LONDON, June 29, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
The Wimbledon gentlemen’s and ladies’ singles draws took place at the All England Club on Friday morning – and it set a tone for what promises to be a most interest British fortnight beginning Monday.
The business of placing 32 seeded men, weighted by past grass-court performance, and 32 seeded women, based upon current world ranking, onto the 128-player draw boards and then filling in the remaining entrants drew many oohs and aahs, based upon how well Tennis Twitter lit up shortly after the 10 a.m. British Summer Time start of the ceremony. A day later, the critics are still chiming in about who got a good draw and who got shafted.
As it happened, Friday’s activities are being touted as one of the “craziest, nastiest Grand Slam quarters in the Open Era,” according to New York Times tennis columnist Christopher Clarey, and that’s just the women’s draw. As for the men’s, well, it was a matter of which half of the draw would get No. 3 seed Rafael Nadal and which would land surprise No. 4 seed Kevin Anderson, a semifinalist at the All England Club last year, to pose as possible semifinal opponents for World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic and No. 2 seed Roger Federer.
The packed women’s top quarter (featuring new World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, former Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza, 23-time Grand Slam champion and seven-time Wimbledon titlist Serena Williams, former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and defending champion Angelique Kerber) includes: five Number Ones, seven major singles champions, and four former Wimbledon singles champions. There’s also Donna Vekic and Belinda Bencic in this quarter, too. Simply stated, there’s a lot of heavyweights and in-form players to chose from. Whomever emerges to play for the championship at the end of the fortnight will have earned their place.
Add to it, unseeded 39-year-old Venus Williams, always a dangerous floater, drew 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff in the first round, in the lower half, which also features World No. 2 and reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, No. 3 seed and Eastbourne winner Karolina Pliskova and former No. 1 Simona Halep, among many worthy competitors.
On Tuesday, Barty will begin pursuit of her second straight Grand Slam title following her recent Roland Garros success against Zheng Saisai, then would face either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Alison Van Uytvanck in the second round. A possible third-round opponent would be Muguruza.
Sharing a path to the final with Barty is Serena Williams, who is seeking her eighth Wimbledon title and 24th Grand Slam singles championship. She will open against qualifier Giulia Gatto-Monticone on Tuesday. Then, after facing either Kaja Juvan or Kristyna Pliskova in the second round, Williams could face 18th-seeded Julia Görges in what would be a rematch of last year’s semifinal. Then, a rematch of last year’s final between Williams and 2018 Wimbledon champion Kerber looms in the fourth round provided Kerber beats five-time Grand Slam champion and former Wimbledon champion Sharapova in the third round. Furthering the excitement, Williams and Barty could meet in the quarterfinals.
Needless to say, there’s the potential for a lot of popcorn matches. As Matt Zemek, co-manager of the tennis website Tennis With An Accent (tennisaccent.com) suggested in comparing the two halves of the women’s draw, “So utterly different, yet both loaded with drama.”
Meanwhile, the drama that played out in the men’s draw centered around the placement of Nadal and Anderson. The World No. 2 Nadal was placed in the lower half and could face Federer in a possible semifinal and Anderson found himself in the upper half on a possible semifinal collision course with the defending champion Djokovic.
Djokovic will open Monday against Philipp Kohlschreiber, then would face either Denis Kudla or Malek Jaziri in the second round. Federer starts Tuesday with Lloyd Harris, then gets either Jay Clarke or Noah Rubin.
Finally, of note, in the men’s doubles draw, Great Britain’s favorite son, Andy Murray, and Pierre-Hugues Herbert will face fellow unseeded pair Marius Copil and Ugo Humbert in the first round. They potentially could face Jamie Murray (Andy’s brother) and Neal Skupski in the third round.
In an interview with Wimbledon.com, Andy Murray said: “We have to win our matches first. If we play each other, it would be difficult in some respects. You’re competing against your brother at the biggest tennis event in the world. I’d rather be on the same side of the net with him. But it’d be cool if we did get the opportunity.”