The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. With one week to go until Wimbledon, Agnieszka Radwanska, Li Na and Petra Kvitova look to find their grass games just in time.
Eastbourne is the rare joint event that brings a markedly stronger WTA field than ATP. With an absent Serena Williams the prohibitive favorite to defend her Wimbledon title, Eastbourne welcomes the field of challengers who will try to get some match play in before the main event begins next Monday.
Radwanska, last year’s Wimbledon finalist, leads a draw that includes 2011 Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Australian Open finalist Li and Angelique Kerber. Also in the mix are Caroline Wozniacki, who will face last year’s champion, Tamira Paszek, in the first round, as well as Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur (who meets Nadia Petrova in the first round) and Maria Kirilenko.
As solid as the field is — it features six top-10 players — question marks surround nearly everyone. Radwanska’s first half of the season fell short of her career-best 2012, though her game crafty game has always been well-suited to the grass. Kvitova has been her trademark erratic self, winning a big title in Dubai in the spring, only to repeatedly flame out ever since. The same goes for Li, who showed signs of her strong Aussie form by making the final in Stuttgart, Germany, on clay and then lost to Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round of the French Open. A two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist and 2010 Birmingham champion, Li’s game is perfectly suited for grass. She’s the woman to watch this week. Li could play Marion Bartoli in the second round.
As for the ATP, Milos Raonic is the top seed after taking a late wild card following his first-round loss to Gael Monfils in Halle, Germany, last week. Raonic has stalled since the clay season started, parting ways with longtime coach Galo Blanco and replacing him with former No. 2 Ivan Ljubicic. Raonic has yet to make it past the second round at Wimbledon (he’s played it only twice). A good run in Eastbourne would give him a boost of confidence going into a Slam for which his cannon serve is well built.
David Ferrer comes off his runner-up finish at the French Open to defend his title in Rosmalen, the Netherlands, topping a group that includes Stanislas Wawrinka, John Isner and Benoit Paire. Ferrer has made the semifinals or better at three of the last four Slams, and he’ll likely be seeded fourth at Wimbledon.
The first-round match to watch here is Paire vs. Michael Llodra. The two had a spat the last time they played, at the Sony Open in Miami, with Llodra calling his French countryman “a little s—.”
On the women’s side, Robert Vinci is the top seed, followed by Dominika Cibulkova, Carla Suarez Navarro and Kirsten Flipkens. Lauren Davis is the only U.S. player in the field.
Wimbledon seedings and draw ceremony
Seeding news is never a big deal at any other tournament, but when Wimbledon releases its official seedings Wednesday, there will be much intrigue. The All England Club reserves the right to adjust a male player’s seeding to take into account his grass abilities. While a formula is applied to the men, the women’s seedings are left entirely at the discretion of the tournament.
With that in mind, here’s something to mull over: Should/will the All England Club bump 2004 champion and 2011 finalist Maria Sharapova to the No. 2 seed ahead of Victoria Azarenka, thus ensuring that Sharapova and Williams couldn’t meet until the final? Given Azarenka made the semifinals last year, I don’t think it will happen. But it’s something to consider.
The singles draws will be released on Friday. Where will Rafael Nadal, who is likely to be seeded fifth, land? He could meet Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic will get some warm-up matches at The Boodles, an exhibition tournament at Stoke Park. Joining him will be Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Sam Querrey, Grigor Dimitrov and a few others looking to find their grass legs in London.
Similarly, Murray will go for a final tune-up at the BNP Paribas Classic at The Hurlingham Club in London. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tommy Haas and Kei Nishikori are also scheduled to play. Let’s hope everyone gets out of these exhibitions injury-free.
This post has been updated to include the women’s draw at the Topshelf Open.