This is a guest post by sportswriter and author David Fearnhead, Women’s Tennis Blog’s long-term friend.
Whilst the smart money would be on the predictable final of Serena Williams vs. Petra Kvitova, there are strong signs that all is well in the ladies’ game.
The future is also bright. Last year’s Wimbledon girls’ singles champion Jelena Ostapenko made an impressive start for her main draw debut. When the draw came out, few suspected it would be anything more than a learning opportunity for the 18-year-old. Her first-round opponent Carla Suarez Navarro may not be a grass court specialist, but the world number 9 has adapted her game for the green stuff. The Spaniard got as far as the fourth round in 2013, and made the quarters at Edgbaston last month.
Despite only making two double faults and 69% of her first serves in, Suarez Navarro was only able to capitalise on 37% of her first serves. Her unforced errors were also low, just seven, and yet Ostapenko was able to dominate the game. The Latvian had 91% of first serves won and when she came to the net she won five from five. After taking the first set 6-2, she dominated the second, taking Suarez Navarro for a bagel. Next up for Ostapenko is Kristina Mladenovic, who has failed to get past the first round in the past three years, though she was a doubles finalist last year.
Then there were the Super Six – the ladies who came through qualifying and continued that winning run into the second round. Joining Aliaksandra Sasnovich, ranked #137, in the second round was her Belarus compatriot Olga Govortsova. Govortsova, ranked #122 came past Romanian Andreea Mitu #72 with double breadsticks, 6-1 6-1.
Doubles specialist Bethanie Mattek-Sands came past Top 50 player Alison Van Uytvanck to set up a second-round encounter against an in-form Ana Ivanovic. And Su-Wei Hsieh #131 made it through her first-round encounter against an illness-struck Kaia Kanepi.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came from Court 3. Before the update, the former Court 2 had been nicknamed ‘The Graveyard of Champions’. Eugenie Bouchard may not be a Wimbledon champion, but she was a finalist last year. A lot can change in twelve months and Bouchard continued her recent poor run of form being sent home in straight sets by China’s Duan Ying-Ying, a player who is ranked 105 places below the Canadian.
One player who has impressed me is the Dutch player Richel Hogenkamp, ranked #123. The 23-year-old looked solid throughout qualifying and carried on that form, winning her first round having not lost a single set throughout the four matches played. Her reward, a Court 2 encounter against Maria Sharapova.
Notable mention should also go to Margarita Gasparyan. The #113 in the world didn’t get through the qualies in Birmingham, yet making her debut at Wimbledon, on a show court, against the world number one, she proved unflappable. The Russian stayed on court for an hour and twenty-three minutes and gave Serena Williams a much harder match than she would have wanted for an opener. With all her ability, we must ask how Gasparyan is yet to make it past the first round on the WTA tour. (photos: Ralf Reinecke, Jimmie48)