Wim­ble­don: women’s draw could not be more wide open.

In the ab­sence of Ser­ena Wil­liams, the list of po­ten­tial ti­tle win­ners at All Eng­land’s Club is long

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The ab­sence of ex­pec­tant mother Ser­ena Wil­liams and a fail­ure by any of the other top women to pro­duce the kind of dom­i­nance the Amer­i­can seven-time cham­pion has con­sis­tently de­liv­ered makes this year’s Wim­ble­don the most open in years.

As Wil­liams takes time out to give birth to her first child, last year’s los­ing fi­nal­ist and world No 1 An­gelique Ker­ber could be re­garded as the favourite but the Ger­man has en­dured a poor sea­son, and is lack­ing both con­fi­dence and form.

“It is pretty open, you see the re­sults of the tour­na­ments you just can’t pick a win­ner be­cause you never know what to ex­pect, who is go­ing to have the bet­ter week or two,” world No 9 Do­minika Cibulkova said.

“It is about who is go­ing to be the most con­sis­tent, solid and have the luck,” the Slo­vakian added.

Such is the ab­sence of a clear favourite, Pe­tra Kvi­tova, would have to pro­duce one of the most re­mark­able come­backs the sport has ever seen to claim her third Wim­ble­don ti­tle.

In De­cem­ber, her ca­reer was hang­ing by a thread af­ter she was knifed dur­ing a break-in at her house in the Czech Repub­lic, suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous ten­don dam­age to her left hand.

She re­turned to ac­tion at the French Open last month and suf­fered a sec­ond-round de­feat on the Parisian clay, but the two-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion, who tri­umphed in 2011 and 2014, clearly loves grass-court ten­nis. De­spite play­ing down her chances and talk­ing only of get­ting back into the groove, she stormed to the ti­tle in warm-up event at Edg­bas­ton last week, show­ing the kind of ten­nis that makes her such a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent on the quick­est sur­face.

Yet it was typ­i­cal of the cur­rent state of the women’s game that even Kvi­tova’s re-emer­gence had a mod­icum of doubt cast over it when she with­drew from this week’s event at East­bourne with an ab­dom­i­nal strain.

“I showed my­self that I can play five matches in six days, but now I need a bit to re­lax to be ready. I know how tough it is to win a grand slam, so I’m not re­ally see­ing my­self as one of the favourites right now,” Kvi­tova, 27, said.

Her com­pa­triot Karolina Pliskova has had a strong year and will be ex­pected to make a deep run, the tall, big-hit­ter fill­ing the role usu­ally oc­cu­pied by Rus­sia’s Maria Shara­pova, whose re­turn from a drugs ban has been stalled by in­jury.

Pliskova made her grand slam break­through with a run to the US Open fi­nal last year, beat­ing Wil­liams along the way, and fol­lowed up by mak­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals in Aus­tralia and claim­ing two tour ti­tles be­fore go­ing to the French Open.

There she reached the last four and was only a painful semi-fi­nal de­feat by Si­mona Halep away from be­com­ing the world No 1.

How­ever, Pliskova’s record at the All Eng­land Club is poor and she has never ad­vanced past the sec­ond round at Wim­ble­don in five ap­pear­ances.

There are also lo­cal hopes that Jo­hanna Konta could be the first Bri­tish win­ner since Vir­ginia Wade in 1977.

She has es­tab­lished her­self in the top 10 this year and en­joyed her big­gest tour­na­ment win at the Mi­ami Open in March. Konta, 26, has shown im­prove­ment in ma­jors, reach­ing the semis and quar­ter-fi­nals at the past two Australian Opens and fourth round at last year’s US Open. Al­though her sec­ond-round exit last year was her best show­ing at Wim­ble­don, she has shown de­cent form in the warmup events on grass, los­ing in the fi­nal at Not­ting­ham and beat­ing Ker­ber in the quar­ter-fi­nals at East­bourne.

Run­ner-up in 2015, the tall Spa­niard Gar­bine Mugu­ruza must also be part of the con­ver­sa­tion af­ter solid show­ings in Aus­tralia and at Roland Gar­ros.

Ker­ber can­not be ruled out if she can re­turn to her form of last year, nor can Venus Wil­liams, who de­spite be­ing 37 has shown solid form through­out the sea­son and thrives on a sur­face that has seen her win five Wim­ble­don ti­tles.

Victoria Azarenka, re­turn­ing to the cir­cuit af­ter giv­ing birth to a son in De­cem­ber, has twice reached the semi-fi­nals at Wim­ble­don but this year may come too soon in her come­back.

There are also lo­cal hopes that Jo­hanna Konta could be the first Bri­tish win­ner since Vir­ginia Wade in 1977

Getty Im­ages (3), AFP, Reuters

Clock­wise from left: An­gelique Ker­ber, Pe­tra Kvi­tova, Karolina Pliskova, Gar­bine Mugu­ruza and Venus Wil­liams are all con­tenders.

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