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Wimbledon 2022: Swiatek starts favourite; Jabeur, Kerber, Serena, Halep among main challengers (preview)

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Author : Indo Asian News Service

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London, June 26 (IANS) World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, on a superb winning streak, will start as a favourite for the women's singles title at Wimbledon 2022, which gets underway on Monday without defending champion Ashleigh Barty.

But Swiatek has done a remarkable job stepping into Barty's shoes after the former number one's sudden retirement in April. The 21-year-old Polish star has not lost a match since taking over the top spot on the WTA Tour and will be hoping to go undefeated in the year's third Grand Slam.

Swiatek is looking for her second career Grand Slam after winning the French Open.

On Tuesday at Wimbledon, Swiatek will once again step into Barty's shoes. With the retirement of the defending champion, Swiatek has been given the honor of opening play on Centre Court. It is an honor made even more special this year, as Wimbledon celebrates 100 years of Centre Court in its current location.

"I know that there have been some discussions about who should open, and I feel really privileged that I've been chosen," Swiatek told reporters at Media Day. "There are many players here who have won Wimbledon and had a great tournament. I wasn't expecting that because still I only made it to the fourth round last year and that's my best result.

"I feel privileged and proud of myself mostly. Hopefully, it's going to be a good show," she was quoted as saying in a report on the WTA website.

Last year at Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu made her tournament debut as a wildcard ranked No.338 and put together an inspired run to the Round of 16. A year on, the 19-year-old British star is the reigning US Open champion and No.10 seed at her home Slam.

In just her second Wimbledon main draw appearance, Raducanu will make her Centre Court debut when she faces Belgium's Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round on Monday. She has been scheduled between two of the game's greats, with six-time champion Novak Djokovic opening play before her and two-time champion Andy Murray to follow.

Ons Jabeur will also be in action on an opening day.

The Tunisian will celebrate her rise to a career-high ranking at No.2 by kicking off play on a show court for the second straight Slam. But this time, Jabeur will be on her toes. As in Paris, Jabeur comes into Wimbledon as one of the in-form players and favorites for the title, having won her second title of the season in Berlin.

But at Roland Garros, Jabeur struggled to handle the nerves of being in the first match on Court Philippe Chatrier on Day 1, losing in three sets to Magda Linette. Jabeur says she took a lot of lessons from the loss, which proved true in watching her handle the pressure of being the top seed in Berlin. But Monday will be an important test and an opportunity to put her Paris heartbreak behind her.

Angelique Kerber is one of five former champions in the draw and will be stepping on the court on Monday. It is the only Slam at which she has made two finals, having made her first in 2016 and winning in 2018. Tack on her semifinal runs in 2012 and 2021 and it's indisputable that Wimbledon has been Kerber's most fruitful Slam.

Though her first-round rival Kristina Mladenovic is now ranked outside the Top 100, she did beat Kerber in their last meeting, which came in the first round of the 2019 US Open.

The 2019 champion Simona Halep is another player hoping to recapture the title again, coming into the event as a semifinalist at the Bad Homburg Open where she had to withdraw due to a neck injury.

The former World No. 1 has won 26 out of her 34 matches this season and has reached the semifinals of the Indian Wells Open and the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open.

In the Wimbledon build-up, she reached the semifinals at Eastbourne before losing to eventual winner Beatriz Haddad Maia.

The one to watch in the draw will be multiple-time champion Serena Williams, who is returning after a long gap. Though Serena is coming into Wimbledon without much match practice, she is always capable of surprising her opponents and fans.

The seven-time champion, who needs one more Grand Slam to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 titles, will open her campaign against Harmony Tan in the first round and faces a potential third-round clash against 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova.

--IANS

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