Sabalenka looking to continue streak of first time Wimbledon winners

There has been a different name on the women's singles Venus Rosewater Dish for seven years

Tennis - Wimbledon Preview - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - June 27, 2024 Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka during a practice session REUTERS/Paul Childs
Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka during a practice session ahead of the Wimbledon Championships (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)

By James Toney at Wimbledon

There’s so much familiar about Wimbledon, a Championship so deeply embedded into the rhythm of our summers.

In the last 20 years the men’s trophy has been lifted by just five players, the great triumvirate of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, twice by Andy Murray and, last year, by this sport’s future great - Carlos Alcaraz.

In contrast, there have been seven different winners of the last seven women’s singles titles.

Aryna Sabalenka is looking to be number eight and underline her remarkable and unrivalled consistency at Grand Slam level.

She's reached the last four in her last two appearances here and is a semi-finalist in eight of her last 11 Slams, with back-to-back Australian Open wins her career highlight.

"Everyone can beat everyone, and everyone can win a Grand Slam, the level is increased to another level," she said.

"Apart from Iga (Świątek) on a clay court, nobody is dominating our Tour. Anybody can do anything.

"I have my chance here as there is no specific player who is dominating grass court."

Sabalenka starts her campaign against unseeded American Emina Bektas on No.1 Court on Monday.

There is no doubting her game is perfect for this surface but there are, increasingly, two Arynas.

One an unstoppable force and pure joy to watch, effortlessly switching gears between bruising forehands and deft volleys. The other so frustrating when her radar stutters.

The prevailing narrative in recent days has been players arriving at the All England Club fighting for fitness - and Sabalenka is no different.

She struggled with an illness during the French Open and withdrew from a recent tournament in Berlin with a shoulder injury, admitting her concerns it will survive the pressure of a Grand Slam fortnight.

"I'm not 100 percent fit but we're doing everything we can to get ready, we just have to hope it is enough," she added.

“I've been struggling with a lot of things health-wise, injury-wise. My body is showing me that I have to take care of myself."

Defending champion Marketa Vondrousova opens her campaign against Spain's Jéssica Bouzas Maneiro on Tuesday.

But if her face wasn't plastered all over the All England Club, it's not a stretch to say she could walk around here undisturbed.

"I think the draw is really open for the women's singles, we can expect many surprises, especially on grass," she said.

"I feel like you never know what's going to happen here at Wimbledon. In women's tennis every match is tough, the first round is hard, nothing is easy."