COMMENTARY | It's finally that time of year again. Get ready to load up on strawberries and cream to watch as the players wear (literally) and tear the grass at the All England Club. The Wimbledon Championships, which begin Monday, June 24, have some promising first-round women's matches that you may want to keep an eye on.
Here's what to watch:
(10) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) vs. Laura Robson (GBR)
Despite Wimbledon being her home Slam, Laura Robson hasn't displayed her best results on the grass at Wimbledon yet. She comes to Wimbledon as a direct entry for the first time this year after receiving wild-cards for the last four years. The Brit's best showing came in 2011 when, at the age of just 17, she lost to Maria Sharapova in the second round. Robson hasn't had the best year in 2013 but since Wimbledon last year, she has had a breakthrough of sorts. She reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open, and upsetting a top 10 player has already been on the agenda for Robson. She's done it three times since then.
Maria Kirilenko will be a tough customer for Robson. The Russian, who finished as a quarter-finalist in London last year, is playing at her best right now. She made it through to the WTA's top 10 for the first time in her career this past June. There's no doubt that this match will be played on Centre Court and despite Kirilenko's top 10 status, the crowd will be behind their local girl. It will be interesting to see how Robson handles the big occasion, and the big name, this time around.
(7) Angelique Kerber (GER) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA)
If you've been following clay-court tennis, you know about Mattek-Sands' recent success in the last couple of months. She reached the semifinals in Stuttgart as a qualifier before falling to Li Na. But revenge came in the sweetest form for the American as she took out the former French Open champ at the Parisian Grand Slam before advancing to the Round of 16. Her confidence was high, she was dropping winners left and right, and, if money could talk, Mattek-Sands' prize money said it all -- she collected a $124,000 check during the tournament, about $2,000 short of her total prize money from last year.
That aside, this will be the first time since 2011 that Mattek-Sands will play at Wimbledon. With a ranking in the 200s this time of year in 2012, the American chose to play in ITF tournaments in hopes of boosting her ranking. But Mattek-Sands is no stranger to Wimbledon. She's been known for her funky on-court outfits -- retro knee-high socks -- and off-court outfits, dressing up in tennis balls to the Wimbledon player party one year. Let's not forget, she's reached the fourth round there, too.
Equally impressive has been Kerber's Wimbledon past. The German had an amazing run at last year's tournament, but it was cut short by Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals. The hard-hitter who already reached the semis of the U.S. Open the previous year, had her best showing on grass.
Mattek-Sands has a 2-0 head-to-head advantage over Kerber coming into their meeting. But her last win over Kerber came in 2011 in Hobart, before Kerber was even in the top 30. Despite her recent success, this will be a different type of test for Mattek-Sands as she faces a distinctively different lefty in Kerber.
(17) Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Jamie Hampton (USA)
Jamie Hampton comes into Wimbledon with a few firsts under her belt. After reaching her first WTA tour singles final at the Wimbledon tuneup in Eastbourne, Hampton cracked the top 25 for the first time.
An all too familiar story comes with the name Sloane Stephens. Earlier this year, the 20-year-old made her top 20 debut before entering the Australian Open, where, in retrospect, she made her best Grand Slam showing right after surprising Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.
Hampton isn't afraid of taking a challenge when it comes to playing in the Slams, either. This year, she took defending champ Victoria Azarenka to three at the Australian Open, and dismissed Petra Kvitova in straight sets at the French Open.
With two young fighters out on the court, Hampton and Stephens will be playing this first-round match as if it were for a spot in the final. Be ready for a highly entertaining match and one of the best first-rounders in the draw.
Heather Watson (GBR) vs. Madison Keys (USA)
Watson is another Brit who will have the home crowd behind her. But will it be enough to overcome teenager Madison Keys? Let's not be too sure of that.
The Brit has third-round points to defend in London, and she will be playing a young woman who will be making her Wimbledon main draw debut.
Keys, who has already been tabbed as one of the top young contenders in the women's game by Agnieszka Radwanska, will be sending powerful groundstrokes Watson's way. At 5 feet 10 inches, Keys will serve up a tough test for Watson, and it will be a hard one to return.
Fortunately, Wimbledon has generously given us some great matches to look forward to on the first few days of the tournament. Which highly anticipated women's first-round match are you most excited to watch?
Olivia Glinka covers on-court and off-court tennis news as a blogger and writer. You can read her content on One Stop Tennis.
Get the latest tennis scoop by following her on Twitter @OneStopTennis.
- Sports & Recreation
- Laura Robson
- Maria Kirilenko
- Angelique Kerber