It’s Christmas Eve! Ok, it’s not for you, but it is for me. We all know how much I bloody love British grass court tennis season, but Wimbledon is the crème de la crème of every tournament of the grass swing, duh. Every Grand Slam feels like Christmas for me, the happiest time of the year, but none feel as special as Wimbledon. Wimby has all the tradition and prestige and, to top it all off for me, it’s my home Slam. (I say that as if I’m Andy Murray or Johanna Konta about to play a GS in my own home country. No. I can’t play tennis to save my life. But you feel.)
As it’s the eve of Wimbledon, I thought I’d highlight some players worth keeping an eye on during the fortnight. Now, I know every single time I speak or write about tennis I mention how only about 0.1% of my following actually care about tennis and the other 99.9% probably won’t even read the post, but Wimbledon is different. It’s a staple in British Summertime. It’s when the rest of the country jumps on the tennis bandwagon for two weeks (even if they only know who like five players are and shout C’mon Andy every two minutes), flick onto BBC and watch the tennis because it’s just there, and because everyone else is watching too. It’s also when people head to Wimbledon for the sake of it, just for the day out and to see some sport in the sunshine whilst downing Pimms and scoffing strawberries and cream into their mouths. Beautiful. So I’m hoping that, for once, a few more people are actually going to take interest in this tennis post because it’s Wimbledon, and who doesn’t love a bitta Wimby? Whether you keep up with every tournament in the ATP and WTA calendars and want to see if you think my picks of players to watch are actually credible, or you reserve your tennis-watching for two weeks out of the year, Wimbledon, and want to find out about some names worth watching when they’re on TV, this one’s for you.
I’ll get to the obvious ones, aka the big four (minus Andy who pulled out half an hour before this blog post went up, long after I wrote it, meaning I’ve had to come and changed everything, ffs Muzza), the Brits (again, minus Andy💔), and Queen Serena, at the end of this post but I want to start with some slightly less-cliche and less I-only-watch-tennis-two-weeks-out-of-the-year-during-Wimbledon type options. PS: take a shot every time I say interesting and end up black out drunk x
I only said these people would be less cliche, but most are still a pretty safe bet to do well here. Cilic got to the final here last year but was hindered by blisters and ended up losing in straight sets to Federer. It was hard to watch, seeing Marin so upset and knowing he couldn’t play at the level he’s really capable of, but he almost avenged this loss in the Australian Open final this year, again playing Federer and pushing him to five sets before eventually losing. Marin’s been on some good form lately, and he’s definitely going to be a dark horse here. He just won Queen’s, coming from a set and a break down against Novak Djokovic to take the title, so his confidence is just as high as his game is right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he caused an upset or two, he is projected to meet Federer in the semis.
Petra is a massive favourite here and has won Wimbledon twice before, but I’ve never encountered anyone who doesn’t keep up with tennis and still knows who she is. She just won Birmingham, successfully defending her title there, so she’s feeling comfortable and confident on the grass. She pulled out of Eastbourne after her first match because she was feeling something in her hamstring, so she’s really preserving herself for Wimbledon and I think she’s really going to give it a good go of taking her third title there. If you don’t know who Petra is, or know her moving story, then give this ESPN article a read. It will make you want her to win Wimbledon so bad. Petra is definitely one to watch here because she can go all the way to the end and be holding up that Venus Rosewater Dish in a couple of Saturdays time.
I spoke a lot about Simo in both my Australian Open and French Open parting thoughts posts. I actually called her to win the French in my AO post and, lo and behold, she did. And I said in my French Open post that now she has one Slam, I can see her nabbing a few more in a relatively short space of time. She does have tough competition though, and grass isn’t her best surface, but it’ll be good to see how she comes into her first Grand Slam after actually having won one and how much confidence that’ll give her. Last year, Ostapenko won the French as a total surprise having been unseeded, and she went all the way to the Wimbledon quarter finals, so I can see Halep using her new Slam title to her advantage here.
Stan, like Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, cut his season short after last year’s Wimbledon and didn’t come back to the tour until this year. He hasn’t had the best results since his comeback, and he had another few months out after Australia and Rotterdam, but when he came back the second time around he looked much fitter and his tennis was at a much higher level, so it’s now a matter of getting his confidence back up and getting enough match play under his belt. All of this makes Wawrinka one to watch here as is but wait! there’s more! x Stan has been drawn against world number six and current reigning champion of both the Cincinnati Masters 1000 and the Nitto ATP Finals. Now that will be a match. If there’s any first round match worth clearing your calander and sitting down to watch, it’s Stan against Grigor. Popcorn match aside, if Stan can get past that first hurdle it’ll be interesting to see how he fares.
King Kygs is always one to watch no matter what tournament he’s at. He started off the season so well in Australia but was then hindered by an elbow injury when he really seemed to be finding his place on the tour and taking his tennis to the next level. He came back recently on the grass and had really good runs to the semi finals in both Stuttgart and Queen’s, losing to Federer and Cilic respectively – the eventual champions of each tournament. And those were tight, anyone-could’ve-won matches. I absolutely cannot wait to see how Kygs does here, he’s exactly the type of person to turn around and win the entire thing and shock everyone if he wants to. Kyrgios is in the loaded bottom half of the draw and projected to play Sascha Zverev in the fourth round and, trust me, the Kygs – Lil Z rivalry is going to be the Fedal rivalry of the next generation. The best thing about Nick is that he steps up and performs his best when he plays the best, so being in such a tough half of the draw might work in his favour. Let’s not forget his shock 2014 win against Rafa on his first appearance.
Speaking of Lil Z, the sole reason why I’d class him one to watch here is because he’s coming here off the back of his quarter final run in the French Open, the best he’s ever done at a Grand Slam, after always being criticised for not performing well at Slams compared to normal ATP tournaments. Now he has confidence in himself at Slam level, he can hopefully go deep again here. There is the slight matter of him having lost to Coric in the first round of Halle a couple weeks ago though, so whilst Sascha has Slam confidence, he might not have grass confidence.
Eli has been compared to Sascha in regards to not performing as well at Slam level as she does in normal WTA tournaments but I don’t think the two are comparable at all and, again, this is something I spoke about in my French Open post. Elina is aways interesting to keep an eye on in a Slam because we’re all waiting for her to step up and take it to the next level, the way we see her do on the WTA tour. This could be the time she does it because she’s now a London local so Wimbledon essentially becomes her home Slam because she can actually live at home and have all her comforts whilst still playing for a Major title. Except, she’s projected to face Serena Williams in round three. That is definitely one to watch.
Could I really do this post without including Shapo? Denis won Junior Wimbledon just two short years ago and is good on grass, but has a 1-3 record on the surface for this season and is up against Jeremy Chardy in the first round. On paper, the world number 26 against the world number 46 seems like a relatively easy win for Denis but Chardy has been near unbeatable on the grass this year, so I’m hoping Shapo can step up and rise to the challenge. Denis also just has something about him that makes everyone love him, so if you make him your one to watch during Wimbledon you just might end up having him as your one to watch forever and start following him on Instagram because the kid’s got charisma and is beginning attract fans the way Justin Bieber used to. He’s my fave so sorry but you can be second behind me in the Denis-is-the-future-of-tennis-and-will-fuck-everyone-on-tour-up-in-about-five-years club x
After her run in Eastbourne this past week, she has got to be one to watch. Sabalenka got to the finals and put up a good fight yesterday before losing to Wozniacki, but she beat Radwanska, Pliskova, Mertens, Goerges and Vickery on the way. She beat three seeded players in a row, including the defending champion, and she really announced herself to the rest of the WTA tour. She has a tricky opener at Wimby against Buzarnescu but she’s already caused a mass of upsets this week, I don’t see why she can’t do it again.
Venus had an unreal 2017. Two Slam finals, a Slam semi, and a final appearance at the year-end WTA Finals. She’s had two straight first round losses in the two Slams of the year so far, coming up against tricky players, but her draw this fortnight is surprisingly good and I can really see her going deep and getting stuck in. She does have a finals appearance from last year to defend, and would be wanting to go one better and win the entire thing. She could also, if they both get there, face her sister Serena in the semi finals. Any Serena – Venus showdown is worth calling in sick to sit and watch.
Let’s get into the cliche choices then. Everyone’s pick to win, for obvious reasons. Fed holds a record eight Wimbledon titles, and it’s easy to assume he’ll be winning his ninth in two weeks time. His draw does look pretty easy, especially for the first three rounds, and in comparison to the other half of the draw, Fed’s half is much easier. I think he’s an interesting one to watch this fortnight because he hasn’t seemed his super-dominating and unbeatable self on the grass so far this year. He’s has some matches he could’ve easily lost during Stuttgart and Halle, like the ones against Kyrgios and Paire, and he lost in the Halle final to Borna Coric. Of course, these are best-of-three formats and it would be much, much harder for anyone to sustain a level good enough over a length of five sets to beat Roger Federer on grass, but I’m not sure he’ll take the title without dropping a set like he did last year, if he even takes it👀
Rafa pulled out of Queen’s following his win at Roland Garros again this year, which wasn’t surprising at all. The thing is, Rafa doesn’t do great at Wimbledon unless he plays warm-up tournaments. He has played some matches at the Aspall Tennis Classic in the last few days which is a good sign, though these have much more of an exhibition feel to them. Rafa’s big issue is how close the grass season and Wimbledon itself are to the French Open. Ok, if you’re gonna be knocked out of the French in the first week then you’ve plenty of time to prepare for the grass, but when you’re Rafa Nadal and are almost given the RG trophy by default every year because you’ve won it eleven(!!) times, you don’t have much time to rest after a long clay court season and then begin practise on the grass. Nadal is in the loaded bottom half of the draw, but his projected first few rounds don’t look like too much of a challenge. This year marks ten years on from what is considered the best match in tennis history, the Wimbledon men’s singles final of 2008, in which Nadal beat Federer 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(8) 9-7 in a match that was just under five hours long, but lasted for over seven hours because of rain delays. Damn bbygirl, A MatchTM. With Nadal and Federer as the top two seeds in the men’s draw, in opposite halves of the draw, we have an opportunity to get a repeat of the 2008 final on its 10th anniversary, so that’s something to watch in itself. I’ve made so many claims about who I want to win and who I want to be in the final but when it really comes down to it a Fedal classic ten years on from their iconic final here is what I really want.
This year has been Novak’s comeback year after he cut his 2017 season short at Wimbledon and, after a rocky few tournaments of the year, he showed signs of his old, dominant self during the clay swing and made a run to the Queen’s final a couple weeks ago, including an impressive 6-4 6-1 win over Grigor Dimitrov. It’ll be interesting to see how Novak does considering he made it to the QFs of the French not long ago and we’re finally starting to see him get back to his near-best. What makes it even more interesting is his projected path to the final which includes potential matchups with the likes of Kyle Edmund, Nick Kyrgios, Sascha Zverev, Juan Martin del Potro, Dominic Thiem and Rafa Nadal. Told you the bottom half of the draw was loaded. If and when he comes up against some of those players, it’ll be a real test and a good indicator of where he’s at on his journey back to his best.
Ok, big four out of the way, Serena is always one to watch but more so this year than ever before. This is Serena’s second Slam back post-pregnancy and her performance in her first slam back, the French Open, was insanely impressive before she withdrew with an injury ahead of her match against Sharapova. Serena didn’t necessarily look like she was playing at her best, but she looked unbeatable. Whenever she was down she’d find a way to turn the match around and she refused to let anybody beat her, proving that she doesn’t even need to be at her best to get wins. I mean, the woman won a Grand Slam whilst pregnant so she can do anything. Serena is also one to watch because Wimbledon decided to seed her despite her not being ranked high enough, but this was of course completely justified because she left as world number one before her pregnancy so deserves some sort of protection upon return. It does, however, mean that she could face Elina Svitolina in the third round which would be an absolute popcorn match, and her draw doesn’t get any easier afterwards but we all know Serena won’t go down without a fight, and I’m ready to see her reclaim the trophy.
Hashtag back the Brits and all that x. In case you’ve been living under a rock, or you really never expose yourself to any form of sport news in this country ever, Kyle Edmund took over the British number one spot from Andy Murray and has been having his best season on tour so far, including a run to the semi finals at the Australian Open. It’ll be really interesting to see how Kyle steps up and handles the challenge of playing at his home Slam with a greater awareness of who he is and with the top British player title to his name, and he’s in the loaded bottom half of the draw which makes things even more fun.
After an unreal start to the 2017 season, and after her run to the Wimbledon semis last year – the first British woman to do so since 1978 – JoKo didn’t have the best results. She’s been doing well on the grass though and has only lost to players worth losing to, and she always plays her best at home, so I’m really excited to see how Wimby goes for Jo because I have a feeling that if she can get through her first match or two that she’ll really go into the next gear and find some even better form than she’s already on, and that it’ll stay with her for the rest of the season. Here’s hoping, because she’s the loveliest gal and deserves the best. Her projected draw isn’t even too bad, she only has to meet a real threat, Simona Halep, in the fourth round, and even then she managed to beat Halep here last year. I’m thinking that being at home will really help Konta get through some tough matches here.
Omg. I love Noz. I saw him so much throughout my day at Eastbourne on Tuesday and then he sat and watched my entire shitty lil Instagram story of my day there, what an angel. He’s been doing really well in the last few months and he’s definitely someone to get behind now because he’s going to have a good career. He plays Bedene in the first round, who used to play for Britain but switched back to Slovenia because there was no other way for him to be allowed to enter the Olympics or Davis Cup, so it’s the ex-Brit against the new British player on the scene. Norrie plays a good game and is very fun to watch, and I can see him getting through his first couple rounds and attracting a lot of interest, so keep an eye on his matches. There are a lot more Brits in the draw but we are here to talk about players to watch, not list every British player ever, but I’m guessing these are the three other than Andy (WHO BLOODY JUST WITHDREW) who we’ll be hearing the most about and having the most expectations for.
And some honourable mentions for Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Juan Martin del Potro, Caroline Wozniacki, John Isner, Ash Barty, Maria Sharapova and defending champion Garbine Muguruza.
I’m already looking forward to sitting down and writing my parting Wimbledon thoughts in two weeks and seeing what I was right or wrong about. Enjoy a whole fortnight of Pimms, strawberries, sunshine and good tennis. I know I will.