WTA Tour: Wimbledon Selected First Round Matches Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

Damien Kayat previews selected first round matches from the women's draw at Wimbledon. 

Belinda Bencic 43/20 | Caroline Garcia 3/10
Swiss Hopman Cup star Belinda Bencic has had a difficult season with injury and has only competed intermittently this season. She made the last 16 at the recent Rosmalen event and only managed a Second Round run at the French. So generally speaking her season hasn’t lived up to the Hopman Cup hype. But Bencic is playing on a surface that suits her to a tee. She made her real breakthrough at Eastbourne in 2015 when she won the title. She also managed to make the final of the Rosmalen event that season. She also managed to reach the Fourth Round of Wimbledon that season and she will be feeling confident of potentially pulling off a substantial upset here.

Caroline Garcia has been metronomic this season without really breaking through. But of all the top 10 players on the tour, Garcia would likely be one you may want to face at Wimbledon in the early stages. She does have a litany of decent results to her name this year. She reached the semi-finals at Stuttgart and Madrid in what was a hot period for her on the European clay-court circuit. She also reached the quarterfinals of the competitive Rome event. She has also flirted with a major Grand Slam run, earning berths in the final 16 of the Aussie Open and Roland Garros. But there is still something unconvincing about Garcia on the major stage.

This will actually be their first meeting, which I also assume would benefit the less fancied player. 43/20 on Bencic to win looks extremely fair considering her aforementioned grass-court ability. Garcia may prove me wrong, but this could be one of the earliest surprises at this year’s event. 

Dominika Cibulkova 4/10 | Alize Cornet 7/4
Dominika Cibulkova is the unfortunate player who has missed out on a seeding due to the Wimbledon organizer’s decision to seed Serena Williams. While I ultimately agree with the organizer’s decision, you still have to sympathize with Cibulkova’s situation. It’s been a season of feast or famine for Cibulkova. She has had a number of first-round exits which include both Grand Slam events. But she has also made two finals, losing both the Strasbourg final and Hungarian Open final. It’s clear that the veteran, eight-time WTA winner has the capacity to compete at this stage. She reached the quarterfinals here in 2011 and 2016 and will be looking to harness the entire seeding saga as a motivational tool.

Alize Cornet has had a really indifferent season thus far, which has no doubt been affected to some extent by the doping saga that engulfed her. The outspoken Frenchwoman missed three mandatory tests and was looking at a substantial ban at one point. She has had a poor grass-court season, losing her opening match at Eastbourne following a single victory at Birmingham. Perhaps the highlight of her campaign thus far was a run to the final 32 in Melbourne. She managed a quarterfinal appearance in Charleston and will be hoping for some considerable improvement as the season progresses. She made the Fourth Round here last season and she will look to energize some of those positive muscle memories.

These are certainly two players who are familiar with each other. They have played ten times previously, with Cibulkova leading the head-to-head 7-3. That includes victories in their last two encounters. I think 1/1 for Cibulkova to win in straight sets looks reasonable. She is a quality player and has the power of injustice on her side this week. 

Heather Watson 29/20 | Kirsten Flipkens 5/10
Flipkens will clearly go into this match as the heavy favourite. The 2013 semi-finalist here actually recently tasted success on the ITF Tour. She also had a run to the final in Rosmalen, clearly exacerbating what we already know about her grass-court pedigree. She is actually a two-time runner-up at the Rosmalen event. So it would appear that Kirsten Flipkens should head into this match as a solid favourite. But sometimes it’s necessary to think a little outside the box to spot potential upsets.

Let’s be fair, it has not been a very productive year for Heather Watson. The former British Number One has really slid in the Single’s front while she has maintained decent double’s form. She recently lost an opening round ITF match when seeded number one. She lost her opening round matches at both Eastbourne and Birmingham. Her year started with such promise, with a run to the semi-final of Hobart. She lost narrowly in that semi to eventual Aussie Open semi-finalist Elise Mertens. But she went on a run of seven consecutive losses in the wake of that defeat. Watson has reached the third Round here on three occasions, which hardly makes for inspiring reading.

Firstly, while Flipkens leads their head-to-head 2-1, it was Watson who won their last encounter in the Monterrey Final in 2016. But I’m looking towards a more abstract source of optimism for a Watson win. England- with the success of their cricket team and continued presence in the soccer world cup- is experiencing a bit of a sporting sugar-high at present. Watson has always enjoyed fanatical support at SW19 and may be able to draw inspiration from the current levels of optimism. 

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Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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