Who will win the ladies' title at Wimbledon?

May 24, 2018

The question of who will win the Championships, Wimbledon is always a tantalising one for male and female players alike, not least because the clay court season is often a poor guide to how things will play out on the much faster grass surfaces. 

In the case of the men, this is easily factored in; after all, the usual expectation is that Rafael Nadal will win most of his matches on clay and walk away from Roland Garros with another Grand Slam trophy, whereas his record at Wimbledon since picking up his second title in 2010 is very modest. 

The situation in the ladies' game used to be very simple: Serena Williams was always a clear favourite and usually fulfilled those expectations. 

However, her absence on maternity leave from the last four Grand Slams has left the field wide open. This period saw Garbine Muguruza win her second Grand Slam at the Championships, Wimbledon, while Jelena Ostapenko, Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki won their maiden Grand Slams in the French, US and Australian Opens respectively.

Ostapenko and Stephens have had rather mixed fortunes since their triumphs, but Wozniacki is now the world number one and will expect to win more big trophies.

Simona Halep, Wozniacki's biggest rival for top spot and now a three-time Grand Slam finalist after losing in Melbourne, is surely the most likely to be the next to break her duck. Britons will hope 2017 semi-finalist Johanna Konta will be the one, but she has yet to find her best form this year. 

All this assumes that Serena is not yet able to resume her dominance of the sport. At the age of 36 and coming back not just from a maternity break but one that came with life-threatening medical complications, it would be absurd to even contemplate a Wimbledon victory for almost anyone else. But with a record 23 Grand Slams in the open era and Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 in her sights, the younger Williams sister has always been exceptional, and few would bet against her proving so again. 

Indeed, Serena's coach Patrick Mouratoglou told the WTA website this week that she had made her comeback too early, but is now capable of winning the French Open. 

He remarked: "Serena will play the French Open to win it. Can she do it? Serena can achieve anything - after being her coach for six years, I'm even more sure of that statement."

Were that to happen, it would appear that all bets would be off at Wimbledon. However, that would be to reckon without Petra Kvitova, the champion in 2011 and 2014 and currently the most in-form player on the circuit.

Her victory in the Madrid Open at the weekend - where she became the first woman to win the tournament three times - was her fourth title of 2018 so far, more than any other player. All that suggests she will be a strong contender at the Championships, Wimbledon. 

That she should still be playing at all is remarkable enough; in December 2016 she survived an assault by a burglar, sustaining hand injuries that needed career-saving surgery. 

Given Serena's own scare last year while giving birth, a final between the pair would be an extraordinary affair; a match between two outstanding players simply happy to be alive, yet chasing another day of glory on Centre Court.  

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