Wimbledon 2019 preview: Seeds, champions, grass form – and some changes – at The Championships
Ann Jones and Rod Laver are Chairman’s Special Guests, to celebrate 50 years since their victories
The build-up to the all-too-brief tennis grass season began little more than a fortnight ago, but already players and fans alike are looking ahead to the biggest—and many argue, the best—Major tournament of the year.
Seedings, qualifying rounds, practices on the AELTC’s pristine courts, are all under way, while the purple, white and green flower beds, hanging baskets and ‘living wall’ around Court 1 are in peak bloom. The top players can amble the grounds without their walls of security, taking care only to avoid the glistening wooden handrails—they still boast signs warning “wet varnish”.
The Championships at Wimbledon, the oldest of the four events that comprise the Grand Slam of tennis, is what the ‘green swing’ is all about, and although there has been an extra week in the schedule between Roland Garros and SW19 since 2015, that is still just three weeks—a maximum of three tournaments—in which to make this most difficult switch of surface.
Some players have always taken to grass like a duck to water, while others have revelled in the sliding red grit. And this has been the driving force behind the unique seeding formula applied to Wimbledon.
The WTA adheres to its own rankings to determine the seeds, though it has the ability to boost a player in exceptional circumstances. Last year was one such occasion: seven-time champion Serena Williams, outside the ranking cut-off following maternity leave, was given a seeding of 25, and it proved to be eminently justified, as she went on to be runner-up.
However, back in 2002, the ATP agreed a formula that gave extra credit for grass court performance during the two-year period immediately before the seeding date.
Even so, there were few surprises in the men’s seedings. As was predicted, current No3 Roger Federer was boosted to No2, overtaking Rafael Nadal. The former, a lover of grass above all other surfaces, won Stuttgart last year, won Halle last week, and was champion at Wimbledon in 2017. In contrast, since 2011, Nadal has played just one grass match before Wimbledon—losing his opener at Queen’s in 2015—and was semi-finalist at Wimbledon last year.
In the long run, the switch between Nos2 and 3 is unlikely to have an impact on their draws: they could fall in the same half, or find themselves facing first top seed Novak Djokovic and then each other if they make it to the semi-final stages.
The biggest winner from the ‘formula’ is Kevin Anderson, up from No8 to No4 based on his runner-up Wimbledon finish last year. He has won just one match since the Miami Masters, missing the entire clay season with injury, lost in the second round at Queen’s, and won no other grass events before Wimbledon last year either.
Perhaps No4 Dominic Thiem may feel aggrieved at a seeding of No5—he could meet one of the three former champions in the quarters rather than the semis. But then he has reached the fourth round only once before, in 2017—has a 5-5 record—and played no grass warm-up tournament—with a 4-4 record at his previous grass tournament of choice, Halle.
That Thiem was undoubtedly one of the form players of the clay swing, beating Nadal in Barcelona, and making his second French Open final in a row over Djokovic, will make his progress at Wimbledon watched with interest. If he performs to that same level, it may well renew questions about the validity of the ‘formula’.
So who are the seeds?
Top 16 men scheduled to reach Round 4
NB Since 1927, only two unseeded players have won the men’s title, Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic
1 Novak Djokovic
2 Roger Federer
3 Rafael Nadal
4 Kevin Anderson
5 Dominic Thiem
6 Alexander Zverev
7 Stefanos Tsitsipas
8 Kei Nishikori
9 John Isner
10 Karen Khachanov
11 Daniil Medvedev
12 Fabio Fognini
13 Marin Cilic
14 Borna Coric
15 Milos Raonic
16 Gael Monfils
Top 16 women scheduled to reach Round 4
NB No unseeded player has won the women’s title
1 Ashleigh Barty
2 Naomi Osaka
3 Karolina Pliskova
4 Kiki Bertens
5 Angelique Kerber
6 Petra Kvitova
7 Simona Halep
8 Elina Svitolina
9 Sloane Stephens
10 Aryna Sabalenka
11 Serena Williams
12 Anastasija Sevastova
13 Belinda Bencic
14 Caroline Wozniacki
15 Qiang Wang
16 Marketa Vondrousova
· Only seeded singles Britons are No19 Johanna Konta and No30 Kyle Edmund.
· British doubles seeds include Jamie Murray with Neal Skupski, No10; Joe Salisbury with Rajeev Ram, No12; Dom Inglot with Austin Krajicek No15
Former champions in draw
Men: Djokovic (defending), Federer, Nadal
Women: Kerber (defending), Muguruza, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Kvitova, Maria Sharapova
June’s grass winners
· Stuttgart, Matteo Berrettini
· s-Hertogenbosch, Adrian Mannarino and Alison Riske
· Birmingham, Barty
· Mallorca, Sofia Kenin
· Queen’s, Feliciano Lopez
· Halle, Federer
· Nottingham, Caroline Garcia
· NB Eastbourne and Antalya TBD
Developments at the All England Club for 2019
· Court 1’s retractable roof will be in use for the first time. The court will also have new cushioned seats, and an increased capacity of 12,345.
· The ‘Southern Village’ will open for the first time, a new public area at the south of the grounds.
· Final set in all main-draw and junior matches will have final-set tie-break at 12-12.
· Electronic line-calling extended to Courts, 14, 15, 16 and 17.
· Environmental changes include launch of first 100 percent recycled and recyclable water bottles from Evian, and removal of all plastic bags from player stringing operations.
· Play will begin half an hour earlier on outside courts, at 11am.
· Quad wheelchair tournaments, which were exhibition events last year, will join the existing tournaments this year, with singles and doubles draws.
· Middle Sunday will still be a day of rest for the players, but fans can visit a community tennis festival at Wimbledon Park, encouraging people of all ages to try the sport.
· Chairman’s special guests this year will be:
o Ann Jones, celebrating 50 years since winning the women’s title;
o Rod Laver, also celebrating 50 years since winning the men’s title, and achieving his second calendar Grand Slam
· Total purse is £83 million, up 11.8 percent; Champions will receive £2.35 million
· Prize money for qualifying and first three rounds rises by more than 10 percent. [Since 2011, first-round prize money increased four-fold, £11,500 to £45,000.]