the two players who contested the Birmingham final this past weekend.
Karolina Pliskova could get a shot at Safarova in what would be an outstanding fourth-round match. Pliskova’s power makes her a legitimate threat on grass, and if Safarova is not particularly sharp, Pliskova has more than enough potency to dismiss one of the rising performers on the WTA Tour.
In Kvitova’s half, consider the possibility that the woman who beat Pliskova in the Birmingham final, Angelique Kerber, might finally be ready to make a run at Wimbledon. Kerber’s made one Wimbledon semifinal but has never reached any major final. Yet, she moves very well on grass and has shown an ability to frustrate opponents with relentless defense. If Kerber — in Caroline Wozniacki’s section and Halep’s quarter of the draw — wanted a bracket which could propel her to a first major final, this is it.
We’re left with a tournament in which Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova are the favorites to make the final. We’re also left with a tournament in which upsets of those two players could produce a highly unexpected championship matchup, very possibly between two players who have never contested a major final before.
Let The Championships — and the madness — begin.