WIMBLEDON – How to even begin to project a possible champion on the women’s side, when four of the top eight seeds have yet to even reach a Wimbledon quarterfinal in their careers?
That’s why predictions are a fool’s game, although it can be fun to be wrong as long as you can laugh at yourself, and weren’t foolish enough to wager on the outcome.
The only two former Wimbledon champions among the two eight are reigning queen Garbiñe Muguruza and No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova, who won it twice. They are also the only two to even reach the final.
One player (No. 1 Simona Halep) made a semifinal. Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Garcia have never gone past the fourth round. Sloane Stephens has made one quarterfinal, and big-serving Karolina Pliskova has lost in the second round five straight years.
Meanwhile, there are three former champions (Venus, Serena and Maria Sharapova) and three former finalists (Angelique Kerber, Genie Bouchard, Vera Zvonareva) outside that group.
Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Samantha Stosur all have Grand Slam titles on their resumés.
So what to make of it?
Let’s dive in.
Potential third-round matchups
With Serena Williams, Sharapova and others seeded in the 20s, the big-time clashes will start early.
* Simona Halep vs.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
* Elise Mertens vs.  Johanna Konta
* Jelena Ostapenko vs.  Maria Sharapova
 Petra Kvitova vs.  Daria Gavrilova
* Garbiñe Muguruza vs.  Anett Kontaveit
* Daria Kasatkina vs.  Ashleigh Barty
 Angelique Kerber vs.  Naomi Osaka
 Caroline Garcia vs.  Carla Suárez Navarro
* Karolina Pliskova vs.  Mihaela Buzarnescu
* Venus Williams vs.  Kiki Bertens
* Julia Goerges vs.  Barbora Strycova
 Sloane Stephens vs.  Shuai Zhang
* Elina Svitolina vs.  Serena Williams
* Madison Keys vs.  Magdalena Rybarikova
 Coco Vandeweghe vs.  Anastasia Sevastova
* Caroline Wozniacki vs.  Agnieszka Radwanska
In 11 of those 16 matchups, the lower seed has at least a decent chance to pull off the upset (those with asterisks).
That, of course, assumes all of them go according to form and make their seeding through the first two rounds.
 Simona Halep vs.  Petra Kvitova (or Sharapova)
 Garbiñe Muguruza (or Barty) vs.  Caroline Garcia (or Kerber)
 Sloane Stephens vs.  Karolina Pliskova (or Azarenka, or Venus)
 Caroline Wozniacki (or Radwanska, or Vandeweghe) vs.  Elina Svitolina (or Serena, or Keys)
See? There’s just no way
First-round matchups to watch
 Angelique Kerber (GER) vs. [Q] Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
These two are only a little more than three years apart, and both are former Wimbledon finalists. But surprisingly enough, they have never met.
Zvonareva had been off the Tour for awhile, as she married and had a baby. And that coincided with the period where Kerber rose to the top of the game. But still, it wasn’t as though Kerber was playing low-level ITFs when Zvonareva was around.
This will be the 2010 finalist’s first Wimbledon in four years.
[Q] Genie Bouchard (CAN) vs. [WC] Gabriella Taylor (GBR)
After toughing out three victories as she took part in qualifying for the first time, Bouchard ended up with a very kind draw for her first-round match.
Taylor, a 20-year-old ranked No. 182, won her first two matches on grass this season in Surbiton. She defeated countrywoman Heather Watson and Hungary’s Fanny Stollar back to back. Since then, she has lost three consecutive first-rounders.
She played the junior Wimbledon event three times, and the women’s qualifying event four times. But this will be Taylor’s first Grand Slam main draw – of any kind.
 Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs. Monica Niculescu (ROU)
Niculescu, 30, has one fourth-round effort at Wimbledon on her resumé. That was 2015, and it’s one only two occasions where she has made the second week of a Grand Slam (the other was the US Open in 2011).
Her iconoclastic, funky game of slices and net rushes could frustrate the hard-hitting Osaka on grass. Or the Japanese player could just swipe it away. Either way, it will be fascinating to watch.
Niculescu’s problem is that she has very little play since Miami, and only one grass-court match, this week at an ITF event in Southsea.
Osaka’s problem may be an abdominal injury. She played Nottingham and Birmingham, but retired in her second-round match there against Dalila Jakupovic.
 Caroline Garcia (FRA) vs. Belinda Bencic (SUI)
Bencic is still only 21. But doesn’t it seems as though she’s already lived four tennis lifetimes?
The former No. 7 clawed her way back to a decent ranking when she returned from injury in September of 2017. In fact, she won 15 straight matches (with the loss of only one set) at the 125K and ITF level to close out the season.
And then she went to Hopman Cup and defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Osaka and Coco Vandeweghe (and all four of her mixed doubles matches with her scrub partner Roger Federer).
But since then, she’s not won two matches in a row. And she retired early in the second set of her last match, against a 25-year-old ranked No. 281.
We spotted Bencic out at the qualifying supporting her friend Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, so she’s still the same fabulous person she ever was.
Garcia has never done particularly well at Wimbledon, even though she’s such a great athlete you’d think she could do well on any surface. So it’s an opportunity for both.
 Madison Keys (USA) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS)
These two are good pals, both having spent time training down in Boca Raton, Fla. They teamed up for doubles at the Australian Open a couple of years ago. And Keys has even played mixed doubles at Wimbledon with Tomljanovic’s boyfriend, Nick Kyrgios.
It’s what Mary Carillo would call “Big Babe Tennis”, with both hitting hard, and both actually being able to serve.
Tomljanovic is slowly getting her big serve back after shoulder surgery. But that’s a tough first-rounder for both.
The Serena factor
After all that discussion and debate, Serena Williams ended up seeded No. 25.
That means that in her first Wimbledon in two years, she cannot meet any of the top eight seeds until the third round.
But as previously discussed, there are plenty of trap doors in the draw before then – some of them more dangerous than many of the top eight.
In take it or leave it news, Serena Williams didn't practice on either of the morning courts she booked at Wimbledon. Not terribly unusual, maybe notable. She practiced Thursday morning and is scheduled to speak Saturday afternoon.
— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 29, 2018
In this case, the first round is an “ease your way in” one against Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus. But the rest of Serena’s section isn’t half bad, with the very vulnerable Elina Svitolina her potential third-round opponent.
After that, she could be looking at Keys in the fourth round. But that’s if she gets there. Williams developed a pectoral muscle injury at the French Open, doing double-duty in singles and doubles despite not having played in two months.
4 days until #Wimbledon
Would you believe me if I told you the girl on the left always dreamed of becoming the woman on the right? Keep fighting. 💪🏿 pic.twitter.com/3QuTEN8xei
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) June 28, 2018
Venus and Serena are not playing doubles at Wimbledon.