Who’s taking Wimbledon? — Quotes from Eastbourne and more

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, July 2, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! We’re back with some Grand Slam tennis with the start of Wimbledon this week. Of course, it started Monday and the big news was the withdrawals from both Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka due to injury, which completely opens up the third quarter of the draw.

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There isn’t one specific favorite, in my opinion. Largely because grass court tennis is so different and the season is so short compared to clay. Tie in the fact that Wimbledon’s courts are different than the warmup tournaments’, it’s hard to get a sense of who is going to peak at the All-England Club. Still, we have to give our expert predictions.

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First up, a few players that will forever lead the charge of potential winners. World No. 1 Iga Swiatek is carrying a 19-match winning streak with titles at Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros but hasn’t played since. She mentions how grass isn’t her favorite surface and it’s the only Slam she hasn’t made it to the semifinals at. However, she is a former junior champion at SW19, so she isn’t inept on the surface and I do think she has a draw she can work into if she can survive Sofia Kenin in the opening round. Last year Kenin knocked out No. 2 Coco Gauff, who I think could come through after how she played in her opening match against Caroline Dolehide. She was sharp, crisp and specifically her slice/approach game was impeccable.

The last two champions, Markéta Vondroušová and Elena Rybakina, have the potential to do some damage in the draw, but I just don’t see them repeating championship performances. For Vondroušová, she’s not in the most ideal form and she did take a nasty fall in Berlin that caused her to pull out mid-match. For Rybakina, it’s also her body. She’s been struggling with gastrointestinal illness or other internal ailments all season but, when she’s been able to play, it’s been great tennis from the Kazakh. Should she be able to keep her body under control, you could see her in the final.

Then there are players like Danielle Collins, Naomi Osaka, Jasmine Paolini, Madison Keys and two-time reigning runner-up Ons Jabeur who are eager to make a dent in this year’s draw. However, that third quarter is where I’m super curious. Emma Raducanu got her first Top 10 win last week and loves the grass, while Donna Vekić is one of the tour’s premier grasscourters and is due for a deep run at Wimbledon. Honestly, that’s the section you should watch from start to finish because not only do I think we’ll have our first Wimbledon semifinalist pop out of there, the odds of a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist appearing are pretty good too. The potential matchups are super fun and you could gamble about a dozen players’ names to come out of that section, too.

Nonetheless, here are where my predictions stand just before play started yesterday:

Round of 16
(1) Iga Swiatek def. (13) Jelena Ostapenko
(11) Danielle Collins def. (6) Marketa Vondroušová
(4) Elena Rybakina def. (17) Anna Kalinskaya
(5) Jessica Pegula def. (10) Ons Jabeur
(25) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. (WC) Emma Raducanu
Donna Vekić def. (10) Daria Kasatkina
(12) Madison Keys def. Bianca Andreescu
(2) Coco Gauff def. (WC) Naomi Osaka

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (11) Danielle Collins
(4) Elena Rybakina def. (5) Jessica Pegula
Donna Vekić def. (25) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
(2) Coco Gauff def. (12) Madison Keys

(4) Elena Rybakina def. (1) Iga Swiatek
(2) Coco Gauff def. Donna Vekić

(2) Coco Gauff def. (4) Elena Rybakina

Will it happen? Lord knows I never know! Onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Garbine Muguruza was named the Tournament Director for the WTA Finals Riyadh, adding her name to the list of former female players becoming TDs.

Daria Kasatkina won the first grasscourt title of her career at the Rothesay International over Leylah Fernandez, while Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko defeated top seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe for the doubles title.

Kasatkina sat down with the WTA Insider podcast after her win in Eastbourne, which will unfortunately be downgraded to a WTA 250 following a lengthy history.

Diana Shnaider continues to impress with the biggest title of her career at the Bad Homburg Open, knocking out Donna Vekić. In doubles, Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez outlasted Chan Hao-Ching and Veronika Kudermetova to win their second title of the season.

Get to know Lulu Sun, the former University of Texas standout who qualified and upset Zheng Qinwen in the first round of Wimbledon.

It’s wild to think, but this is the first Wimbledon since 1996 that we won’t have Serena or Venus Williams playing.

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Emma Raducanu looks to ride the wave of inspiration from England’s football team at Euros to a big run at Wimbledon.

While Alycia Parks and Eva Lys overcame tough seasons to qualify for Wimbledon, Marina Stakusic and Anca Todini are the two latest Grand Slam main draw debutants this week.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame is going through some big changes.

NCAA champion Alexa Noel and Mary Stoiana are among the college players that will receive ITF World Tour wildcards as part of the ITA’s Accelerator Program.

Former Top 100 doubles player Tetiana Luzhanska was named the head coach of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas women’s team.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Eastbourne

Q. Congratulations on the win. You said in your acceptance speech how much you like Eastbourne. How nice is it that you won your first grass court title here, having made the final last year?

DARIA KASATKINA: It feels great. I mean, I also like the trophy so much. It’s, yeah, I’m not like obsessed, but I love beautiful trophies.

So in this one, in the UK particularly, I think because of the history and stuff, you have here very nice trophies. So really happy to get this one. Unfortunately cannot get exactly this one. It’s going to stay here. They give me another one, okay (smiling).

Yeah, just really happy to win in Eastbourne, especially after reaching the finals last year and being in the finals again now, and was tough to go on the court today knowing that, as I said before, there is a backpack with being a finalist for such a long time.

Yes, now feeling like I can fly.

Q. In terms of the positives from this week, a couple of words on some of the positives you’re taking with you?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Yeah, lots of positives, actually. You know, I think I have been known of being very hard on myself in the past, but this week I’m just extremely happy with my fitness and my mentality. Physically I’m feeling great, feeling strong. I think it shows that I’m not getting pushed off the line as easily. So I think that’s a good step forward and we can definitely work on that.

Then of course, like, my game as a whole — I’m just super happy how things are falling into places. The work that I have been doing with my coach for a long time since we restarted together last year is in the right direction, and hopefully we can keep going in the right direction.

Q. I just saw an Instagram post about taking the positives. You mentioned a couple of them, but just a few more of the positives you’re taking from this week heading into Wimbledon?

EMMA RADUCANU: Yeah, I think I put some good level out again. Just to be able to back up a week like Nottingham, obviously I’m very happy with.

I think the biggest win for me is I was able to play three matches back to back. Today physically I actually felt fine. It wasn’t to do with anything being in pain and three high-level matches.

Also yesterday the match was close to three hours. Plus the warmup before, I played almost four hours on court, and this morning I pulled up completely fine. I mean, I was surprised about it. That has to be a huge win. That’s a big positive.

I spoke a little bit yesterday just overcoming some things, and I did that. Yeah, have just been really enjoying my tennis, which is what I said at the start of the week, and the fact that, you know, today hasn’t really dented my confidence at all or my approach or mentality is a massive win for me.

Q. Obviously you just mentioned being seeded at Wimbledon, 32nd seed, the first time you’ve been seeded going into Wimbledon. Obviously that’s a big milestone for you. Does it change anything in terms of how you approach the tournament, apart from some of the perks of maybe getting a better draw, and some of the things you can enjoy around the site?

KATIE BOULTER: I wouldn’t say it changes that much. I think, for me, you never know who you’re going to play until the draw comes out. There is always a few floaters, for sure. I don’t take that for granted at all. Obviously I’m going to miss a lot of the top seeds, which is a bonus for me.

You know, I think playing them early on sometimes it can go your way; sometimes it doesn’t. So it kind of mitigates that risk. That’s a credit to my hard work I have put in this whole year and managed to get myself in that position. Again, every single player you’re playing in this draw is super tough and anyone can win.

The depth and the level of women’s tennis right now I think is at its highest point, so it really is tough to win rounds. I think, you know, you’ve got to focus on what’s ahead of you and take it as it goes.

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Q. Welcome back. What was the road to recovery like in terms of what were the big milestones? When did you start hitting? How does it feel to be back?

KAROLINA MUCHOVA: It was kind of long road, actually. You want to know, like, from postsurgery?

Q. Yes.

KAROLINA MUCHOVA: So I wasn’t moving my whole arm for, like, it was like ten weeks. It was six weeks until I had a wrap until the shoulder, and then I had a shorter one.

And then once I could get rid out of that, I started to do little movements. But actually you could see the big difference, like, each day was getting really better and better. I could do more and more stuff each day and each week.

Once the arm was strong enough, I started to swing with the racquet, hold the racquet, and then with some softer balls. Then I got back into tennis. I think this is like the eighth week, or seventh, eighth week I’m on the court.

Yeah, that’s actually really nice that I got back this early, because we had it planned a little longer, the preparation, but yeah, then once I could play with other players back in Czech Republic, I was, like, let’s go on a tournament already (smiling).

So not that I pushed it, but I really wanted to go back and compete, because I prefer to be on the tournaments than to just practice.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon