The sight of glorious green grass, the sight of delicious strawberries and cream, the embracing of tradition and prestige, a special place with the motto “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same”.
It is the All England Club, it is Wimbledon, and it is The Championships, and the ladies’ singles championship is the most wide open I have seen in years, possibly ever, with numerous players in the field capable of going deep into the second week.
So, here is a look at the ladies’ singles draw for 2018.
The Roland Garros champion Simona Halep has a comfortable draw in the early rounds before meeting Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, and then either Johanna Konta, Dominika Cibulková, or Elise Mertens in the fourth round as Halep looks to complete the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double, which no one outside of Serena Williams (2002, 2015) has achieved since Steffi Graf in 1996, but Halep will have tremendous competition from the quarter-finals and beyond.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Simona Halep vs. (22) Johanna Konta
Two former Wimbledon champions in Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitová, and the 2017 Roland Garros champion in Jeļena Ostapenko are all in this section of the draw, with Sharapova and Ostapenko set to meet in the third round, before meeting Kvitová in the fourth round in what is a brutal draw for the 2004 champion, while the 2014 champion could face either Daria Gavrilova, Peng Shuai, or Samantha Stosur in the third round before the match-up with Sharapova, but after her title in Birmingham, Kvitová will be very hard to beat here at the All England Club.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (24) Maria Sharapova vs. (8) Petra Kvitová
The defending Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza has got a good draw in the opening three rounds before meeting Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round, but given Muguruza’s past struggles to back up to play well at the All England Club after performing brilliantly at Roland Garros, where she made the semi-finals this year, she is definitely no certainty to progress beyond the fourth round.
As for Barty, who comes into SW19 in wonderful form after winning in Nottingham, and making the quarter-finals in Eastbourne, has a difficult second round against 2014 finalist Eugenie Bouchard, before a meeting with the young and talented Daria Kasatkina in the third round before a potential “death row” of big hitters as she aims to become the first Australian female to win at Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won as a mother in 1980.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (17) Ashleigh Barty
Section four of the ladies’ singles draw is quite simply full of quality, with 2016 finalist Angelique Kerber, rising Japanese star Naomi Osaka, as well as Carla Suárez Navarro, Belinda Bencic, and Caroline Garcia, but in saying this, there is the potential for plenty of upsets in this section, but I think Osaka, who made the semi-finals in Nottingham, and Garcia, who made the quarter-finals in Mallorca, are the in-form players here.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (18) Naomi Osaka vs. (6) Caroline Garcia
Talking about sections loaded with quality, there is huge amount of talent here with 2016 US Open finalist Karolína Plíšková, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, rising star Aryna Sabalenka, Romanian player Mihaela Buzărnescu, 2016 Roland Garros semi-finalist Kiki Bertens, and five-time Wimbledon champion and last year’s finalist Venus Williams, who has been knocked out in the opening round of the first two Grand Slams in 2018.
While I will pick Williams to go through to at least the fourth round on reputation alone, I am going to pick a Belarusian to face her in the fourth round, but not the one you would expect, and she will be arguably one of the big stories of The Championships in 2018.
My predicted fourth round match-up: Aryna Sabalenka vs. (9) Venus Williams
This section features last year’s US Open champion, and this year’s Roland Garros finalist in Sloane Stephens, and Julia Görges, who made the quarter-finals in Birmingham, and despite a tough first round encounter against Donna Vekić, who made the semi-finals in Nottingham, I am picking Stephens to make the fourth round (and probably the quarter-finals beyond that) based on reputation alone, and if she plays to her potential, anything is possible, but I think her level will be just a touch shy of that level here.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (13) Julia Görges vs. (4) Sloane Stephens
23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is in this section of the draw, and has been given a seeding from the seeding committee despite getting into Wimbledon via a protected ranking following her return after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, and has a comfortable start before meeting Elina Svitolina in the third round, and fellow American and 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys in the Round of 16, whose toughest challenge on-route to meeting Williams will be last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdaléna Rybáriková in the third round.
Keys, in my opinion, is primed to go deep here after making the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, and the semi-finals at Roland Garros. A real contender!
My predicted fourth round match-up: (25) Serena Williams vs. (10) Madison Keys
Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is in the very bottom section of the draw, and has found some great form on grass, winning in Eastbourne, but has never made the quarter-finals at the All England Club, being knocked out in the fourth round on six occasions (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017), but has a good draw in the opening two rounds before meeting 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwańska in the third round, who has not made a Grand Slam quarter-final since the 2016 Australian Open, when she made the semi-finals, before meeting CoCo Vandeweghe in the fourth round, who has had a disappointing year, winning 10 of her 20 matches.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (16) CoCo Vandeweghe vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki
My predicted quarter-final match-ups
(1) Simona Halep vs. (8) Petra Kvitová
(17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (18) Naomi Osaka
Aryna Sabalenka vs. (4) Sloane Stephens
(10) Madison Keys vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki
My predicted semi-final match-ups
(8) Petra Kvitová vs. (17) Ashleigh Barty
Aryna Sabalenka vs. (10) Madison Keys
My predicted final match-ups
(17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (10) Madison Keys
My predicted 2018 Wimbledon champion
(17) Ashleigh Barty