This year will see the 132nd iteration of the Wimbledon Championships, and the 125th instance in which women will compete for the ultimate prize in tennis.
The 2018 Ladies Singles Championship is also set to be one of the most keenly-contested with no single player expected to dominate and a handful of stars capable of lifting the title.
Below, we’ll look at five of the top contenders, while asking who is likely to prevail at the end of the two weeks.
1. Serena Williams
In many ways, 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams looked as though she had never been away during the French Open.
Despite an extended hiatus during which she gave birth to her first child and endured a pulmonary embolism, she powered through the early rounds before being forced to retire with a pectoral muscle injury ahead of her fourth-round match with Maria Sharapova.
The decision to withdraw from Roland-Garros will also have helped the 36-year old Williams to prepare for Wimbledon, with her coach confirming that she’ll be fit to play at SW19 and will compete for her eighth singles title. Williams could even be seeded first on her return, despite currently holding a world ranking of 183rd.
Regardless, she’ll start the tournament as a clear front-runner, with some bookies offering odds of 6/1 for her to win. This is easy to understand, particularly given her pedigree at the All England Club and the fact that she’s managed to win the last two Championships that she’s competed in at SW19.
Even a below-par Serena can progress deep into the tournament, although much will depend on the draw, her seeding and whether her current fitness levels can sustain her during two weeks of top-flight tennis.
Lifting her 24th Grand Slam may prove to be a little beyond her on this occasion, but she certainly cannot be discounted and remains one of the favourites.
2. Venus Williams
The 38-year old Venus is older than her sister and has been written off at numerous junctures in her career.
Still, she enjoyed something of a renaissance last year, reaching the finals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and WTA finals before falling at the final hurdle. It must also be remembered that she has won five singles titles at SW19, while prevailing in six doubles’ finals.
The last of these came in 2008, while her recent form has hardly given cause for optimism. She was dumped out of the Australian Open in the first round by Belinda Bencic, before suffering a similar fate against Qiang Wang at Roland Garros.
This was the first time that Venus had ever list in the first round of two consecutive Grand Slams, while her clay court campaign has also seen her fail to progress beyond the third round of any tournament.
So, while Venus’ penchant for grass and past performance at SW19 gives her an outside chance of success, she’s not expected to replicate her finals run from last year this time around.
3. Simona Halep
While the Romanian Simona Halep is not considered as a grass court specialist, this year’s Wimbledon could hardly have come at a better time for the 26-year old.
After all, she finally ended her Grand Slam duck at the fourth attempt at the French Open, ultimately vanquishing Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. This followed a harrowing, three-set defeat against Caroline Wozniacki in the 2018 Australian Open, and previous showpiece losses at Roland Garros in 2014 and 2017.
Halep also impressed throughout the clay court season, reaching the final in Rome before losing in straight sets to Elina Svitolina.
With momentum and a number one ranking behind her (not to mention a competitive nature and deceptively solid all-court game), Halep is well placed to challenge at SW19 whole she offers genuine value to punters at odds of 14/1.
We’d certainly expect her to last deep into the second week, with a third consecutive Grand Slam final appearance not beyond her.
4. Garbiñe Muguruza
While world number three Mugururza may arrive at SW19 as the defending champion after defeating Venus Williams last year, she’s only the third favourite to lift the crown at odds of around 8/1.
Much of this has to do with her mixed recent form, which began at the Australian Open in January with a shock defeat to world number 88 Hsieh Su-wei in the second round. This was followed by amendments to her coaching team and a slight improvement in form, only for the 24-year old Spaniard to exit Indian Wells in the second found following a three-set defeat to the world number 100 Sachia Vickery.
An inconsistent clay court season was then concluded with a surprise run to the French Open final, only for the world number three to succumb to Halep as she failed to repeat her 2016 Roland Garros win.
Give this, and with a second-round defeat to the unseeded Barbora Strýcová in the Birmingham Classic hardly representing the ideal preparation for Wimbledon, it’s hard to know which iteration of Muguruza we will see in London.
Still, she’s a force to be reckoned with when on form, with her powerful ground strokes and solid serve ideally suited to the grass of Wimbledon.
5. Petra Kvitová
Interestingly, some bookies have installed Kvitová as the 11/2 favourite to win this year’s Wimbledon, despite a difficult 2017 that saw her struggle to recover from a knife attack in her home.
Still, she has since returned to something like her best form, reaching the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open last September and soaring to eighth place in the world rankings as of June 18th this year.
Now 28, Kvitová is currently appearing the quarter-finals at the Birmingham Classic, having comfortably beaten Britain’s Johanna Konta in the first round. She also boasts outstanding pedigree on grass, with her two Grand Slam titles having been won at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014.
It’s also important to note that Kvitová followed up a first round defeat at the Australian Open with an impressive clay court season, winning two consecutive titles in Prague and Madrid (the latter of which made her the first women to lift this trophy on three occasions) in the process.
This was undermined slightly by a third-round defeat at Roland Garros, but an in-form Kvitová is a frightening prospect on grass while she may sense an opportunity to add to her Grand Slam haul as her rivals falter.