WILL EVANS serves up tennis tips as he casts his eye over the women’s section of the 2022 Wimbledon draw. World No.1 Iga Swiatek is an overwhelming favourite, but there’s some worthy contenders chasing a maiden grand slam and a couple of modern greats looking to add to their majors tally.
THE TOP CONTENDERS
Swiatek arrives at Wimbledon on a 35-match winning streak, taking out the Qatar Open, Indian Wells, Miami Open, Stuttgart Open, Rome Masters and her second French Open in an astonishing few months. The world No.1 is light years ahead of her contemporaries form-wise, but she hasn’t played since her Roland Garros triumph and the 2018 Wimbledon junior champ remains somewhat unproven on grass. Swiatek was eliminated in the fourth round in her second appearance in the Wimbledon women’s draw last year. Undoubtedly the player to beat, however.
Gauff caught the sporting world’s attention as a 16-year-old at Wimbledon in 2019, powering into the fourth round. Shouldering the burden of expectation – particularly at grand slam level – has not been easy for the prodigy, but her charge to the French Open final last month was a monumental step on her journey to tennis greatness. After a few weeks off 12th-ranked Gauff began her Wimbledon build-up with a semi-final at the German Open, beating 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova along the way.
The world No.3 has bounced back impressively on grass following her disappointing first-round French Open exit, winning the German Open with wins over Gauff and Belinda Bencic. A knee injury forced Jabeur’s withdrawal at the Eastbourne International this week but it is hoped that is merely precautionary. Jabeur made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year thanks to a fourth-round upset of Swiatek and anything less than a maiden grand slam semi will be regarded as a failure for the in-form Tunisian.
The 2019 Wimbledon champion has endured a tough couple of years injury-wise (including missing her title defence at the All England Club last year) and suffered a panic attack during her second-round French Open loss. But world No.19 Halep has sounded a warning to her rivals with some outstanding grass-court form in recent weeks. The 30-year-old reached the semis of the Birmingham Classic and faces Bianca Andreescu in the Bad Homburg semis on Friday.
The legendary Williams hasn’t laced up her tennis shoes in a singles match since her injury-enforced first-round retirement at Wimbledon last year. But the seven-time champion returned to doubles action in the Eastbourne International and has secured a wildcard entry for Wimbledon. It would take something extraordinary for the 40-year-old to come back after such a long layoff and contend for the title, but she was the Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and ’19. Williams is still striving for that elusive, record-equalling 24th grand slam title after clinching her last major at the 2017 Australian Open.
BEST AUSSIE HOPE
With defending champion Ash Barty hanging up the racquet, Tomljanovic is rated the best Aussie chance of making a splash in the women’s draw. The world No.46 produced the best grand slam run of her career at Wimbledon last year, beat Alize Cornet, Jelena Ostapenko and Emma Radacanu on her way to the quarter-finals, where she lost to Barty. It’s been a rather nondescript 2022 season to date for the 29-year-old, though. After rolling fifth seed Anett Kontaveit in the first round of the French Open, Tomljanovic was eliminated by 71st-ranked Varvara Gracheva.
Beatriz Haddad Maia
Unheralded Brazilian Haddad Maia has surged into the top-30 for the first time in her career courtesy of a sensational grass swing. The 26-year-old has not made it past the second round of a grand slam in eight previous attempts but shapes as a genuine dark horse here. Haddad Maia overwhelmed a host of big names on her way to taking out the Nottingham Open and Birmingham Classic back-to-back, before extending her winning streak to 12 matches by reaching the Eastbourne International semis.