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Six takeaways from the 2022 Wimbledon men's and women's draw | Opinion

·7 min read
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After a year away from the sport, Serena Williams will begin her 21st appearance at Wimbledon with a first-round match against 113th-ranked Harmony Tan of France. Wimbledon released its draw Friday, with tournament action set to begin Monday.

All things considered, it should be a relatively favorable matchup for Williams, who has won an Open Era record 23 Grand Slam titles. But with Williams, who turned 40 last fall, there are more unknowns than knowns about how she will perform at this tournament.

After reaching the Australian Open semifinals to begin 2021, Williams’ form was not particularly strong in the spring, winning just four of seven matches before tearing her hamstring in the first round of Wimbledon. She didn’t play another official match until last week, making her return in doubles of a warm-up event in Eastbourne, England.

Williams looked relatively good in those two matches, given the time away, but playing singles is a much different scenario. What does her movement look like? How will her body respond to playing multiple matches? How does she even match up these days against the top women’s players? It’s hard to know.

Though Williams should be able to get through her first round, it’s by no means an easy draw for her on paper. In the second round, she could face 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo, who does not have a lot of weapons but plays a very controlled game, gets a lot of balls back in play because of her movement and has been a tough out for top players over the last couple years.

If Williams advanced out of that match, she would probably face big server Karolina Pliskova, last year’s Wimbledon finalist who hasn’t had the best season but plays well on grass. Many American tennis fans will be rooting for Williams to reach the fourth round and face Coco Gauff, who is up to No. 12 in the world coming off her French Open final appearance.

If Williams somehow advanced through all those obstacles and reached the quarterfinals, either of two former Wimbledon champions in Petra Kvitova or Simona Halep would be the likely opponent.

Of course, draws at Grand Slams usually don't go to form. Early-round upsets could open things up considerably. But on paper, Williams did not get the easiest pathway to a deep run.

Serena Williams has won seven times at Wimbledon.
Serena Williams has won seven times at Wimbledon.

Here are five other takeaways from the men’s and women’s draws:

Rafael Nadal might have to survive grass court specialists early on

Coming off his 14th French Open title and now record 22nd overall Grand Slam, Nadal has apparently been able to treat his chronic foot pain well enough to give it a go at Wimbledon. If Nadal is healthy, he is undoubtedly a threat to win this tournament, which he did in 2008 and 2010. That would give him the first three majors of the season, bringing him to the U.S. Open in August with the chance to win the calendar Grand Slam just like Novak Djokovic attempted to do last year.

Nadal, the No. 2 seed, ended up in the same half of the draw as last year’s finalist, Matteo Berrettini. His quarter includes Felix Auger-Aliassime, who pushed Nadal to five sets in the fourth round at the French Open.

But Nadal could get tested earlier than that. His potential second-round opponent is Sam Querrey, the big serving American who has made the second week at Wimbledon four times and has had some big wins over the likes of then-No. 1 Andy Murray in 2017 and Djokovic in 2016. Another grass-loving American player, Denis Kudla, is a good bet to reach Nadal in the third round.

Both top seeds have easy paths to the second week

Novak Djokovic practices on Center Court ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship.
Novak Djokovic practices on Center Court ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship.

Djokovic shouldn’t have any problem getting past Soonwoo Kwon, then likely Thanasi Kokkinakis and potentially Serbian countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the third round. It could get a bit trickier in the round of 16 if big serving, 6-foot-11 American Reilly Opelka gets there, but he’s surprisingly just 2-6 in his career on grass. It probably won’t get interesting for Djokovic, a six-time Wimbledon champion, until the quarterfinals where he might face 19-year-old Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz. Unlike the French Open, Alcaraz comes in just a bit under the radar because he did not play a warm-up tournament on grass and has only played two official matches on the surface. But he’s 32-4 this year, and with his touch and willingness to come to the net behind his powerful groundstrokes, he projects to be a wonderful grass court player over the course of his career.

Women’s No. 1 seed Iga Swiatek, who has won 35 matches in a row, should breeze to the quarterfinals unless she suffers some type of unexpected letdown or injury. We know she can play on grass — she won a junior Wimbledon title and reached the fourth round last year — but she took a well-deserved break after winning the French Open and might have to play her way back into form a little bit. Fortunately for her, not much trouble appears to be lurking in the early rounds.

Spicy second- and third-round matchups loom on the women’s side

Wimbledon didn't end up with many blockbuster first-round matchups, but there could be some fireworks after that. The 2017 champion Garbine Muguruza, who has had a pretty mediocre year, could be slated to face Sloane Stephens. Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion who is working her way back from injuries and a mental health break, could be a real threat to go deep if she can get by No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina in the second round. Emma Raducanu, the out-of-nowhere U.S. Open winner last year who has struggled with some injuries recently, could face veteran Carolina Garcia.

Americans positioned to make noise

Look out for Frances Tiafoe to make a run after getting a pretty favorable draw. Tiafoe, the 24-year-old from Maryland, has had some decent success on grass. In fact, he turned his year around in 2021 by winning a Challenger Tour event in Nottingham and then upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round at Wimbledon. Now up to No. 28 in the world, this draw shook out well for him opening with No. 255-ranked Italian qualifier Andrea Vavassori. The other seed in his section of the draw is Pablo Carreno Busta, who is 1-4 lifetime at Wimbledon. If Tiafoe makes the round of 16, he’d be slated to play a very vulnerable No. 3 seed in Casper Ruud (just 2-4 lifetime on grass) or perhaps veteran David Goffin. It could line up for Tiafoe to make a Slam quarterfinal for the second time in his career.

On the women’s side, Alison Risk usually plays her best on grass and made the quarters in 2019. Seeded 28th here, she should get through to the third round against fellow American Danielle Collins, who has not had a lot of success on grass.

Whoever emerges from that section of the draw would get a decently favorable matchup in the round of 16, possibly against Madison Keys or Raducanu.

Seeds that could be in trouble early

It’s a bit of a mystery why Tsitsipas struggles at Wimbledon, but the world No. 6 has three first-round exists in four appearances. If he gets to the third round, he could have to face the dangerous but volatile Nick Kyrgios, whose game is more dangerous on grass than any other surface. He just beat Tsitsipas last week in Germany.

American John Isner, who made a semifinal run in 2018 but has actually not had a lot of great Wimbledon results, could face two-time champion Murray in the second round. Murray isn’t what he once was since his hip surgery, but he did make the finals in Stuttgart a couple weeks ago and could be formidable here.

Carreno Busta, the 16 seed, might well be an underdog to big serving and unpredictable Alexander Bublik in the second round.  American Jenson Brooksby, the 29th seed, is really inexperienced on grass and drew a difficult opponent in veteran Mikhail Kukushkin.

On the women’s side, No. 2 Annet Kontaveit has been way off form recently and her section of the draw could be blown wide open if she has an early exit. Barbora Krejcikova, the No. 13 seed, has been sidelined much of this year due to injuries. She could be in trouble in the second round against either Viktorija Golubic, who made the Wimbledon quarters last year, or veteran Andrea Petkovic. American Jessica Pegula, the No. 8 seed, drew a difficult first-round opponent in Donna Vekic.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wimbledon: Serena returns after year off; Djokovic goes for No. 7