LONDON — The first day of Wimbledon saw the bottom half of the draw blown wide open with the withdrawals of Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, and the loss of Karolina Pliskova. No player remaining has ever reached the last four at SW19, meaning that two brand new semifinalists and a new finalist are guaranteed this year.

Wimbledon 2024: Scores | Draws | Order of play

Pliskova, the 2021 runner-up to Ashleigh Barty, was the only player who started off in the bottom half who had previously contested a Wimbledon final. Two-time semifinalists Sabalenka (2021, 2023) and Azarenka (2011, 2012) were the only other two who had made the last four before. Both withdrew ahead of their first-round matches due to shoulder injuries.

Opportunity abounds for significant new milestones — but who will take advantage? Here’s a guide to the remaining bottom-half contenders.

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Five Grand Slam champions

No.2 seed and reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff broke through on the big stage as a 15-year-old qualifier at Wimbledon 2019, where she reached the fourth round. Five years on, though, it remains the only major at which the American has yet to make the quarterfinals.

Four-time major winner and former World No.1 Naomi Osaka is playing at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019, and only the fourth time overall in the main draw. She has never gone beyond the third round at Wimbledon, and has only reached one tour-level semifinal on grass — at Birmingham 2018. Osaka, a quarterfinalist in ‘s-Hertogenbosch three weeks ago, is currently ranked No.113 after returning from maternity leave in January.

Home hope Emma Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion, withdrew from Roland Garros in order to focus on the grass swing. So far, that decision has been paying off. The 21-year-old has notched a semifinal showing in Nottingham, followed by a quarterfinal run in Eastbourne. Like Gauff, Raducanu made a breakthrough run to the last 16 of Wimbledon as a lowly-ranked teenager: as a wild card ranked No.338 in 2021, she defeated future champion Marketa Vondrousova en route to the fourth round.

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has only been to the Wimbledon third round once in four previous appearances — last year, where she fell to eventual finalist Ons Jabeur in a high-quality three-setter. The Canadian has, however, reached two grass-court finals in the past two years — Bad Homburg 2023 and ‘s-Hertogenbosch three weeks ago. Andreescu is ranked No.176 after a back injury sidelined her for 10 months between August 2023 and May 2024; Wimbledon is just the fourth tournament of her comeback.

Sloane Stephens is the only former major winner in the bottom half who has also reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals. The 2017 US Open champion made the last eight at SW19 in her second appearance back in 2013, but has not gone beyond the third round since.

Four former Wimbledon quarterfinalists

Along with Stephens, only three other players left in the bottom half have made the last eight of Wimbledon before. No.12 seed Madison Keys has done so twice, in 2015 and 2023; she was stopped first by Agnieszka Radwanska and then by Sabalenka.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was a quarterfinalist in 2016, falling to Serena Williams; and Daria Kasatkina reached that stage in 2018, losing to Angelique Kerber. Kasatkina is fresh off her first career grass-court title in Eastbourne last week, and is on a six-match winning streak.

Champions Reel: How Daria Kasatkina won Eastbourne 2024

Top tenners and dark horses

Sabalenka’s withdrawal was followed on Monday by the first Top 10 loss of the tournament as No.8 seed Zheng Qinwen fell 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 to qualifier Lulu Sun. That result means there are only three Top 10 players left in the bottom half: Gauff, No.7 seed Jasmine Paolini and No.9 seed Maria Sakkari. Roland Garros finalist Paolini’s win over Sara Sorribes Tormo on Monday was her first main draw victory at Wimbledon in four appearances. Sakkari’s best SW19 results to date are a trio of third-round runs (2017, 2019, 2022).

A number of dark horses are also contenders to make a run. Foremost among them is arguably the unseeded 20-year-old, Diana Shnaider, who took out Pliskova 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. The powerful left-hander lifted her first grass-court trophy in Bad Homburg last week, has just cracked the Top 30 for the first time and is on a six-match winning streak.

Champions Reel: How Diana Shnaider won Bad Homburg 2024

Elsewhere, Ukrainians Marta Kostyuk and Dayana Yastremska have both delivered career-best Grand Slam results in 2024. No.18 seed Kostyuk made the Australian Open quarterfinals, and backed that up with a pair of WTA finals in San Diego and Stuttgart. Yastremska made her first major semifinal in Melbourne as well — all the way from qualifying.

Other notable names in the bottom half include No.26 seed Linda Noskova, the 19-year-old Czech who upset Iga Swiatek at the Australian Open; No.19 seed Emma Navarro, a semifinalist in Bad Homburg last week; and former Australian Open semifinalist Elise Mertens.


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