Wimbledon ladies’ 1st round: Serena, Sharapova, Watson star on day one
Wimbledon 2015 has finally arrived, and some top names such as Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and home hope Heather Watson are in action on day one in the ladies’ singles draw.
Five-time champion here Williams (13/8 favourite with Coral) will be hoping to lift her first All-England Club title since 2012, and by doing so she’d hold all four major trophies – US Open, Australian Open and French Open too.
If she does manage that feat, she’ll also be on course to claim her first career Grand Slam in a calendar year, and first up she faces a seemingly simple challenge against Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan.
Williams (1/50 heavy odds-on favourite) has never faced her younger opponent (12/1) before, but is a more enticing 9/2 shout to win the first set 6-0.
The American’s bitter rival Maria Sharapova (10/1 title chance), meanwhile, faces arguably the toughest of first round tasks as she goes up against Britain’s Johanna Konta.
Australian-born Konta recently lit up the Eastbourne International event by knocking out top seeds to reach the quarters, before eventually going out to rising Swiss star and eventual champion Belinda Bencic in three sets.
Sharapova, who won here as a teenager in 2004, is still heavily odds-on at 1/7 to triumph, but back Konta to cause a shock at 4/1, or to at least take a set – Sharapova is 3/1 to win 2-1.
Bencic also features on day one, and the 18-year-old has been somewhat of a revelation this grass court season, as she reached the final of the Topshelf Open in the Netherlands, before winning the AEGON International at Eastbourne.
She will be looking to emulate her Swiss compatriot Martina Hingis, who also won Wimbledon as a teenager way back in 1997, and is a highly tempting 40/1 shout to do so.
Bencic (4/6 for victory) faces Tsvetana Pironkova (11/10), who was a semi-finalist here in 2010, up first, and is 6/4 to triumph in straight sets.
Elsewhere on day one, British number one Watson (5/6) faces a potentially tricky tie against seeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia (also 5/6).
Luckily for Guernsey-born Watson, she has beaten Garcia before 6-1 6-1 in their only meeting, and is 2/1 to win in straight sets once more.
Other names to look out for include Lucie Safarova (1/3), who faces a difficult encounter with Alison Riske (9/4), former champion Venus Williams (2/9), in her match against compatriot Madison Brengle, and Ana Ivanovic (1/16), who takes on Xu Yifan (7/1).
The likes of Daniela Hantuchova, Carla Suarez Navarro, Kirsten Flipkens, Victoria Azarenka, Andrea Petkovic, Sam Stosur, Sloane Stephens and Kaia Kanepi also all feature on day one.
Meanwhile, wildcard Brit Naomi Broady is the odds-on favourite to beat Colombian opponent Mariana Duque (6/5) in the first round.