Stocked with players new and old, the world No. 2 and the world No. 87, multi-Grand Slam champions, and those with everything to prove, the 2017 Wimbledon women’s quarterfinals are delightfully uncertain.
The most intriguing match is between five-time Wimbledon champion and tennis icon Venus Williams and 20-year-old relative newcomer Jelena Ostapenko, who rocketed from world No. 47 to No. 12 after winning the French Open in June. After losing the first set of the tournament to Qiang Wang, Williams rolled through Elise Mertens, Naomi Osaka and Ana Konjuh without dropping a set. Ostapenko’s first two Wimbledon matches went to three sets, her third match was a tough 7-5, 7-5 win over Camila Giorgi, and she won her fourth-round match over Elina Svitolina in a second-set tiebreak. Ostapenko plays with a composure beyond her years, but Williams is far more experienced on the big stage. Williams won her first of seven Grand Slams at Wimbledon in 2000, when Ostapenko was three years old. Both players absolutely crush their groundstrokes, and if Ostapenko can limit her unforced errors she might continue her incredible 2017. The two have never played each other.
The match between 32-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the first of her two Grand Slams in 2002, and 23-year-old Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, who won her only major last year at the French Open, is another one between an aging star and a rising one. Seventh-seeded Kuznetsova holds the edge—she’s yet to drop a set in the tournament and looks supremely confident—but 14-seed Muguruza is fresh off a three-set win over world No. 1 Angelique Kerber. Muguruza hasn’t won a title in 2017, but she reached the round of 16 at the French Open and the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. Muguruza and Kuznetsova have played four times, with Muguruza holding the 3-1 edge.
In the third quarterfinal, World No. 87, the 28-year-old Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, will play world No. 25 American Coco Vandeweghe. Rybarikova is the cinderella story of the bunch—after two surgeries on her wrists, she’d been off the tour for most of the past year. In her three grass-court tournaments leading up to Wimbledon, though, she won two—at Ilkley and Surbiton—and made the semifinals at Nottingham, losing to top-seeded Johanna Konta. The two have played twice, with Rybarikova winning both, including a first-round, straight-set win at the French Open this year. At Wimbledon, though, Vandeweghe hasn’t dropped a set. Neither player has won a Grand Slam.
The final match features the six-seed, Britain’s Johanna Konta, versus Romanian second-seed Simona Halep. Halep’s path to her first Grand Slam was wide open at the French Open—with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova out and Kerber on shaky ground, she was the pre-tournament favorite to win. Then she was roundly outhit by Ostapenko in the final.
At Wimbledon, Halep dispatched former world No. 1 Viktoria Azarenka, who recently returned from maternity hiatus, in straight sets, while Konta beat France’s Caroline Garcia in a tough three-set match to reach the quarters. Halep undoubtedly knows her window to win a major, without going through Serena Williams, is closing. Konta, who was born in Australia, is playing not only for her first major title, but for the hearts of her countrymen, who haven’t embraced her as warmly as other British-born stars. The two have played twice; Konta won both, including a quarterfinal match at Miami this year.
The bookmakers currently favor Konta to win, but without defending champion Serena Williams and the injured Sharapova standing in the way, the title is up for grabs.