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Wimbledon: 6 Players to Watch

  • ontennis
  • 01 July 2017
  • 12:07

Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam tournament of the year, is set to begin on Monday. Serena Williams, the defending women’s champion, is pregnant with her first child and will not play. Andy Murray, the defending men’s champion, is in a midyear slump. New contenders could emerge. Here are a few players who have been in good form ahead of the tournament.
Ashleigh Barty

When Barty won the Wimbledon junior title in 2011 at 15, she was hailed as the future of Australian tennis. Those high expectations took the joy out of the game, and she took a break in 2014 and ’15, playing professional cricket instead. Now 21, Barty has reached four Grand Slam doubles finals with a fellow Australian, Casey Dellacqua — three in 2013 and one at this year’s French Open. In singles, Barty has had a superb 2017, breaking into the top 100 for the first time and winning her first W.T.A. title, in Malaysia. Her game, an all-court attack with a variety of skills, is well suited to grass. She has a powerful forehand and two-handed backhand, as well as a dangerous backhand chip that skids and stays low on grass. Although only 5 feet 5 inches, Barty serves surprisingly well, hitting her spots with power, spin and precision. She recently reached the final of the grass-court event in Birmingham, England, losing to Petra Kvitova in three sets after beating Garbiñe Muguruza in the semifinals.

Anastasija Sevastova

Sevastova, a 27-year-old Latvian, won five close matches to capture the grass-court tournament in Majorca last Sunday. Among the opponents she beat were Ana Konjuh, Caroline Garcia and Julia Goerges. The day after the tournament, she was ranked No. 19 in the world, joining her countrywoman Jelena Ostapenko, the unseeded winner at the French Open, in the top 20. They should make a formidable Fed Cup team of the future. Sevastova has a strong backcourt game, which involves taking the ball early and changing direction with an aggressive unpredictability. Her signature is her backhand down the line. On grass, Sevastova can attack the net, use the drop shot and disrupt her opponent’s rhythm with off-speed slices. She comes up with imaginative shots when in trouble, a skill that is most rewarded on grass courts, where the unpredictable bounces call for greater ingenuity.

Anett Kontaveit

Kontaveit, a 21-year-old from Estonia, won the grass-court event in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, on June 18, and she has had a strong European season. Kontaveit fought through the qualifying rounds to defeat Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber in Rome, and then Ana Konjuh and Garbiñe Muguruza in Stuttgart, Germany. She has climbed into the top 40 of the world rankings and earned a reputation as a superb competitor on all surfaces. Kontaveit, who is 5-9, hits with power from both sides, but her potent forehand is her favorite shot. She plays aggressive, first-strike tennis, looking to gain control of the point in the first two shots, but she can temper her power when she needs to play longer points. Kontaveit will be unseeded at Wimbledon, but she has the game to knock off a seeded player or two and survive into the second week.

Marin Cilic

The level of Cilic’s play has been rising in the past month, making him a threat to break through the field and capture his second Grand Slam title. He astounded the tennis world with his United States Open win in 2014, when he served Roger Federer off the court in a breathtaking display in the semifinals. This month, he reached the quarterfinals on the clay of Roland Garros, even though that is his least favorite surface, and he lost in the Queen’s final in a third-set tiebreaker to the resurgent Feliciano Lopez. Cilic, 28, served thunderbolts all week and roamed the grass courts with a confident, bristling intensity. At his best, Cilic plays a menacing brand of tennis, blasting aces, ripping groundstrokes and moving forward to knock off volleys. When he gathers momentum in the early rounds, he becomes one of the few players capable of beating the favorites.

Gilles Müller

A left-hander from Luxembourg whose game seems tailor-made for grass, Müller, 34, has made a sterling run before Wimbledon. He mixes power, spin and location in his effortless delivery, and he has a solid ground game, hunting for a short ball to attack the net. Müller often uses his slice backhand as an approach shot, keeping the ball low as he rushes forward. Muller is the consummate journeyman, holding steady in the rankings (from 26th to 28th since mid-January). But he has the experience, temperament and grass-court acumen to upset a higher seed and go deep in the draw.

Karen Khachanov

At 6-6, Khachanov generates blistering speed on his serve and ground game with an ease that is reminiscent of Tomas Berdych. Khachanov, a 21-year-old Russian, can hit an outright winner from every part of the court. Under the tutelage of the Spanish coach Galo Blanco, who shepherded Milos Raonic into the top 10, Khachanov has learned to temper his shotmaking and force errors rather than trying to blast winners on every point. In the French Open, he defeated John Isner on the way to a surprising berth in the round of 16. Khachanov worked hard for a service break against the big-serving Isner, then held serve with a competitive will that belied his youth. Khachanov has the audacious talent of Nick Kyrgios, but a much more stable temperament on court. He could regularly contend for Grand Slam titles in the coming years.

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