In just a couple of days, Wimbledon 2019 kicks off in London, bringing tennis fans across the globe together to celebrate the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Played on outdoor grass courts and held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London ever since it was founded in 1877, the event is regarded as one of the most exciting fortnights in the sporting calendar.
Ahead of the opening matches on Monday (July 1, 2019), we're taking a look at some of the strongest women in the competition, as well as a couple who could be the dark horses of the year. Wimbledon is never as cut-and-dry as some people may think; it really is anybody's game to win...
7. Angelique Kerber (Germany)
After beating out Serena Williams in 2018 to take the Grand Slam singles title, Angelique Kerber will be looking to repeat history this time round. Currently ranked as No. 6 in the world, Kerber has had some success in tournaments this year, most recently reaching the semi-finals of the Mallorca Open before losing out to Switzerland's Belinda Bencic. Having found herself in the same quarter of the draw as current world No. 1, Australia's Ashleigh Barty, however, she could go up against her strongest competition in the quarter-finals.
6. Ashleigh Barty (Australia)
We can't mention the world No. 1, and Wimbledon 2019 top seed, without including her in our list. These past 12 months have been incredible for Ashleigh Barty, who's showing the world that Australia can remain on the map when it comes to delivering some stellar tennis players. At just 23, she has age on her side, and could prove to be one of the most nimble and stealthiest returners in this year's tournament. Most at home when she's serving, Barty isn't a player whose next move you can predict. With a wide variety of shots playing into her style, she's a real wildcard when she hits the court. Good luck to anybody who comes up against her this year!
5. Naomi Osaka (Japan)
As the current reigning champion in women's singles at both the US Open (2018) and Australian Open (2019), Naomi Osaka will be hoping to do the triple by taking home the top Wimbledon prize when all is said and done. It's not something she's managed to do in the past, so could she make history this time around? Some believe that splitting from her former coach Sascha Bajin earlier this year won't help her in the tournament, and when she had the chance to defend her title at Indian Wells, she fell in the fourth round after facing off against Belinda Bencic. She also faced early elimination from the 2019 Miami Open, losing out to Hsieh Su-wei. Let's hope her spell of bad luck is over.
4. Serena Williams (United States of America)
No list of female tennis players to watch out for would be complete without the legendary Serena Williams. She may be somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as seeding goes this year (at 11), but Williams is nothing if not surprising. Having been ranked as world No. 1 by the Women's Tennis Association a total of eight times between 2002 and 2017, she's one of the most beloved and celebrated players on the planet. Viral illness caused her to drop out of the Indian Wells Masters earlier this year, and Williams also retired before the third round of the Miami Open. A recurring left knee injury meant she had to drop out of a match against her sister, Venus Williams, in Rome, and Serena would then lose her match against Sofia Kenin at the French Open in straight sets. Despite all of that, Wimbledon is where she has in the past seemed most at home. This is where she can turn it all around, and race back to the top of the pack.
3. Petra Kvitová (Czech Republic)
With 27 career singles titles to her name; two of which are Grand Slam titles, Petra Kvitová will be looking to repeat history and pick up the Wimbledon Championship following her win back in 2011. Kvitová has an extraordinary story, in that she was attacked by a man who posed as a boiler repair serviceman to gain access to her flat in December 2016. Fighting off the knife-wielding criminal, she severed nerves in the thumb and index finger on her left, tennis-playing hand. Doctors told her she had less than a 10% chance of ever playing tennis again. Just five months later, she returned to competition, and has since won eight of her tournament titles. It's the comeback that everybody thought impossible, and one that is intensely inspiring.
2. Simona Halep (Romania)
Having been ranked world No. 1 twice between 2017 and 2019, Simona Halep will be looking to retake her throne, and what better way to restart that ascent than with a win at Wimbledon? Daniel Dobre has stepped into the role of her coach this year, so it will be very interesting to see just how her playstyle may have changed in the past few weeks and months, even since May's French Open. Intelligent on the court, Halep can be aggressive with her returns, forcing opponents onto the back foot from the early stages of a match. She'll be an incredibly exciting player to watch this year, that's guaranteed.
1. Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
This former world No. 1 is a personal favourite to take home the title at this year's Wimbledon tournament. She may have lost out to her sister at the Birmingham Classic earlier this year, and been upset by the French Open's 31st seed Petra Martić, but there's a real movement behind Pliskova to ensure that Wimbledon is the place she regains ground and showcases her credentials. Her aggressive style of play coupled with an accurate and powerful serve often works wonders to force errors out of opponents, allowing her to win points outright; this could mean the difference between winning or losing this tournament.
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