By Mike McIntyre
Waking up to the release of the Wimbledon draws feels a lot like waking up Christmas morning. Some of the players on Friday probably felt like they were either receiving presents or a lump of coal depending on who they drew as their first round opponent. Here is a closer look at the (once again) wildly unpredictable Grand Slam women's draw that tennis fans will be enjoying over the next two weeks.
What are the chances that the (for now) World No. one Angelique Kerber will do better than her first round exit at Roland Garros? Kerber does not have a nice draw and will face qualifier Irina Falconi in the opening round. Beyond that she faces either of the talented Kristen Flipkens or Misaki Doi in round two, the tricky Lucie Safarova potentially in round three and then likely the 14th seeded Garbine Muguruza in round four. With Kerber's confidence at a seemingly all-time low I can't see her making it out of there in one piece.
Former Wimbledon finalist Aga Radwanska is in this quarter of the draw but her game has been in steady decline over the past year it seems so I wouldn't get my hopes up for her to go deep in the tournament either. Radwanska faces a player whose career is even more in decline in Jelena Jankovic in the opening round.
So who should we keep an eye on in the top quarter of the draw then? Dangerous players include 7th seeded vet Svetlana Kuznetsova along with Olympic gold-medalist Monica Puig, the always dangerous Ekaterina Makarova and French Open semi-finalist Timea Bacsinszky.
I'm going to go with a Muguruza vs Bacsinszky quarter-final.
Karolina Pliskova is the 3rd seed and has a nice path in her section of the draw. Of the top seeds hers is the quadrant with the least amount of known obstacles towards the quarter-finals. Sloane Stephens makes her return to the Tour after a foot injury that kept here away from the game for nine months and opens against Alison Riske and has a potential second round match against 12th seed Kristina Mladenovic. Coco Vandeweghe would be the likely third round opponent in that section. ESPN Body Issue cover-girl and former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is a good pick as a potential fourth round match-up.
This quarter seems like the most stable to me and I expect a Pliskova vs Wozniacki quarter-final to emerge.
There are just so many incredible first round matches happening at the All-England Club this year. Dominika Cibulkova gets Andrea Petkovic in this quarter, Sabine Lisicki makes her return as well to competitive tennis and faces Ana Konjuh the 27th seed and Elina Svitolina the 5th seed will face recent Birmingham finalist Ashleigh Barty.
On top of that we have Venus Williams, French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko and Madison Keys in this quadrant. Ostapenko and Keys could provide a terrific third round match here.
I'm going with Williams vs Svitolina for the quarter-finals. Gosh I wish I could be more bold with my picks!
Finally we have 2nd seed Simona Halep opening against Marina Erakovic and on-course for a tough third round match against one of: Carla Suarez Navarro, 2014 finalist Genie Bouchard or up-and-coming Marketa Vondrousova. Victoria Azarenka is yet another player making her return to the court at Wimbledon and gets a very difficult opening match against CiCi Bellis. In the upper portion of this quarter Petra Kvitova - who won in Birmingham last week - is going to be on a collision course with home crowd favorite Johanna Konta. There is simply no shortage of capable players who could be hoisting the Venus Rosewater dish in 2017 and many of them are in this quarter of the draw.
My picks for the quarter-finals are Kvitova and Azarenka for an enticing battle of the recent comeback players.