Tennis: The Wimbledon Contenders of the WTA.

The Grass Court season each year is a sprint to Wimbledon. There is little time and opportunity for the contenders to prepare for the big event. The season does not consist of either a Masters in the ATP or Premier Mandatory in the WTA. It is as quick and short as the points on a grass court but at stake is Wimbledon champion’s trophy and shield, the most prized prizes in the world of Tennis.

 

Aleksandra Krunic doesn't like the grass but wins on it anyway

Aleksandra Krunic downs Kristen Flipkens at the Libema Open.

At the $250,000 Libema Open Grass Court International in S-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia won her maiden title by downing Kristen Flipkens 6-3. Playing only in her second final and least favorite surface, the 25-year-old Serbian acknowledged not only her dislike for the grass but also the advantages of playing on such low bouncing surface for someone her height.

 

Flipkins’ road to the finals.

Kristin Flipkins road to the finals included a pre-quarter 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-1 win over the third seed Kiki Bertens and 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal victory against the eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka.

 

Krunic didn’t have at easy.

Krunic had a tough road to the title and had to come back from a match-point down to win against the two-time champion and the top seed Coco Vandeweghe in the semi-finals. Coco had a close 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (12) quarterfinals against the accomplished Alison Riske, but slipped 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) after a match point lead against the diminutive Krunic.

 

Ashleigh Barty beats Johanna Konta at the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham.

At the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham, Ashleigh Barty beat Johanna Konta, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, for the second WTA title of her career. The grass is Ashleigh Barty’s surface of choice, and she had won the title in Nottingham as a junior. Her comfort level with slicing comes handy on the grass, and she is allowed the opportunity to employ her variety better on it.

 

Johanna Konta is ready for Wimbledon

Konta missed out on her first career title.

Johanna Konta, on her part, was a little disappointed on the reversal of fortunes since last year, when she defeated Barty in the quarterfinals in straight sets here. She was a semi-finalist at the Wimbledon last year and is comfortable on the grass. Konta had she won the title in Nottingham, would have been the first British player to win a WTA singles title since Sue Barker on the carpet in 1981, and the first since Virginia Wade, in 1975, to win a grass court event at home.

 

Petra Kvitova repeats her win at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.

At the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, the defending Champion, Petra Kvitova reached the finals again. She powered past the Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu in just 70 minutes to score a 6-3, 6-2 win in the semi-finals. Mihaela Buzarnescu is a trick lefty, but Kvitova’s aggressive grass court play with 24 winners and 22 unforced was a bit too much for even her to handle. The win was Petra 51st on the grass courts and 36th of the 2018 season.

Petra Kvitova then improved her record against Magdalena Rybarikova to 6-1 with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win in the finals.

 

Magdalena Rybarikova is a seasoned grass court campaigner.

Rybarikova, en-route to the finals, had to dispatch the number three seed, and ace machine, Karolina Pliskova in the first round, and then Kristina Mladenovic, and Barbara Strycova to make the finals. Magdalena is a seasoned grass-court campaigner and took out Karolina Pliskova in Wimbledon last year. She had reached the semi-finals thrice and won the title in 2009, in Birmingham.

 

Kvitova is in her element on the grass.

Kvitova played her first round against Johanna Konta who was coming off a final appearance against Ashleigh Barty at the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham. Petra then dispatched Daria Gavrilova in her second and Julia Georges in the quarterfinals. Petra Kvitova is in her element on the grass.

 

Tatjana Maria wins Grass Court Title in Mallorca

Tatjana Maria beats Anastasija Sevastova to win the Mallorca Open title in Spain.

At the Mallorca Open finals in Spain, Tatjana Maria dispatched Anastasija Sevastova 6-4, 7-5 after overcoming the American qualifier Sofia Kenin in the semis and the seventh-seeded Lucie Safarova in the quarterfinals. Sofia took out the first seed Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and extended the champion Tatjana Maria to three sets in the semi-final.

 

The lower, loaded, half of the draw at the Mallorca Open in Spain.

In the lower, loaded, half of the draw, the second seed, Angelique Kerber, lost her first round to Alison Riske who had emerged through the qualifying rounds. Alison Riske, however, lost to Sam Stosur and Sam then lost, in the semi-finals, against Sevastova.

 

The women’s field seems quite open this year.

Like in the French Open, the women’s field is quite open for just about anyone to win the Wimbledon this year. Our picks on June 25, 2018, are:

  • Petra Kvitova has won the Wimby twice already and her title at Birmingham goes to show that she’ll be a force there in 2018 too.
  • Karolina Pliskova, despite her first-round exit in Birmingham, cannot be written off on the grass. She was the winner at the Eastbourne Premier Grass Court event in 2017 and a finalist in 2016. Her powerful serves and flat ground shots, like Kvitova’s, are reasons enough for her to make the contenders list at the Wimbledon this year.
  • Garbine Muguruza is the defending champion at Wimbledon in 2018 and is expected to play with the intensity and purpose of a champion again.
  • Serena Williams’s French Open performance makes us believe that she can still win a big tournament if she puts her heart and mind to it. We, however, think she will need a super-friendly draw to make the finals, and then anything could happen.
  • Johanna Konta reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year and could perform well again. She has the crowd support behind her, and that could go a long way in winning the title at Wimbledon.
  • Madison Keys is a solid ball-basher who could catch fire at Wimbledon this year.
  • Sloane Stephens is an all surface player. She has reached two slam finals and won one within the last nine months, and that makes her a contender here too.
  • Other Probables: Coco Vandeweghe, Venus Williams, Caroline Garcia, and Sofia Kenin.

Let the games begin.