With the start of Wimbledon now just days away, Andy Swales is here with the form guide for this year's women's singles event at SW19... ...
"The 28-year-old from the Czech Republic has enjoyed a strong first half to the season, winning five titles on the WTA Tour – including the grass court event in Birmingham."
The battle to win this year's women's singles title is probably more fascinating than the men's.
As yet, no one has become the dominant force in the women's game, since Serena Williams took time out in 2017 to start a family.
Grass court expertise appears thin on the ground, with nobody heading to south-west London as the clear favourite.
As things stand, the player who looks in the best shape right now is two-time former champion Petra Kvitova.
The 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, and winner in 2011 and 2014, has enjoyed a strong first half to the season winning five titles on the WTA Tour - including the grass court event in Birmingham.
The only concern is the hamstring injury which forced her to withdraw from the event in Eastbourne a few days ago.
She said, with Wimbledon coming up, she wasn't prepared to take a risk, so pulled out of her third round tie with Agnieszka Radwanska.
Serena's Back In Town
Meanwhile Serena Williams, who missed last year's event pending the birth of her first child, is effectively chasing a third successive title following her victories in 2015 and 2016.
The last and only time she chased 'three-in-a-row' at Wimbledon, she made it all the way to the final, before losing in straight sets to a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova 14 years ago.
On paper, the 23-time Grand Slam winner appears to be short of real match practice going into next week's championships, having contested just seven competitive games since the start of 2018.
However, with few top-class grass court specialists in the women's game, you wouldn't rule her out of claiming an eighth singles success at SW19.
And the draw has been kind to the 36-year-old who will become a serious threat the longer she remains in the tournament.
The same applies to her sibling Venus who usually looks a little shaky at the start of Grand Slams but grows as the competition hots up.
The older Williams recently celebrated her 38th birthday and, even though she suffered first round defeats in Melbourne and Paris earlier this year, grass is a different experience altogether.
In Serena's absence 12 months ago, Venus lost in the final, having reached the last four the previous year.
She hasn't won a tournament on the WTA Tour since February 2016 but remains a contender at Wimbledon.
That brings us to defending champion Garbine Muguruza who is developing a reputation for playing her best tennis in slams.
The 24-year-old Venezuela-born Spaniard is certainly not scared of winning big, and is the only player to have beaten both Serena and Venus in Grand Slam finals.
As with the American sisters, Muguruza improves the longer she survives in tournaments, and cannot be ruled out these next two weeks.
While the United States is struggling to unearth young talent in the men's game, it certainly isn't a problem in the women's
Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys have grown in stature during the past year, with the former beating her friend in the final of the US Open last September.
Yet it could be Keys who offers the biggest threat at Wimbledon, with the 23-year-old from Florida the only player to reach the quarter-final stage in each of the last three women's slams.
Angelique Kerber is playing well again, having suffered a dip in form following her excellent run in 2016 when she became world No 1.
The current No 1 Simona Halep has reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon three times during the last four years - once going on to the semi-finals.
But it's unlikely that the Romanian would get the better of Serena, Venus, Kvitova or Muguruza on this surface, if they were to meet during the latter stages of the tournament.
As for the rest of the women's game, most of the other leading players appear to be a little brittle.
Karolina Pliskova should be challenging for the title, but has never survived beyond the second round at Wimbledon, while Caroline Wozniacki is certainly more confident after claiming a maiden slam crown in Australia in January.
Whatever happens, the potential is there for the women's singles event to throw up more shocks than the men's, so let's hope the weather remains hot to give us two weeks of spectacular tennis.
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Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
Last 10 Wimbledon Performances
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