London - Former
world No 1 Serena Williams returns to Wimbledon after missing
last year's tournament, while reigning champion Garbine Muguruza bids to
retain the Venus Rosewater Dish.
A look at five of the leading contenders for the Wimbledon women's title - and one outsider to watch:
Serena Williams (USA)
The return of the seven-time
Wimbledon champion will hog the spotlight as Williams bids to win her
first Grand Slam title since becoming a mother. Serena, 36, missed
Wimbledon last year while preparing to give birth and has endured a
rocky time since resuming her career earlier this year. The former world
number one's run to the French Open last 16 was ended by a pectoral
injury. But, regardless of her current lowly ranking, if the 23-time
major winner is over that fitness problem she will be a serious
contender for yet another Wimbledon triumph.
Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
The defending champion usually
reserves her best for the big occasions and is one of the leading
candidates to stop Serena making a winning return to Wimbledon. Muguruza
was superb last year, dropping just one set in seven Wimbledon matches
and routing Venus Williams in the final. The Spaniard has undoubted star
quality and her big-hitting game suits grass.
Simona Halep (ROM)
The world number one arrives in
London with serious momentum after finally winning her first Grand Slam
crown. Halep's triumph at the French Open was a cathartic moment, but
her game is more suited to clay than grass. She does boast two
quarter-finals and one semi-final from her last four Wimbledon
Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Kvitova would be one of the most
popular Wimbledon winners in recent years after making her way back to
the top 10 following the horrific stabbing the derailed her career in
2016. The Czech was already a fan favourite at Wimbledon after winning
the title in 2011 and 2014. She goes into the tournament in good form
after lifting the trophy in Birmingham last weekend although a hamstring
injury forced a withdrawal from Eastbourne on Wednesday.
Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Sharapova has not played a match
on grass since losing to Serena in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2015.
Since then the Russian has slowly come back from her doping ban and an
injury last year. The five-time major winner looked much more like her
old self at the French Open, where she made the quarter-finals. But the
31-year-old hasn't won Wimbledon since 2004 and it might be asking too
much to end that drought now.
....'You cannot be serious!'
An outside tip for the Wimbledon title:
Naomi Osaka (JPN)
The 20-year-old world number 18 is the
youngest player in the top 40 and on her Wimbledon debut last year was
only stopped in the third round by former champion Venus Williams.
Inside the top 10 for aces served this year, Osaka has the power from
her 5-foot-11 frame to thrive on fast courts as she showed by
winning the prestigious Indian Wells title in March, defeating Maria
Sharapova and Simona Halep along the way.