A three-time defending champion. An eagerly anticipated return to the sport. A player with an astonishing win streak. And emerging stars all over the place. On Monday Wimbledon begins, and with it, some of the biggest names in the sport will take the court. Serena Williams will be back for the first time since Wimbledon a year ago, Novak Djokovic will look to win a fourth title in a row, Iga Swiatek will see if she can continue to dominate women’s tennis and Rafael Nadal will be aiming for his third Grand Slam victory of the year.
How will it all shake out? Our experts give their predictions for what is setting up to be an interesting two weeks.
Who will win the women’s singles title and why?
Chris Evert: I’m picking Simona Halep because she is serving bigger and winning free points! She is focused and committed to give it one more big push to improve and win more majors.
Luke Jensen: Swiatek is my pick. She has really turned into the WTA BOSS! It has been years since Serena Williams really dominated the WTA world, and it has been a tour wide open — for even a qualifier like Emma Raducanu going on to win a singles major title without losing a set. It has made following the WTA tour extremely interesting, but witnessing dominance attracts viewers. Swiatek reached No. 1 by default after Ashleigh Barty left the stage in retirement, but the Polish powerhouse is on a 35-match winning streak and won the juniors at the Big W in 2018.
Pam Shriver: Swiatek is your winner. Her path will be harder than it was in Paris, but she is miles ahead of everyone else. Her win streak will be at 42 after Wimbledon.
Brad Gilbert: I am still confident that Swiatek will win, as she is best player in the world. At the French Open, I would’ve taken her versus the entire field, but I’m not as confident here. She has that win streak but not as much experience on grass. If she does stumble, it is completely wide open. I have her as the obvious favorite, but it’s not as clear-cut. Maybe it’s Coco Gauff’s time. I think there will be at least one unseeded women in the semis, possibly two.
Cliff Drysdale: Swiatek. Because of her magnificent ground strokes, unparalleled confidence and locker room fear factor. The negatives for her are high expectations from both the tennis world and herself.
D’Arcy Maine: I understand why Swiatek is the favorite here and why almost everyone is picking her, but her experience on grass is limited and she hasn’t played since the French Open, so, hear me out here, I’m taking Ons Jabeur.
Between winning the title at Berlin, taking over a new career-high ranking of No. 3 and having played with Serena Williams at Eastbourne, Jabeur is having a serious moment. She has momentum and confidence very much on her side, and after her disappointing first-round exit in Paris last month, she also might just have something to prove. That all makes for a very dangerous combination.
Jabeur had to withdraw from Eastbourne due to a right knee injury, but this was likely more of a precautionary measure and shows just how focused she is for Wimbledon. Plus, all streaks end at some point, right?
Tom Hamilton: Out of all the possible contenders in the post-Barty era, it has to be Swiatek. Wimbledon can be an unpredictable challenge and as we saw at Roland Garros, just because your ranking is high and you get a comfortable seed, it guarantees nothing. Swiatek bucks the trend though, because she wears the favorite tag with confidence, and if anything it makes her grow into the role of being the world No. 1.
I fancy Gauff to make a run at the Wimbledon title and Jabeur is indeed looking dangerous, but Swiatek is on those 35 straight wins (most coming on clay) and will look to extend that at SW19.
Simon Cambers: This is really hard. Swiatek is the outstanding player on tour right now, but her half of the draw is loaded. It’s entirely possible she wins it, but there are a lot of top players in her path.
I could see Petra Kvitova making a big run. After showing no form whatsoever, she has found it again in Eastbourne and might just have one last hurrah. She’s in Paula Badosa’s section of the draw, who’s inexperienced on grass, and if she could come through that section, she would be a massive threat.
I’m also excited to see Jabeur and Gauff but I think I’m in danger of going through most of the draw, so I’ll stick my neck out and say Kvitova can win a third Wimbledon title.
Bill Connelly: The easy answer is Swiatek, and the easy rationale is, “because she’s the best player in the world.” She has almost no grass-court experience but still made the round of 16 last year and is playing much better now than then.
If it’s not her, though, this becomes one of the more fascinating tournaments imaginable. Jabeur’s game is perfectly suited for grass, and she’s in great form. A number of former Wimbledon champs — Angelique Kerber, Halep, Kvitova — have looked solid of late, and one figures Williams might be capable of blowing up a bracket. It’s anyone’s game if Swiatek doesn’t run away with things. But she might.
Aishwarya Kumar: What Swiatek has accomplished in the first six months of 2022 is utterly incredible. She last lost a match in February, more than 120 days ago. She has since equaled Venus Williams‘ record of 35 consecutive match wins, winning the French Open in the process. She has won six out of the six tournaments she has played in this year. She is going into Wimbledon as the youngest to be seeded as No. 1 since Caroline Wozniacki in 2011. There’s no one in the draw who is in a better position to win Wimbledon than Swiatek, and I’d be shocked if she doesn’t.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Iga Swiatek looks unstoppable. And she just might be once again at Wimbledon, where she won as a junior. But, as Swiatek has said, “Grass is always tricky.” While Jabeur comes in hot if she’s healthy, Gauff enters with growing confidence. Swiatek handled Gauff in the French Open final, but the American rebounded and made the semis in Berlin on grass. She has reached the fourth round at Wimbledon twice, but she comes in playing with increasing confidence. After getting close in the French, Gauff could get her breakthrough at Wimbledon this year.
Who will win the men’s singles title and why?
Evert: Djokovic will win because he loves the grass and is comfortable with his footing and mobility on a sometimes tricky surface. He has the best serve and return combination and mentally, he is solid as a rock.
Jensen: Djokovic is hungry and heathy. He has won Wimbledon six times but is two majors off the GOAT pace with 20 to Nadal’s 22. The low-bouncing slick grass provides Djokovic the perfect surface for his extremely consistent game and world-class movement.
Shriver: Djokovic, because he is the best, most experienced grass-court player and he is desperate to be ahead of Nadal in majors won.
Gilbert: I think Djokovic is the clear favorite here. A year ago, I would’ve taken Djokovic versus the field here, but a year later, he hasn’t played as well as 2021. He is still the best player in the world on grass, but this is not a sure thing by any means. Nadal is coming off an incredible run at the French and is halfway to the calendar Slam. If he gets through the first week, Nadal is definitely in play.
Drysdale: Djokovic because he is fresh after some forced layoff. The players of the next generation are very close, but seven matches at best-of-five might be too much for them.
Maine: Djokovic. He’s the three-time defending champion for a reason, and now as he fights to get his season back on track and as the No. 1 seed (in the absence of Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev) with a more-than-favorable draw, it’s hard to see anyone beating him. Matteo Berrettini — who won the titles at both Stuttgart and Queen’s Club — might have the best chance to challenge him for the crown, but they wouldn’t meet until the final, and Djokovic has won all four of their career meetings, including in last year’s Wimbledon final.
Hamilton: The romantic in me wants to say Nadal, but despite his having won both Slams to date this year, you just don’t know when that ankle is going to give out. Djokovic will likely head to Wimbledon as favorite, but I’m going for Berrettini to go one better having reached the final last year. He triumphed at Queen’s a fortnight ago, and has made four straight grass-court finals in a row having also won in Stuttgart after he completed his comeback from a hand injury.
Cambers: Probably Djokovic, but there’s also a lot of pressure on him this time, even though he’s a six-time champion. He’ll see this is a big chance to close the gap on Nadal to just one in the Slam race, but there are some big dangers if he’s not on his game.
It has been 12 years since Nadal won here, but then it was 13 years since he won in Australia. He looks fit, his foot seems fine and though grass is problematic for him, in that some of the bigger hitters can threaten him more than elsewhere, no one is playing better tennis.
But I’ll go for Berrettini to go one better than last year. He now knows he can do it on grass and his recent wins demonstrate his impressive form on the surface. He has every chance to get to another final, and if he does that, then he can win the title.
Connelly: Berrettini’s awesome recent form is testing my resolve, as is the temptation to ride Nadal’s Slam magic a bit longer. But it still starts with Djokovic. I wish he’d have made himself eligible to play in more tournaments this year — we saw during clay-court season that his legs weren’t quite underneath him, at least not as they were through most of 2021. But he hasn’t lost on grass in four years. I’m a big “never bet against a streak” guy, and that’s a pretty ridiculous streak.
Kumar: I have to say Djokovic. He has yet to win a Grand Slam this year, but Wimbledon is a different beast and Djokovic is lethal on the grass court. If the tournament holds form, Djokovic (first seed) will meet Nadal (second seed) in the final here, and unlike in the French Open quarterfinal, the 35-year-old Serb will be better suited to win this time around — making it his 21st Grand Slam title.
Youngmisuk: There’s been a ton of drama for Djokovic since he failed to make history at the US Open last year. But this is where he should start to salvage his 2022 and turn things around. He hasn’t played close to his dominant level, but Wimbledon’s defending champ should be a tough out. Berrettini, Carlos Alcaraz and other young contenders like Hubert Hurkacz looking to break through at Wimbledon better hope they catch Djokovic before he regains his supreme confidence again.
Which lesser-known player could surprise here?
Evert: Beatriz Haddad Maia. She has won Birmingham and Nottingham, and beaten Halep. She is physically strong and hits a forceful ball. She doesn’t seem fazed at all or surprised at her success!
Jensen: On the men’s side I like Hurkacz from Poland. He’s the No. 7 seed and coming off a win on the grass in Halle, Germany. Don’t forget he beat the great Roger Federer in Wimbledon last year. In the ladies draw I see shot-maker Jabeur, who just won on grass in Berlin and is the No. 3 seed at Wimbledon. She has the tools to make Centre Court her own carnival of shot-making fun!
Gilbert: Nick Kyrgios is someone to watch here. He is my third favorite as some of the higher seeds are vulnerable on grass. He isn’t so much lesser-known, but lesser-ranked. He has a bomb of a serve and I would not be shocked if he is in the semis or finals.
Drysdale: Not necessarily lesser-known, but Berrettini. He has a strong grass-court game and was very close last year. Also, Gauff. She is maturing gently and now gaining confidence. A lethal combination.
Maine: Haddad Maia. Sure, she has never advanced past the second round at a major and had never won a singles title on tour prior to the grass-court season, but few bring as much momentum to Wimbledon as the 26-year-old Brazilian. Haddad Maia won the singles and doubles titles in Nottingham, and casually followed that performance up with the singles title at Birmingham and a semifinal run at Eastbourne. During this dominant stretch, she has recorded wins over Halep and Kvitova, as well as world No. 5 Maria Sakkari. Haddad Maia is seeded for the first time in her career at a Grand Slam and looks ready to do some serious damage.
Hamilton: From a British point of view, and how we love our home hopes, keep an eye on Katie Boulter. She is playing the best tennis of her young career, knocked over Karolina Pliskova at Eastbourne, and could record a big upset at Wimbledon. Jack Draper is also playing well and has beaten Taylor Fritz and Diego Schwartzman in the past couple of weeks.
Cambers: Draper is a name we’re going to get used to in the coming years. The 20-year-old lefty has a big game, with a huge serve, and he has come a long way since taking the first set off Djokovic last year. With a fair wind, he could make the last 16 and take on Berrettini, which would not be easy for the Italian.
On the women’s side, Boulter and Harriet Dart are in good form while Daria Saville, who is in Sakkari’s section, has had a brilliant comeback year and knows her way around a grass court. Likewise, Sorana Cirstea. It’s so open this year that someone is going to come through whom many people will not know much about.
Connelly: It certainly feels worth mentioning that Tim Van Rijthoven, 25 years old and a borderline top-100 player (the very definition of “lesser-known”), went to ‘s-Hertogenbosch a few weeks ago and took down Fritz, Hugo Gaston, Felix Auger Aliassime and Medvedev to win the title and earn a Wimbledon wild card. He has almost no track record beyond that, but that’s a heck of a way to make an impression. He has a big serve and big forehand — that recipe has certainly won some matches at Wimbledon before — and his draw could certainly be worse. If he holds his recent form, he could give Reilly Opelka quite a bit of trouble in the second round.
Kumar: Bernabe Zapata Miralles. The 25-year-old Spaniard, who had never advanced past the second round of a Grand Slam tournament, beat a top-15 player (Fritz) and a top-30 player (Isner) at this year’s French Open, making it to the fourth round. There, he played Zverev, and even though he lost in straight sets, he definitely made Zverev work hard. After the match, the world No. 2 said, “He was driving me nuts, to be honest … I could barely hit a winner against him.”
Zapata Miralles reached his career-high ranking of 90 this month. What’s more impressive is that he has had to play qualifiers in both the French Open and now Wimbledon to get to the main draw. I definitely see him continuing his form in this year’s grass-court season.
Youngmisuk: I’m going with No. 23-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia as well. She has been hot this grass-court season, winning at Nottingham and Birmingham and making the semifinals in Eastbourne, against some big names. She’s only won on grass and has nothing to lose.
We haven’t seen Serena Williams play singles in a year — how do you expect her to do?
Evert: It’s hard to tell how she is playing by watching her play doubles. It’s hard to tell about her moving side to side, and it’s hard to gauge how quickly her instincts will come back. Her power is there, her serve looks great and we know she handles pressure well. It will be interesting!
Jensen: I have absolutely no intel on Williams. It just seems like a chance for her to return to Centre Court and say goodbye to the game that absolutely loves and respects her. She is talented enough to make a run, but asking someone with absolutely no tournament play in 12 months to win seven matches over two weeks is asking a lot.
Shriver: It’s a joy to have her playing again. I suspect her court coverage won’t be good enough to win No. 24, but if her serve is firing on all cylinders, and she plays points with constant aggression not allowing opponents to play offensive, then I can dream of a second week Serena run.
Gilbert: I don’t know a lot about her first opponent, Harmony Tan. Everything here is about if she can get a few wins. If she does get a few, we need to see how her body reacts. If she can get to the second week, it’s a different story. We will know a lot more of where she is at if she gets past the first week.
Drysdale: Williams has been there before, but even the all-time greatest will struggle this year.
Maine: Williams had some great moments and flashes of her signature brilliance during her two matches in Eastbourne and showed her power and serve are still very much there (those three consecutive aces when facing break points in the quarterfinal match? *Chef’s kiss*). But that was doubles, and, as evidenced time and time again, the women’s field is so incredibly deep. Anyone can beat anyone and players tend to bring their A+-game against the superstar.
Still, she has a winnable first two matches, against world No. 113 Tan in her opener and then likely Sara Sorribes Tormo (whom she defeated in doubles at Eastbourne). If she were to escape both of those opponents, she would potentially have a tricky third-round test against Karolina Pliskova, the No. 6 seed and 2021 Wimbledon runner-up. That matchup would give a pretty good indication of exactly where her level is right now, and if she were to win, well, anything is possible.
Hamilton: We’ve seen glimpses of the old Williams in her two doubles matches with Jabeur at Eastbourne. But you have to remember this is her only competitive tennis since last year’s first-round retirement. Williams has surprised us before, and hopefully will again, but it would be a triumph for her to reach the second week.
Cambers: I was quite impressed by Serena in doubles in Eastbourne, but doubles is very, very different to singles, especially when, as Pliskova put it so kindly, you’ve been out for a while and are getting on a bit (I paraphrase). It’s asking a lot for her to get into the second week, though with champions like Williams, you just never know. If she gets on a roll, she’s capable of anything and the day off between matches will help with recovery. But injury is always a possibility, and if someone makes her run, she’ll struggle. I’d say Week 2 would be a pretty decent effort.
Connelly: We’ve seen so little of her of late, and we’re all guessing, but what tends to happen when players reach a certain position on the aging curve is, they often still look like themselves, only a bit less frequently. I expect her to play at a high level, then — not including retirements and withdrawals, after all, she’s still 14-3 in Slams over the past two years — but maybe only for a while.
She’s got a decent draw. If she reaches the fourth round or quarters, it’s a wonderfully successful return. Third round isn’t bad. Regardless, here’s to hoping for a nice run of injury-free play.
Kumar: It’s safe to say it’s not going to be easy for the 23-time Grand Slam champion. She looked good in practice sessions leading up, but being in match shape is a whole other thing, especially at 40 years old. That being said, we’re talking about Serena Williams here. She has come back from a life-threatening childbirth — and a 16-month hiatus from Grand Slams — to win the French Open back in 2018. If that is any indication, we can surely expect her to step up her game come June 27.
Youngmisuk: Anything past third round should be gravy for Williams after this long of a layoff. This really should be about enjoying the opportunity to see her on grass again. Federer’s absence should be a reminder to cherish the moments that we get to see all-time great champions like Williams play toward the end of their careers. If she can get to the fourth round, Williams could be dangerous with nothing to lose at all.
Can Rafael Nadal find a way to win, yet again?
Evert: Nadal can absolutely win here if his foot holds up. He is a great grass-court player who has improved every year to shorten his swing, shorten his rallies — and he is effective at the net, winning more points than before. You could never count him out!
Jensen: The two-time Wimbledon champion has never entered Wimbledon after winning the previous two majors. Why not go for the calendar Grand Slam. Nadal has overcome COVID-19, broken ribs and major foot issues to get to this point so there is nooooo wayyyyy I’m going to count Nadal out … ever!
Drysdale: He is second only to Djokovic to win the title. It’s a truly close call between these two.
Maine: Grass has traditionally been his weakest surface, he hasn’t played at Wimbledon in three years and he’s still dealing with a debilitating foot injury, so logically all signs point to no here. But we’re talking about Rafael Nadal. He has overcome pain and challenging opponents and defied just about every odd all season.
Of the three Slams thus far this year, this will most certainly be the most challenging for Nadal, with Marin Cilic, Auger Aliassime and Berrettini as potential foes en route to the final, but how on earth could anyone count him out now?
Hamilton: Every time before a major tournament this year, Nadal has talked about how he might be retiring. Then he goes and wins it. It’s been a similar narrative leading up to Wimbledon as he underwent his radiofrequency nerve ablation on his chronic foot injury post-Roland Garros: If it worked then he’d play on; if it didn’t and the pain remained, then he’d have career-altering decisions to make. Thankfully, it looks like it has worked and Nadal has been training at SW19 this week on Centre Court. Of course he can find a way to win and it’d take a brave soul to bet against him.
Cambers: Yep. This is Nadal we’re talking about. He could barely walk after winning in Paris, and yet now he looks strong again, and with the form he has been in, you can’t write him off. It’s not going to be easy — he has not won here since 2010 — but in his past two visits, he made the semis. It’ll take someone playing very, very good tennis to beat him if he stays healthy and if he makes it to the semis, then who would say he won’t go all the way. The carrot of the third leg of the calendar year Slam might help too.
Connelly: The brain says no, of course not. The pain that he’s been evidently playing through for a while will catch up to him eventually, and on his worst surface another seven-match winning streak is too much to ask for.
The heart says … why the heck not? If he looked that good in Paris just last month, why can’t he keep it going? He has reached the semifinals each of the past two times he went to the All England Club, and he lost 10-8 in the fifth to Djokovic the last time he was there! Of course he can keep this going!
Kumar: This is so hard — but I’m going to say yes! Nadal is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam for the first time in his entire career at age 36. A perfect 14-0 in Grand Slams this year. Let that sink in. Despite the issues with his foot and back, Nadal has found a way to elevate his game, particularly at the majors. Also, he knows what it takes to win at Wimbledon. He has done it twice, and both years after winning at Roland Garros. So, if anybody can go out there and win the entire thing, it’s him.
Youngmisuk: Absolutely. The foot and surface combined are trouble, no doubt. But Nadal’s already legendary never-give-up attitude has only grown this year. Doubt Rafa at your own risk. Nadal can make this dream year so far become a historic one. He’s going to give it his all, which is good enough to put him in contention even here at Wimbledon, where he hasn’t won since 2010.
Betting on the French Open
Is there a betting value play on the women’s side you like?
Gilbert: I’d be tempted to take a flier on Gauff, coming off her success at the French. If you feel like Swiatek is vulnerable, I feel like 10-15 different women could win it at that point. I am not as confident with her on grass, so Gauff is someone that I would take here.
Is there a betting value play on the men’s side you like?
Gilbert: I would take a flier on Kyrgios at 18-1. His ceiling is very high and he is his own worst enemy. High risk, high reward. Another young guy I like is young Brit Draper (100-1) as he has huge upside. Might not win this one, but the kid is capable of winning this event at some point. I would not be surprised if an unseeded player makes the semis, if you can bet on that.
If you had to pick a longer shot to play, who would it be?
Gilbert: For long shot, going Kyrgios at 18-1. He’s 45th in the world and in play here. One of best serves around and he is very comfortable on grass. On the women’s side, my long-shot advice is to take any unseeded player to make semis or, in this event, take the field to win the title, unlike at the French.