At the previous major, the women’s side, collectively, made a mockery of prognostication. The top four seeds made hasty exits from Paris. None of the four semifinalists had ever been that far at a major. The title went to unseeded Barbora Krejčíková, a Czech previously best known for her doubles acumen. Will chaos again emerge as the theme at Wimbledon 2021? Naomi Osaka—never a grass-court impresario, but a contender nonetheless—will not be playing. Simona Halep, the defending champion, is out on account of a calf injury. The champ before her, Angie Kerber, is nearing the end of her Hall of Fame career. Still, not unlike the lines, we predict a fair amount of chalk. Most of the top women have games that translate well to grass. That includes top seed Ash Barty, due-to-break-out Aryna Sabalenka … and Serena Williams, seven times the trophy hoister.
Herewith the Sports Illustrated women’s seeds for Wimbledon 2021:
1. Ashleigh Barty
Health is a factor, but provided she is not compromised, she has a good chance of living up to her seeding. All together now: “If she can play on clay, she can play on grass.” A junior champion a decade ago, she is 28–9 for her career on the surface. (And good for her for entering the doubles.) An emotional first match against Carla Suarez Navarro awaits.
[PAUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT NAOMI OSAKA IS NOT PLAYING … AND THAT SIMONA HAS WITHDRAWN BECAUSE OF HER CALF INJURY.]
2. Aryna Sabalenka
Drinking game: Swig every time you hear she’s seeded No. 2, but has never been beyond the fourth round of a major. Not much of a grass track record (10–10 for her career) but her power, often unanswerable, ought to benefit from the surface. And she’s bounced back nicely from a French disappointment with some success on grass. The breakthrough has to come eventually. What the hell? We’ll pick her to win.
3. Elina Svitolina
A Wimbledon semifinalist in 2019 whose athletic defense/offense translates to all surfaces. But—harsh as this will sound—she doesn’t inspire trust. Not late in matches and not late in tournaments.
4. Sofia Kenin
Want a player to root for? Look no further. Flying solo, having parted ways with her father. Didn’t hire a coach as she’d hoped to between the French and Wimbledon. And she’s never been beyond Round 2 at Wimbledon. But wish her well as she tries to recapture her results from 2020.
5. Bianca Andreescu
Another player objectively worth your support. Since her 2019 U.S. Open success, it’s been one setback after another, illness added to injury. At something close to healthy, she could be dangerous. (Hard to list as much more given she has won precisely one match on grass for her career.)
6. Serena Williams
Like Roger Federer, she returns, at age 39, to the site of so much success over the years. If she’s going to win that elusive 24th major, this might represent her best chance. A lot needs to go right for her to win; but a lot can go right.
7. Iga Świątek
In the midst of a year that feels both validating and a smidge disappointing, Świątek—a 2018 Wimbledon junior champ who comes in off a strange 6–4, 1–6, 0–6 defeat to Daria Kasatkina—is a player to watch.
8. Karolína Plíšková
A rough year for a player who was once a top seed at Wimbledon. Despite her seeding, she is out of the top 10 for the first time in five years. Whether it’s a coaching change or an equipment of some time off, absent a strong result, you feel like something’s gotta give here.
9. Belinda Bencic
Once a bright prospect (and former Wimbledon junior champ), she is 24 now and has had a fine career, but has yet to ascend to that next step. Reached the final of Berlin, but then lost. And fell in Eastbourne to Swiss countrywoman Golubic. She’s working with John Evert, so perhaps that will fire her with confidence.
10. Petra Kvitová
A two-time champ whose bona fides at the AELTC are beyond question. She was hobbled by an ankle injury that caused her to withdraw in Paris. Assuming that’s healed, she is a contender to win a third title. Starts against Sloane Stephens.
11. Garbiñe Muguruza
Former Wimbledon champion who, on her best days, is a world-beater. Unfortunately, there’s a vast range of days. Coming off a loss to Alizé Cornet 7–6 in the third set in the Berlin tuneup.
12. Victoria Azarenka
Credit her sustained excellence and her return after a difficult custody battle over her son. She’s capable of dazzling results. But can she win seven straight matches? Twice a Wimbledon semifinalist, even if that was 2011 and 2012.
13. Elise Mertens
The clip-and-save: a solid player, admirably so. Not a great player. Lacks real weapons to be a threat. Set in and forget it. A Round 4 showing.
14. Barbora Krejčíková
Unseeded before the French Open, she arrives as a top-16 seed, the winner of the previous major and riding a 12-match win streak. (Paris plus Strasbourg.) Game ought to translate well to grass, to boot, even if this is her first Wimbledon as a singles player.
15. Maria Sakkari
Her first time as a top-16 seed. Comes in off a run to a major semi that included a takedown of the defending champ.
16. Anastasia Pavlyuchekova
Slips into top-16-seed land. Can she build on her run to the Paris final?
19. Karolína Muchová: A quarterfinalist in 2019.
20. Coco Gauff: Her ascent has been so graceful. Learning to win matches under a variety of circumstances, and often far from home. Two years ago she was a true revelation. This Wimbledon, she is a true contender.
21. Ons Jabeur: Crafty, almost impish, player who is a great joy to watch. Won her first career title last week in Birmingham.
22. Jessica Pegula: Looks to continue a staggering ascent.
23. Madison Keys: You wonder (and worry) about her level of self-belief. But the sheer ball-striking ability makes her a force.
24. Anett Kontaveit: Comes in having beaten Świątek on grass and still alive in Eastbourne as we write this. And her lone WTA title came on grass.
25. Angelique Kerber: You wonder how much longer she can abide these middling results. But she has won the Wimbledon title within the last three years.
28. Alison Riske: Inasmuch as the concept still exists, she is a grass-court specialist.
31. Daria Kasatkina: Game is returning and she has grass skills.
Donna Vekić: Too good not to be seeded.
Venus Williams: Five-time champs get mentioned. Even if the last one came in 2008.
Camila Giorgi: The personification of high-risk, high-reward, but comes in fresh from beating Sabalenka in Eastbourne.
Shelby Rogers: Don’t be fooled by the Low Country pleasantness; a spirited competitor.
Jeļena Ostapenko: Say this, it’s never boring.
Ludmilla Samsonova: Winner of the German Open, a wild card but ranked in the top 65.
First-round matches to watch
Barty vs. Suarez Navarro: CNS won’t win, but how lovely she can play Centre Court for her final Wimbledon.
Kvitová vs. Stephens: Two past major winners meet early.
Krejčíková vs. Clara Tauson: Last major champ gets a potentially tough first-rounder against Danish teen.
Ostapenko vs. Leylah Fernandez: Fire meets fire.
Gauff vs. Fran Jones: You should know Fran Jones.
Świątek vs. Su-Wei Hsieh
Tauson d. Krejčíková
Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková: a Channel Double in doubles for Czechs, as the Olympics loom.
Barty d. Serena
Sabalenka d. Kvitová
Sabalenka d. Barty