It's her second Eastbourne title! 🏆🏆@KaPliskova clinched the crown at the #NatureValleyInternational 👑— WTA (@WTA) June 29, 2019
All about her straight-sets win over Kerber --> https://t.co/n9sMEExirQ pic.twitter.com/jh4UfmYMAa
It's almost time for those two weeks in which I tolerate Wimbledon because I love tennis. Defending champion Angie Kerber, this week's runner-up in Eastbourne, is rounding nicely into form, and will be joined by five other former Wimbledon champions: Serena Williams (7 championships), Venus Williams (5), Petra Kvitova (2), Maria Sharapova, and Garbine Muguruza.
And while anyone who is paying attention will have her eyes on the KareBear, there's also the obvious fact that we'll all have our eyes on Ash Barty, the new world number 1 player and current Birmingham champion. We sometimes feel a bit nervous about elite players who have just won a major--how will their new role affect them (see "Kviotva," "Ostapenko," "Osaka")? But no such anxiety seems to accompany Barty, who appears to just take it all in stride. And with her big serve and grass skills, there is every reason to expect her to show up at the business end of the tournament, in week 2.
Kvitova injured her left forearm during the French Open. Her name appears in the draw, but there's still a chance that she'll withdraw, if she isn't fully convinced that she's healthy. A fully healthy Petra can win Wimbledon, but it would be disheartening (perhaps more so than having her withdraw) to see her have to retire from a match, or to watch her struggle and lose because she can't serve or hit the ball.
It's been five years since Kvitova last won in London. It would be glorious to see her do it again, but this may not be the year.
Then there's the matter of the mercurial Muguruza, who won the event in 2017, defeating Venus Williams in the final. In 2018, she was defeated in the second round by Alison Van Uytvanck. Such is the Law of Mugu that the Spanish star could crash out in the early rounds again--or win the championship again. We have no way of knowing.
Last year's runner-up was Serena Williams. Wimbledon is where she shines, and plenty of eyes will be on her, too.
Also, this could finally be the time when Karolina Pliskova breaks through in a big way. She just won Eastbourne, without dropping a set, and by defeating the Wimbledon defending champion in the final. She's looking quite comfortable on grass. Pliskova's partnership with Conchita Martinez could lead her to the final match in London.
As for the draw--the first quarter has already been named the "group of death," and with good reason. That's Ash Barty's quarter, and sharing it with her are Muguruza, Julia Goerges, Serena Williams, and Kerber. Goerges healthy again and a real threat on grass (she was the runner-up in Birmingham), and the three former champions are definite threats. But that isn't all: Barty's quarter also contains Belinda Bencic, Donna Vekic (assuming she survives Alison Riske), former champion Maria Sharapova, and former junior Wimbledon champion Kristyna Pliskova, who recently defeated her celebrated twin.
Some first round matches of interest:
Donna Vekic vs. Alison Riske: On paper, this belongs to Vekic, but Riske is the rare U.S.A. player who shines on grass, and she could easily pull an upset
Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Alona Ostapenko: Ostapenko has recently begun to turn her slumpy ways around, but--wouldn't you know it?--she has also sustained a left hip injury. At this point, I'm just hoping Alona doesn't have to withdraw from the tournament.
Venus Williams vs. Coco Gauff: The five-time champion will face off against her 15-year-old qualifying countrywoman--the youngest qualifier in the Open Era--so the hype will be on overdrive.
Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Aryna Savalenka: Again, on paper, this is Sabalenka's match to lose, but Rybarikova, in her peak days, could be dangerous on grass, and you just never know.