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Insider Top 10: Dangerous floaters at Wimbledon 2017

Which women are unseeded and looming at the All England Club? WTA Insider profiles 10 players who have what it takes to score major upsets at Wimbledon.

Once the sport's most ubiquitous surface, grass has become fertile ground for specialists who can get low and rise above bad bounces to yield surprising success.

This year's Wimbledon Championships is set to be no different; in a field of 128, look out for 10 women who loom in the draw, ready to plant a seed or two at the All England Club.

Ashleigh BARTY (AUS)

The tour's premier double threat, Barty has quickly to become one to watch in singles and doubles. Reuniting with former partner Casey Dellacqua, the young Aussie fell one match shy of the Aegon Classic double in Birmingham, narrowly losing to an on-fire Petra Kvitova in three sets.

Barty won the Junior Wimbledon title back in 2011, and is playing better than ever after an 18-month sabbatical from the sport, winning her maiden WTA title earlier this year in Kuala Lumpur.

Set to play Elina Svitolina in the first round on Monday, can the Aussie kickstart her major career with a maiden Wimbledon main draw victory?

Victoria AZARENKA (BLR)

A woman who needs little introduction, former World No.1 Azarenka was on her way to a career-best season in 2016 after winning the elusive Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami. The two-time Australian Open champion left the tour to give birth to baby Leo and made an earlier-than-expected comeback two weeks ago at the Mallorca Open.

Working with a new coach, new racquet, and attempting a new service action - not to mention traveling with a new baby! - Azarenka showed her fighting spirit through a two-day win over Risa Ozaki where she saved three match points in a row to win in a third set tiebreak.

Drawn into 2016 semifinalist Elena Vesnina's section of the draw, can Azarenka get past another unseeded loomer CiCi Bellis and announce her comeback on the game's biggest stage?

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Catherine "CiCi" BELLIS (USA)

Speaking of Bellis, the American has momentum where she may lack in experience. Playing her first senior-level grass court event in Mallorca, Bellis made it all the way to the semifinals - stunning the big-serving Kristyna Pliskova en route.

The 18-year-old made her first major breakthrough on hardcourts at the US Open, and is hardly one to shy away from a big stage, reaching her first Premier 5 quarterfinal at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.

Into the Top 40 for the first time in her young career, can youth trump Azarenka at the All England Club?

Hear more about Bellis and Wimbledon's other dangerous floaters on the WTA Insider Podcast:

Tsvetana PIRONKOVA (BUL)

Few have exemplified the idea of the grass court specialist quite like Pironkova in the last decade. The enigmatic Bulgarian has come alive on the Wimbledon lawns more than once, having reached the semifinals in 2010 and the quarters in 2011 - beating Venus Williams both times en route.

Just last week at the Aegon International, she had Simona Halep on the ropes before the Romanian got the better of her in three sets. But Pironkova will likely have another shot of a big upset with No.5 seed Caroline Wozniacki looming as a possible second round opponent.

Wozniacki is yet to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon; could Pironkova be the player to keep that dubious streak alive?

What a special place @wimbledon ❤️????????

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Sabine LISICKI (GER)

Lisicki loves a good comeback story, especially starring the German, who has made the All England Club the setting to many an epic comeback in her injury-addled career. Earning a wildcard back in 2011, she stunned French Open champion Li Na to reach the semifinals. Two years later, she went one round better, beating Serena Williams along the way.

Off the tour for six months healing an inflamed bicep tendon, Lisicki made a solid return in Mallorca, making it to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual finalist and fellow German Julia Goerges - another one to watch out for.

Set to play No.27 seed Ana Konjuh in the first round, Lisicki is in the same quarter as French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko; don't forget, the former World No.12 has beaten the reigning Roland Garros winner an astounding four times at Wimbledon.

Should she do it again, she'd find herself in the semifinals.

‪Pretending I'm already at @Wimbledon in my #WimbyWhites ‬

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Eugenie BOUCHARD (CAN)

The Canadian finished runner-up at Wimbledon a year after Lisicki, and much like the German, it's hard to know what you're going to get from the former World No.5.

Bouchard lit up the tennis world with a tense win over Maria Sharapova at the Mutua Madrid Open, but has only won one match since after injuring her ankle before the French Open.

Despite lacking the consistency that took her through a breakthrough 2014 season, she still demands attention at the game's biggest tournaments, nearly reaching the second week of the Australian Open at the start of the year.

Bouchard drew No.25 seed Carla Suárez Navarro, who reached the second week last year but can hardly consider herself at home on grass. In No.2 seed Simona Halep's section, can the 23-year-old go on another run at the event that started it all?

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Marketa VONDROUSOVA (CZE)

Want to feel like a tennis hipster? Casually pepper your analysis with mentions of underground sensation Marketa Vondrousova. The teen was a former junior No.1, and exploded onto the scene by winning her maiden WTA title at the inaugural Ladies Open Biel Bienne.

Vondrousova has been under the radar ever since, winning a 100K Challenger in Trnava and qualifying for her maiden major main draw appearance with the loss of just seven games.

The newly-turned 18-year-old is also in the Suárez Navarro/Bouchard section, and with all the talk revolving around big-hitting Czechs, might it be Vondrousova who proves herself the most ready for primetime?

Ons JABEUR (TUN)

Put off by the power game? Bored of all the baseline bashers? I give you Ons Jabeur.

Tunisia's finest brought her quirky game to the big time at Roland Garros, stunning BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion Dominika Cibulkova to become the first Arab woman into the third round.

Jabeur made more history before Wimbledon even began, making it into the main draw without losing a set.

Standing between her and a first-ever win at the All England Club is No.7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has only made it into the second week five times in 13 appearances.

Magdalena RYBARIKOVA (SVK)

They say if you stand on freshly cut grass and whisper her name three times, Rybarikova will appear and immediately start painting the lines.

Like many on this list, the Slovak has been long snake-bitten by injuries, reaching the last eight at last year's BNP Paribas Open only to miss most of 2016 to heal her wrist.

Rybarikova came back with a vengeance on grass, winning two 100K Challenger titles and reaching the Aegon Open semifinals in between.

The 28-year-old has sometimes struggled to translate her grass success to Wimbledon - making the third round just once in her career - but could be an early stumbling block to pre-tournament favorite Karolina Pliskova.

FIRST WTA TITLE!!!! ???????????? @ricohopen #adidastennis #babolat

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Anett KONTAVEIT (EST)

In the end, it all comes down to Anett.

Kontaveit has been another hipster story told throughout 2017, and is among the few players to prove herself on all three surfaces this season.

The Estonian youngster made her first WTA final in Biel/Bienne, where she lost to Vondrousova, and turned to clay with equal gusto to earn her first Top 10 win over Garbiñe Muguruza at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Stunning Angelique Kerber at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Kontaveit ultimately came good on grass, winning her first title at the Ricoh Open.

Another unseeded loomer in Wozniacki's section, the 21-year-old has already made it into the second week of a Grand Slam - the US Open in 2015 - but can the Estonian youngster with the British accent bring down the house at Wimbledon?

Get to know more about Kontaveit courtesy of the WTA Insider Podcast:

 

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This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.

 

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