It’s that time again!! Christmas Eve, aka the day before Wimby begins.
Last year, I did a blog post on players worth following at Wimbledon for the fortnight. I know that a lot of my followers don’t watch tennis, especially not following both tours all season long like I do lol get a life yasmin hun x, but a lot of people switch Wimbledon on to give it a watch because it’s an essential part of British Summertime and it’s on the BBC so it’s just there, you can’t really get away for this two weeks. So I wanted to help you out with some players worth keeping an eye on this fortnight past your standard Williams sisters, Roger, Rafa, Djokovic and Murray (in dubs this year). Obvs watch that lot too, but if you switch over to the BBC’s coverage and see a name you don’t recognise, don’t turn it off!! I want to familiarise you with some players now so when you do switch the tennis on, you already know who you’re watching (thanks to me x)
this week’s winners: karolina pliskova, taylor fritz, lorenzo sonego
You can’t not keep an eye on the people who have won a grass court title two days before Wimbledon starts, they’re on form, full of confidence and ready to continue all of that. Taylor’s title felt like a long time coming for him, after making the final of his third ever tournament in Memphis back in 2016 at just eighteen years old. Sonego is one of many Italian men doing bits in tennis at the moment. Sonego opens against Granollers, a qualifier. Fritz opens against an out of form Berdych, who is back on the match court after months out of the sport.
Karolina is seriously one to watch, she’s very strong on grass and always touted as one to keep an eye on at Wimbledon, someone we always expect to have a good run there, yet she’s never been past the fourth round. She has been very quick to remind all of us in Eastbourne this week that whenever she’s done well down on the south coast before, that hasn’t exactly translated into her Wimbledon results. Still, she’s got a good draw and literally flew through her Eastbourne draw, where she had some matchups that were second week of a Grand Slam difficult, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she went all the way to the final, then we’ll see what happens RE the title.
and the runners up: angie kerber, sam querrey, miomir kecmanovic
I mean, Angie is the defending Wimby champion so duh. She has an incredible grass court game and has had two really good weeks in Mallorca and Eastbourne. Nobody expected her to lose the Eastbourne final the way she did to Karolina, tbh I thought it was going to be a bit of a classic. But the rest of her week here in Sussex was pretty dominant, she had good wins over difficult opponents including a straight set one over Halep. I asked her what she’ll take from the tournament when she has a good week but not a good final, but apart from trying to take “the positive, how many good matches I had here” she’s seeing Wimbledon as a clean slate, and said she won’t think “not anymore about Eastbourne then.” Her one-sided finals defeat aside, she’s going into her third attempt at a Slam title defence on some very good form but she’s fallen in the quarter of death (more on that later) so we’ll see.
If you watched Millionare Matchmaker back in the day, you might recognise Sam Querrey from being one of the bachelors on it years and years ago. This week in Eastbourne was his first tournament since Houston a couple months ago, so to make a final straight away is a good sign. He opens against Thiem and there’s a bit of upset alert waiting to happen there, deffo keep an eye on that match. Kecmanovic is one of the many youngsters on the tour rising through the rankings and progressing through tournaments, he opens against Carballes Baena which is easily winable for the nineteen year old (he’s younger than me ffs cry).
Simo seems like a bit of an obvious choice, she’s been world number one for the most part of the last couple years and won the French Open last year, but grass isn’t her most favourite surface ever if ykno what I mean. Last year, she was one to watch for me because she was fresh off the back of her first Slam title and I always saw her as someone who, once she had won one, would go on to win lots in one go. It turned out that she probably needed more time to enjoy and celebrate finally winning that first Slam and Wimby came way too soon after, she took some good time off after the grass season that you could see she needed. I was v interested in how she’d feel going into Wimby this year without being caught up in the celebration of a first Slam and she told me that she’s different and sees her tennis and tournaments differently, “my goal is just to be well on court and to try to play my best tennis every time I step on the court. I’m not thinking of the result anymore, but I’m still motivated. So this is the change.”
When Simo lost in the quarters of the French this year, I think it was on the Tennis Podcast I heard that someone asked her coach about it and he said their goal this year was Wimbledon anyway??? So this is why I’m really keen in keeping a close eye on Simo this fortnight. And she’s happily in the bottom half of draw, ie far away from the quarter of death in the top half, so there won’t be too many big contenders in her way until late into the tournament. The furthest she’s been here is the semis but that was five years ago. This does seem like a good time to get back there though.
If you haven’t heard of Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff yet, take note. The 15-year-old (yep, fifteen) just became the youngest person to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open Era. The night before she played her final round of qualifying, she had to take a remote science exam. And as if this wasn’t amazing enough, she’s drawn none other than Venus Williams in the first round. Coco is one to follow from now until the rest of her career, which can be for another twenty years. Get on the hype now before she makes it proper big so you can be the smug person who is like I knew who she was when she was fifteen x
And even though I said I wanted to give you names that weren’t the standard Williams sister or big four, do keep an eye on Venus this fortnight. She hasn’t had the best results in recent months but she is dangerous on the grass and made the final here as recently as two years ago. She also just played her first grass warmup tournament in yeeaarrsss in Birmingham, also teaming up with young Brit Harrier Dart in the doubles there which makes me think she’s feeling good and confident at the moment, and made it to the quarters before losing to eventual champion Ash Barty. If Venus wins this first round against Coco, I have a feeling she can go deep and get her ranking back up.
Speaking of. Ash just won the French Open and then became world number one with her Birmingham win a couple weeks ago. Ash has a great story, she broke out in tennis really young but then took a year out to play cricket instead. She returned to tennis three years ago unranked, and now she’s world number one with a Grand Slam title to her name.
Ash is one of those gals you always knew would win a Slam but you didn’t expect it to be on the clay in Paris, especially not for her first one. Wimby probably would’ve been the one you would’ve expected her to win first. Her coach Craig Tyzzer thought her first might be at the US Open, but it happened less than a month ago at Roland Garros instead. If nobody expected her to win her first Slam on clay and she did, now that she’s back on a surface that better suits her game (and she’s on a mad winning streak with the French and Birmingham back to back!) I would not be surprised at all if she did the double and won two Slams back to back, a bit like Osaka just did with the US and Australian Opens.
The only thing making me doubt Ash’s ability to pull off the back to back Slams from Paris to London? She’s part of the quarter of death.
the quarter of death
Ok, so let me explain what everyone is calling ‘the quarter of death’. The top quarter in the top half of the women’s singles draw is lethal. Absolutely lethal. I’ve never seen anything like it. I cba to figure out the stats myself so I’m stealing this from Chris Clarey’s tweet (which contains every single woman in the draw too because I’m just skimming for the highlights). The top quarter contains five current/former world number ones (Barty, Muguruza, Serena, Sharapova, Kerber), seven Grand Slam winners (those five plus Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sam Stosur), four of whom have won Wimby before (Muguruza, Serena, Sharapova and defending champion Kerber). There are eight seeds in the draw, four of whom I’ve already mentioned and Donna Vekic, Belinda Bencic, Julia Goerges (last year’s semi finalist losing to Serena) and Carla Suarez Navarro.
Whoever makes it out of this quarter alive deserves a trophy whether or not they win the entire tournament. Keep up with all the matchups in this incredible lil section of the draw because wow. Last year’s Serena-Kerber final is a potential fourth round this year. Manic Monday will be wild.
Naomi can’t not be one to watch in a Slam now. She won the US Open aged just twenty last Summer and backed it up by winning the Australian Open in January, also becoming world number one as a result of winning that title. She didn’t grow up on grass and didn’t really start competing on it until about five years ago. She’s never been past the third round here but until her US Open win last year I don’t think she’d ever been past the third or fourth round of any Slams. If you’re not familiar with Naomi yet, make sure you become familiar with her and keep her on your radar for every tournament.
marketa vondrousova, amanda anisimova and sofia kenin
Two of whom are teenagers who did big things just weeks ago at the French Open. 18yo Marketa Vondrousova made it all the way to the finals, whilst 17yo Amanda Anisimova beat defending champion Halep 6-2 6-4 in the quarters. Both gals went on to lose to Ash Barty back-to-back – they were Ash’s last two opponents of the tournament – but if you didn’t already know about them from closely following the WTA tour, where they’ve had some impressive results at big tournaments in the past, they really announced themselves at the French. I’m excited to see how they build on it at the next Slam so soon after, well worth watching. And Sofia Kenin, barely not a teenager, beat Serena at the French and then won a grass title in Mallorca a couple of weeks ago, saving match points against Belinda Bencic in the final. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the young gals on the WTA tour just do big things without needing a hype created around them, the way the ATP have a whole marketing campaign and tournament for their 21-and-under #NextGens, and these are three to watch.
The young Greek defeated Federer at the Australian Open this January, and was part of what is easily the match of the year at the French Open recently when he lost to Stan Wawrinka 8-6 in the fifth and final set, in a fourth round epic. He’s been ok on the grass, lost in the first round of s’Hertogenbosch but made it to the quarter final of Queen’s, beating Kyle Edmund (a Brit, so defeating someone on their home soil) and Jeremy Chardy, who is French but lives in Parsons Green so it’s almost the same as a home soil defeat, before losing to Felix in the quarters. Stefanos actually had a really good run at Wimby last year and people had started to take notice of him before he lost in the fourth round to John Isner. Tsitsipas seems good on grass and loves a good grass court dive around the court so it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on coming back a year later as a top ten player.
Even if you don’t follow tennis, I’m guessing you’re here because you follow me. And if you follow me, you know who Felix is. The 18yo Canadian is currently ranked 21 in the world and he’s never even completed a main draw match at a Grand Slam. His first ever one was at the US Open last year when he came through qualifying and was drawn against none other than his bestie (and my favourite person ever) Denis Shapovalov, and Felix had to retire the match whilst struggling with a heart condition during it. He failed to qualify for the Aussie Open in Jan, and had to pull out of the French Open when he was meant to make his debut getting direct entry into the main draw of a Slam without having to qualify. The kid hasn’t ever completed a proper Slam match and he’s currently fifth bookies favourite behind the big three and Stefanos Tsitsipas. It’s mad and it’s a credit to his talent. He made the final in Stuttgart and the semis in Queen’s, and these two have been his first two grass court tournaments on the ATP tour so it’s not a bad start. I am buzzin to see how Felix gets on in his long awaited first Grand Slam main draw.
Stan the man is well and truly back now, so he’s definitely back in contention for Slams. He lost to Federer in the French Open quarters, but he put up a good fight and was definitely tired from the Tsitsipas match the round before. Wimbledon is the only Slam that Stan hasn’t won so if and when he does win it, he’ll finally have the career Grand Slam. Grass isn’t Stan’s best surface but he has just done well at Queen’s and he’s added Dani Vallverdu (former coach of Grigor Dimitrov and Andy Murray) to his camp for the grass season, and he has a very kind section of the draw that I can see him being able to get out of. If anyone can beat any of the big four (or just the big three for now whilst Andy’s only playing dubs) at a Grand Slam, and beat a few of them back-to-back, it’s Stan. Y’all know I’m a big advocate for calling them the big five.
feliciano lopez and matteo berrettini
The two title winners of the week before on the men’s side. I’m sure you’ve had to have heard of Feli’s Queen’s fairytale by now. A veteren on tour at 37 years old, he’s now the tournament director of the tournament in Madrid who was going to retire soon but now wants to play next year too, he just won both the singles and doubles titles at Queen’s, dubs alongside Andy Murray in his first tournament back after his hip resurfacing surgery, and after announcing in January that he thought he’d have to retire. I would not want to be meeting Feli in my Wimbledon draw at all with the form he’s on at the moment. Berrettini won Stuttgart on the same weekend. He’s won eight of his nine grass court matches this year and beat players like Kyrgios, Felix and Khachanov. One of the best players of the whole grass season, he’s another one nobody would want to meet at Wimby. I’m so intrigued to see how these two get on and go tear up the draw.
King Kygs. How can he not be one to watch at any tournament he enters ever? Grass is is favourite surface, Wimby his favourite tournament, and he’s one to watch this week because, permitting they both win their first round matches, he faces Rafa Nadal in the second round. The same Rafa Nadal that he knocked out of Wimbledon back in 2014 when he was just a teenager ranked 144 in the world. Nick always rises to the occasion when he plays on the biggest stages against the best players, so don’t be surprised if Rafa goes out in round two to Kygs. The only thing that is making Nick one to watch for me is the fact that it looked a bit like he injured himself when he slipped over during his match against Felix at Queen’s recently, and he then pulled out of his exhibition matches at Hurlingham in the last few days even though they were only exhibitions, so he must be being precautious. But if that second round clash does happen, there’s nothing else you’ll want to watch.
There ya go, a whole host of players you might not have heard of or watched before to follow this fortnight at Wimbledon! It pains me not adding Denis Shapo or Elina Svitolina to this list but if you follow me I’m sure you definitely know who they are by now. Enjoy the British tennis season, I know I am! And I’ll be back in a couple weeks with my parting thoughts from the tournament once it’s over. Pls don’t go by too fast.