The grass is mown, the strawberries have been affixed with cream, and the coloured outfits have made way for the whites. Wimbledon 2018 is upon us.
For as much as Roland Garros belonged to the two players at the top of the game – Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep – the Championships centre around the two at the top of most all-time lists: Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Both come in looking to bearing the very familiar “favourite” tag in their question to re-cement their grand slam primacy, but looking at the field, they’ve certainly got their work cut out for them.
From Nadal and Halep, to Muguruza, Cilic, Venus, Del Potro, Kvitova, Djokovic, Sharapova, Kyrgios, Raonic and Konta (to name but a few), the list of names that could reasonably be envisioned to end up on the winner’s trophies is tantalisingly long. Suffice to say, we’re in for a cracking two weeks.
Of course, time is precious, and no normal human can be expected to watch all 254 matches – that’s where we come in. Whether on centre or court 17, whether on the ground or on your couch, check this space for a look at the matches you won’t want to miss.
Here’s your three to see on Day 1 at the Championships.
Donna Vekic (CRO) v Sloane Stephens (USA)  – First on Court 1 (1:00pm start)
Yet to set foot on grass after her run to a second major final in Paris, Sloane Stephens now gets Donna Vekic, who if nothing else is battle-tested on the surface. The just-turned 22-year-old Croatian has been playing for three-weeks straight on the green stuff, her best result being a semifinal appearance in Nottingham (a tournament she won last year), and that level of activity should serve her well against Stephens, who can be hit-or-miss on grass. Even in the case that “good” Sloane shows up, Vekic has a game that should trouble the defensively-oriented Stephens, who would do well to come through this in straights.
Richard Gasquet (FRA)  v Gael Monfils (FRA) – Third on Court 2 (11:30am start)
With Wimbledon comes the height of the British summer, and what better way for the locals to kickstart their celebrations than with an all-French showdown? Perhaps not quite the marquee encounter it once was, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet are nevertheless two players who still know how to entertain, and have enjoyed one of the more hard-fought rivalries on tour, which Monfils leads 9-7. As likely to feature many arduous baseline exchanges as the occasional moment of improvisational brilliance, this should be another cracker, one which has all the makings of a see-saw five sets.
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) v Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) – Third on Centre
Suffice to say, Stan Wawrinka has not enjoyed an easy comeback from his 2017 knee injury, and it’s not set to get any easier with Grigor Dimitrov on deck. You’d have to go back to Madrid 2013 to find the last time the Swiss defeated Dimitrov, with the Bulgarian taking all four meetings since, and the smart money will be on that trend to continue. Nevertheless, this is a three-time major winner we’re talking about, one who you have to assume is getting healthier by the day, against a player known for shaky grand slam performances – it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this is the match Stan finds his footing, and that alone makes this one worth checking in on.