As the tour turns from clay to grass, the WTA Insider team is applying its surface-specific ranking formula to help determine who has the best chance of winning big at Wimbledon.
Last season was the first in which a third week was added between the second and third majors, adding an extra week of tournaments and giving players who prefer the slick grass courts an opportunity to rack up even more points and momentum heading into the third Grand Slam of the season – or the chance to rest from an exhausting clay court swing.
Compared to the much-longer string of clay court tournaments, however, the most points up for grabs ultimately come from Wimbledon itself, with the highest ranked grass court performers being players who’ve proven capable of getting the job done at the All England Club. In fact, 10 of the Top 12 can boast at least one Wimbledon semifinal appearance to their name.
Looking back over the last three seasons, using 100% of their points earned at all grass court tournaments earned in 2015, 75% earned in 2014, and 50% earned in 2013, here are the official WTA Grass Court Power Rankings:
– Serena remains Queen of Wimbledon: The six-time champion stumbled early in 2013 and 2014, but her title run last year reminded everyone that the World No.1 is, in fact, the one to beat at the All England Club. Capturing her second Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam in 2015, Williams defeated sister and five-time winner Venus along with former No.1s Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova en route to the final, where she held off first-time Grand Slam finalist Garbiñe Muguruza for her 21st major title with the help of her near-perfect serve and all-court invincibility. Wimbledon is historically Serena’s sole grass court event each year, meaning her ostensibly slim 252.5 lead over the field could be even larger had she not opted out of warm-up events since 2011.
– Kvitova close behind: Outside the Top 10 following a middling clay court swing, Kvitova is a proven commodity on the lawns of Wimbledon, having twice held the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft in 2011 and 2014. Once a stalwart at the Aegon International Eastbourne, the Czech star didn’t play any warm-up events in 2015, and looks likely to repeat the pattern this season. Similar to Serena, success on this surface is likely all in her hands, but fatigue led to a third round loss to Jelena Jankovic in 2015 and a virus interrupted her campaign in the quarterfinals to Kisten Flipkens in 2013. Should she remain healthy through the first week, Kvitova can definitely be considered a threat to grab a third Wimbledon trophy.
– Radwanska on the rise: Agnieszka Radwanska’s march back towards the upper echelons of the game didn’t kick into high gear until after the US Open, but it could be argued that her run to the semifinals of last year’s Wimbledon Championships reignited a flagging career. At a loss through much of the first two quarters of 2015, the 2012 finalist turned things around in a big way at the All England Club, reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal after a quintet of disappointing major defeats and narrowly losing to Muguruza in three sets. A finalist last year in Eastbourne, Radwanska is set to play there again in 2016 in preparation for the Grand Slam where she’s reached the semifinals or better in three of the last four years.
– Germans poised for a rebound: Sabine Lisicki has made a comfortable career for herself almost exclusively from her ability to deliver the goods at Wimbledon. Runner-up in 2013, she has made it to the second week in five of her seven appearances in SW19, defeating the reigning French Open champion in four of those runs. The spell appeared to be broken last year at the hands of Timea Bacsinszky, who schooled her in straight sets in the third round, but the German’s roots run deep at Wimbledon, and is an easy darkhorse pick as she rounds out the grass court Top 5 despite her current ranking of No.63.
By contrast, Angelique Kerber has had a season of high highs and low lows, following up her Australian Open title with a first round defeat at the French Open. A semifinalist in 2012 and a quarterfinalist in 2014, Kerber could be ready for another even-year success at SW19. Narrowly losing to Muguruza 12 months ago, the grass courts help mask her technical weaknesses and amplify her strengths; with lowered expecations, shouldn’t feel too much pressure after a quiet clay court seaon.
– Azarenka missing in action: Absent from the Power Rankings Top 20, the former No.1 has been plagued by injuries since the start of the clay court season, and her longterm struggles can be traced back to this very tournament back in 2013, when she injured her knee in the early stages of her first match – eventually withdrawing in the second round. Coming back from a foot injury in 2014, she bowed out in the second round once again, to Bojana Jovanovski in three sets.
Her quarterfinal battle against Serena in 2015 was one of the best matches of the year, but a new knee injury already forced her out of the French Open and the Aegon Open Nottingham, and may need to return to her beloved hardcourts to return to major title consideration.
– Notable grass court darkhorses: Muguruza proved the next generation can win the big titles when she conquered Serena in the French Open final; ranked No.4 on the Power Rankings, the Spaniard will be playing in the WTA’s newest grass court event at home in Mallorca, hoping to make the difficult surface switch in time for Wimbledon, a tournament at which she had only won one main draw match prior to 2015. Rounding out the Top 10 are fellow youngsters Eugenie Bouchard, Belinda Bencic, and Madison Keys, all of whom have reached the second week in the last two years. Bouchard finished second to Kvitova in 2014, while Bencic and Keys reached the fourth round and quarterfinals, respectively.
Veterans like Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova have also enjoyed deep runs at Wimbledon, with the latter in particular seemingly due for a big result at a major tournament, having played some of her best tennis in 2016.
Finally, back-to-back first round losses kept her out of the Power Rankings Top 20, but attention must be paid to the legendary Tsvetana Pironkova, who was a set from the Wimbledon final back in 2010, and is coming off a quarterfinal appearance at the French Open.
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.