Wimbledon 2021 women's preview: Stage set for Serena Williams to make history

·5-min read

After an unplanned one-year break due to COVID-19, Wimbledon has finally returned. And just like every major for the past four years, it's hard to predict who will come out on top.

While the men's tour has had to deal with three of the greatest tennis players of all time battling it out for the last 15-plus years, the women's tour has been much less settled. Over the last 17 Grand Slams, there have been 13 different winners — only Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep have won more than once.

Injuries and unexpected withdrawals led to the French Open ending with two relative unknowns in their very first Grand Slam final, and the same could happen at Wimbledon. Of the three women at the top of the WTA rankings, Osaka previously announced that she won't be competing, Halep withdrew with an injury and Ash Barty is also dealing with injuries. The field is wide open.

Top seeds

PARIS, FRANCE June 1.  Ashleigh Barty of Australia in action against Bernarda Pera of the United States on Court Philippe-Chatrier during the first round of the singles competition at the 2021 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on June 1st 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ash Barty is coming back from a hip injury, which could be trouble for her at Wimbledon. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Ashleigh Barty (1)

Barty exited the French Open early due to a hip injury. It's a completely new injury to her, and she said after her withdrawal that she and her trainer have been consulting with specialists all over the world to develop a treatment plan. Her primary focus now is rehab and healing, so she's opted not to play in any grass court tournaments leading up to Wimbledon. It's not unheard of to play Wimbledon without a grass court warm-up, but between that and her injury, she may be heading to All-England a little rusty.

Simona Halep (2)

Halep is continuing to have trouble with a calf injury, which forced her to withdraw and keep her from defending her title (she won in 2019, which was the last Wimbledon that took place).

Aryna Sabalenka (3)

Sabalenka has had a lot of success in doubles, and her singles record is starting to catch up. She's had a chance to warm up on grass courts over the past few weeks, though she was ousted in the first round at the Grass Court Championships Berlin and in the quarterfinals of the Eastbourne International despite earning the first seed in both tournaments. Unlike Barty and Halep, she's not currently dealing with an injury.

EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND - JUNE 23: Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in acton during her second round women's singles match against Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan during day 5 of the Viking International Eastbourne at Devonshire Park on June 23, 2021 in Eastbourne, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for LTA)
Elina Svitolina's recent grass court warmups have not gone well. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for LTA)

Elina Svitolina (4)

Svitolina has had a few good results this year, making it to the semis in Miami and Stuttgart, but her recent grass court warmups have been pretty disastrous. She was seeded second at Berlin and Eastbourne, but was bounced in the first round and second round respectively. Her third round finish at Roland-Garros makes it hard to know what to expect from her at Wimbledon.

Sofia Kenin (5)

After a great 2020 that saw her win her first Grand Slam, 2021 hasn't been as positive for Kenin. She was ousted in the second round of this year's Aussie Open, the earliest defeat for a defending champion since 2003. Shortly before the French Open, she announced that she was parting ways with her father, who had coached her for her entire career. She made it to Round of 16 at Roland-Garros, but it doesn't appear that she's playing any grass court warmup tournaments.

Other contenders

Serena Williams (7)

Osaka and Halep's absences, Barty's ongoing injuries, and the overall lack of grass court preparation sets the stage for Serena Williams to make a deep run to the finals. The 39-year-old is continuing her quest to win her 24th Grand Slam title, which will tie her with Margaret Court for the most all-time.

Serena Williams of the United States in action against Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the 4th round of the singles on Court Philippe-Chatrier during the French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France on June 06, 2021.(Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Serena Williams needs one more Grand Slam to tie with Margaret Court for the most all time. (Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

She's been on the precipice of history since she won the 2017 Australian Open, and there's no better place for her get it done than Wimbledon, where she's won seven times. Williams is dominant on grass, which allows her to generate a ton of power in every aspect of her game. She may not have the first seed, but in may ways Wimbledon is hers to lose.

Barbora Krejcikova (15) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenokova (17)

The success of French Open finalists Krejcikova and Pavlyuchenkova has earned them both a righteous bump in the seedings. Unseeded going into Roland-Garros, Krejcikova's French Open win has earned her the 15th seed at Wimbledon. Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 31st in Paris, will be 17th at Wimbledon. Their face off was the first Grand Slam final for both of them, so how they do at Wimbledon will tell us a lot about whether we're seeing the rise of new stars on the scene, or if the weakened field in France was their major advantage.

Coco Gauff (21)

The 17-year-old Gauff reached new heights at Roland-Garros, making it to her first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal. Now she returns to Wimbledon, where she made a fairytale run to the Round of 16 in 2019. Her one grass court warmup ended in a second-round defeat, but given her previous success at Wimbledon, she may be the true wildcard of the tournament.

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