LONDON, UK - The first tranche of wildcards for Wimbledon 2019, which begins in just over one week's time, has been announced, with reigning girls' champion Iga Swiatek leading the way.
The 18-year-old Pole has made a spectacular transition from the junior ranks to the WTA Tour since defeating Leonie Kung to lift the trophy last year. Having soared from World No.690 to World No.175 in 2018, Swiatek only made her WTA-level debut in January - promptly qualifying for her first Slam main draw at the Australian Open, where she reached the second round.
The successes have continued to come ever since: a maiden WTA final in Lugano in April in just her third main draw saw Swiatek break the Top 100, and on her Roland Garros debut the teenager made it all the way to the fourth round - upsetting No.16 seed Wang Qiang en route in her first ever meeting with a Top 20 player - before falling to defending champion Simona Halep. Consequently, Swiatek is now perched at a career-high ranking of World No.65 - and remarkably, her pass into The Championships is her very first WTA-level wildcard into either a qualifying or main draw.
Meanwhile, three home hopes have also been awarded wildcards into this year's Wimbledon. 27-year-old British stalwart Heather Watson, a former World No.38 and three-time WTA titlist, has reached the third round at SW19 on three occasions, in 2012, 2015 and 2017 - memorably coming within two points of upsetting eventual champion Serena Williams in a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 thriller on the second of those. The World No.122 was just two spots outside the main draw cut-off - with Swiatek just behind her - when entry lists closed five weeks ago.
22-year-old Harriet Dart has been steadily climbing the ranks over the past two seasons, and began 2019 brightly when she qualified and won a round in Brisbane - scoring a career-best win over Andrea Petkovic en route - before qualifying for her first Grand Slam outside Wimbledon at the Australian Open. Dart, who won a round last week in Nottingham and partnered Venus Williams in doubles this week in Birmingham, has had her progress stalled by injury in recent months - but having stretched Karolina Pliskova to three sets on her Wimbledon debut last year will be keen to show off her grass skills again.
Former junior World No.2 Katie Swan has also received a wildcard this year. The 20-year-old World No.211 impressed on her debut in 2018 by defeating Irina-Camelia Begu to notch up her first Grand Slam victory, and has gained plaudits in recent months by opening up about mental health awareness on tour.
Four main draw wildcards are yet to be granted.