Women’s Wimbledon Update and Final Week Predictions

By David Arkow

With 120 singles matches completed on the women’s side of the draw, that provides a great opportunity to look back at some of the best matches so far and look forward to the exciting matchups to come in the final weekend. At the start of the tournament, we simulated the original draw to give all players a probability not only to win the whole tournament but also to reach a specific round. For example, at the start of the tournament, Ash Barty had a 54% chance of reaching the quarterfinals given that she had to win four matches to get there. Now that Barty has reached the quarters, along with 7 other players, we can run a new simulation to give new probabilities for each of the remaining players to advance. Obviously, all of their current probabilities to win the title will be greater than their original as there are only 8 players remaining (3 rounds) as opposed to the initial 128 players (7 rounds).

Big Upsets

Having a draw with 128 players, there is pretty much guaranteed to be some big upsets. Using the initial simulation, we can quantify exactly how rare certain upsets are rather than just looking at the seeds or rankings of players. Grass courts, as opposed to hard and clay, likely have the most upsets as it is the most unfamiliar for the players. Especially this year with so few warm-up tournaments between the French and Wimby, players weren’t as fine tuned for the sharp transition from the slowest to the fastest surface. There was also no grass court season held in 2020 so some players were playing their first match on grass in over two years. It also greatly advantages certain playing styles (big servers, volleyers, slicers) more so than other surfaces. After the first four rounds of the tournament, here are some of the most surprising upsets.

Similar to the French Open, the women’s side of the draw has seen much more upsets than the men’s. Through the first two rounds, only four of the top ten seeds remained. Serena Williams retired through just six games after slipping on the grass and suffering a leg injury. This also happened to Adrian Mannarino on the men’s side who after slipping had to default heading into a deciding set against Federer. Many players have been complaining about the slipperiness of the grass this year but it’s hard to know if it’s truly different or they just haven’t had as many warm up tournaments.

Two-time champion and No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova lost her opener to No. 73 Sloane Stephens but some of the writing might have been on the wall. Kvitova retired in the second round of the French with an ankle injury. Sloane Stephens made a solid run to the fourth round at Roland Garros before being dispatched by eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova. Stephen’s first round upset over Kvitova was also her fourth consecutive match against a Czech opponent. 

The most surprising run on the women’s side was definitely 18 year-old Emma Raducanu. As the 338th ranked player, she received a wildcard into the main draw as one of the top British prospects. In her Grand Slam debut, Raducanu made it all the way to fourth round even though she had a relatively easier path not facing a seed. Without ever playing a main draw WTA match, Raducanu did not even have an Elo rating. Just using the median rating of qualifiers, she would have had no more than a 35% chance of winning in any of her matches. Sadly, she had to retire in her last match as she appeared to hyperventilate on court. Perhaps, Raducanu can be the first British female to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1977. 

Predicting the Rest of Wimbledon

It appears that Barty’s injuries haven’t bothered her as she has only dropped a single set this tournament. In an all-Australian matchup, Barty will face Ajla Tomljanovic who is the lowest ranked remaining player in the draw at No. 75. The two have never met but Barty is heavily favored with an 86% chance. Barty entered the tournament with a 25% chance to win the whole tournament and has almost doubled her odds which are now at 45%. A potential semi-final meeting with No. 26 Angelique Kerber could very well decide the champion as the two have the highest championship probabilities of the remaining eight women. Barty would have the edge in this encounter (67% chance) even though she is 2-3 against Kerber in her career. This is already Barty’s deepest Wimbledon run of her career and look for her to capitalize on her momentum heading into her final matches. 

As the only former champion remaining in the draw, Kerber has the second best remaining odds at 16%. As her best career surface (73% career winning percentage) and Slam (74% Wimbledon winning percentage), Kerber has the greatest difference between her overall Elo ranking (30th) and grass (4th).  Kerber won her home country warm-up tournament in Bad Homburg a week before and has carried that momentum into London. Her opponent, Muchova lost in the quarters at Wimbledon in 2019 and it looks likely (75% chance) that the same fate will befall her against Kerber.

Unseeded Viktorija Golubic has been moving through American women knocking off Danielle Collins, Madison Brengle, and Madison Keys all in a row. She will now face the higher ranked Czech Karolina left in the draw in No. 8 seed Pliskova. Despite reaching a No. 1 world ranking in 2017, Pliskova has never won a Slam title and is in her deepest Wimbledon run of her career. She is the most likely player to emerge from the bottom half of the draw and reach the finals (37% chance). 

Despite the gap in seeding, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 21 Ons Jabeur is the tightest quarterfinal matchup by probability. The pair are two of the best WTA players in this calendar year tied for the most match wins with 32. Jabeur ranks 8th in grass Elo and Sabalenka ranks 10th giving Jabeur the slight edge at 53%. They have split their two career matches with Jabeur winning the most recent battle earlier this year in Abu Dhabi. The highest-ranked Arab WTA player in history, Jabeur won the Birmingham tournament on grass shortly after making a run to the fourth at the French. She has gone through tough opponents defeating former champion and No. 11 seed Garbine Muguruza in the third and former French Open champion and No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek in the fourth. Both Jabeur and Sabalenka had nearly identical odds (~27%) at the outset of the tournament to reach the quarters and now they will meet in a mathematically fated match. 

The women’s side of Wimbledon has proven to be full of exciting upsets allowing new stars to emerge alongside traditional favorites in the final weekend. Fans have lots to root for whether it is for Barty to win her second career Slam, Kerber to win her second Wimbledon, or a first-time champion.

David Arkow '24 is an economics major and member of the Harvard Varsity Men's Tennis Team. He also serves on the board of HSAC. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach out to him darkow@college.harvard.edu. You can check out his original preview of the women's draw along with his updated preview of the men's draw.

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