- Swiss Indoors 2014: Nervous Rafael Nadal uneasy over Basel and beyond
- Photo: Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki squeeze into selfie
- Rafael Nadal: It is ‘beautiful’ to be in rival Roger Federer’s home town Basel
- Roger Federer: Happy, surprised and feeling the love in home-town Basel
- Photo: Ana Ivanovic ready for WTA Finals in Singapore
- Swiss Indoors 2014: Rafael Nadal relieved after first-round win
Wimbledon women’s draw: Can anyone deny Serena a 17th Major?
Wimbledon women’s draw: Can anyone deny Serena Williams a 17th Major and a sixth singles crown at the All England Club?
While many former Grand Slam champions feature in the draw of the All England Club this year, it is a select few who have stepped up to take the prestigious Venus Rosewater Dish on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
One of them, Serena Williams, can surely count herself among the greatest ever to take the honour.
With elder sister Venus, fellow five-time singles champion, sidelined with a back injury, there are just two other women in the draw who have tasted victory here: Petra Kvitova winning her single Major here in 2011, and Maria Sharapova, champion in 2004.
So not only is Serena looking to defend her title, she is—in the eyes of most—expected to defend it. And her record since she triumphed here last year is more than eloquent in explaining why.
She will arrive on her stage on Tuesday with an unbeaten run of five titles, from Miami’s hard courts to Roland Garros’s clay, and Charleston, Madrid and Rome in between, plus a couple of hard-court ties back in the States for Fed Cup.
She has not lost a match since February, a stretch of 31 consecutive victories.
Not surprisingly, she reclaimed the No1 ranking this February—the oldest woman to do so—and will remain there at least until after Wimbledon, 11 years after she first reached the top.
Williams may be the one to beat, but she heads a powerful trio that owns between them, in the last 12 months, all the Grand Slams and Premier Mandatories as well as a share of the No1 ranking. That trio still occupies the top three places: Williams at No1, Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka at No2—the last woman to beat Williams, in the Doha final—and Sharapova at No3 with the Indian Wells and Stuttgart titles.
Yet despite the credentials of Azarenka and Sharapova, the records of these two women against the mighty Serena are far from encouraging: Each has won only two matches against her. Williams, however, has won 14 against Sharapova, including four matches this season—indeed the Russian has not beaten her since 2004—and 12 against Azarenka.
And it is not just the number of victories but the nature of them. In the French Open final, Sharapova won only eight games. In the Rome final, Azarenka won just four.
So when the draw was made in SW19, the big question, just as in Paris, was whether Sharapova would fall into Williams’ half or in the rather more evenly balanced Azarenka half: The Russian has a 6-7 head-to-head against the Belarusian but has won their last two matches. And her wish was granted.
It turned out to be the No4 seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, who drew the short straw—though in fact, it was the popular Pole who reached the final against Williams last summer, and what’s more, she took the second set in a fine 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 performance.
This time, however, if Radwanska is to reach her second Major final, she will have to get past Williams—or hope that someone else does.
There are certainly some contenders, but it will take a great run indeed to prevent Williams from equalling Federer’s 17 singles Grand Slams.
Serena Williams quarter
Williams, in winning the French Open, has rarely sounded or looked more confident and healthy, so it is hard to see any early opponent beating her unless Williams has a lapse in concentration or is slow to warm up. It has happened—everyone will remember her shock first-round exit in Paris last year—but it is unlikely to come from Mandy Minella.
Her second opponent, Zheng Jie, is a reprise of their marathon meeting here last year, a two-and-a-half hour three setter that demanded 23 aces from Williams to seal the match, 9-7. But Williams is unlikely to allow a similar drama.
It is in round four that the big names sit. Former semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki, with a powerful game made for grass, faces the former French Open champion, Francesca Schiavone—playing her 52nd consecutive Major—in an intriguing opener, with former US Open champion, Sam Stosur, in the third round. If Stosur makes it to the quarters, Williams will be wary: the Australian beat her in the 2011 US Open title match.
The players lined up for the first quarter-final are No7 Angelique Kerber, also with a big power game, or one of the form players of season so far, Maria Kirilenko, who is in the top 10 for the first time in her career.
It is against Kirilenko that top-ranked Briton Laura Robson is drawn, and she often rises to the challenge on the big stage, so an upset is possible, but Tara Moore against Kaia Kanepi—and then probably Kerber—looks too big an ask.
Agnieszka Radwanska quarter
The popular Pole made a real impression on Wimbledon and on Williams in her first Grand Slam final last year, and has reached the quarters twice before, too. There is no doubt that her deft and crafty game suits grass, but she has not enjoyed the most consistent form since winning the first two events in the pre-Australian Open swing.
So with an early exit in Eastbourne this week, she may not be tipped to repeat last year’s run, but she has a benign draw in the first couple of rounds. Her first seed is No30 Mona Barthel, with either Nadia Petrova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lined up for the fourth round.
Radwanska will have to overturn an inferior head-to-head against Na Li if she is to reach the quarters, though, and Li has already won both their meetings this year—albeit on hard courts.
One of the names that might challenge Li before that, though, is not a seed but Daniela Hantuchova, titlist in Birmingham and working hard on grass at Stoke Park this week. She looked in confident and sharp shape, but so has Simona Halep, a possible second-round opponent for Li. The Romanian has just won her first title and reached the semis in Rome: clay, maybe, but confidence breeds confidence.
British No2 Heather Watson sits in Radwanska’s eighth, and has a first meeting against teenager Madison Keys in the first round. Watson will, though, have some hopes of reaching the first weekend if her fitness is fully recovered from the bout of glandular fever that hit her spring season.
Maria Sharapova quarter
Sharapova looked super-relaxed when she arrived for her press obligations, and had no regrets about her decision to bypass any pre-Wimbledon tournament:
“I came straight to London after Paris, took a couple days off, and started practising. It’s been really nice. I have a couple of friends that are living here now, so been able to spend a bit of time. It’s nice to be in a quiet area listening to the birds singing instead of the taxis honking. And just practise.”
So the driven professional surfaced, showing how keen she is to win her second title in the place where she won her first as a teenager, nine years ago:
“It’s always just nice to get back to working, to playing, working on a few things here and there. Sometimes when you get in a groove of playing so many matches, you lose that work ethic a bit.”
Sharapova’s first week looks a straightforward one, too, though her first seed Lucie Safarova, pressed her hard on Stuttgart’s clay. She could meet former Wimbledon finalist, the recently inconsistent Marion Bartoli in fourth round.
The constantly-improving No5 seed Sara Errani, if she gets past Caroline Wozniacki, is a tough quarter-final opponent. The petite, attacking Italian pushed Sharapova hard in both Indian Wells and Miami this year, and rarely puts in a poor performance.
Sloane Stephens, who plays Eastbourne finalist and fellow American Jamie Hampton in her opener, is an alternative opponent for Errani if she produces her best against Wozniacki.
But Sharapova is second only to Williams in Grand Slam singles titles and in grass-court match-wins: It’s hard to see her not making the semis, though surprisingly, she has only got beyond the fourth round once since 2006—perhaps the result of her huge improvement.
Wild card Briton, No 232 Sam Murray, is in Bartoli’s segment and scheduled against No22 Sorana Cirstea in the second round.
Victoria Azarenka quarter
Azarenka has managed to keep a low profile coming into Wimbledon and, like Williams and Sharapova, has steered clear of preparatory tournaments:
“I never like to play the week before a Grand Slam…the short period between the French Open, you need some time to recover, to be fresh.”
She has the kind of all-round game, movement and power that suggest she should excel on the grass, and indeed has reached the semis in the last two years, and won bronze at the London Olympics. And her draw looks a good one until the second week.
The fourth round brings one Serb on a surge, Jelena Jankovic—back up to 16 in the rankings—though the grass has never been a happy hunting ground for her.
Azarenka could, in theory, face another former No1 Serb in Ana Ivanovic in the quarters, but Kvitova looks the better bet to reach the quarters. Certainly a meeting between the 2011 champion and Azarenka could be the quarter of the women’s tournament, bearing in mind that Kvitova defeated Azarenka and Sharapova en route to the 2011 title.
However, a fourth-round exit at the US Open was followed by first-week losses at the Australian Open and Roland Garros for Kvitova. She may face all three top seeds to win her second title—and that would require much more consistency than she has shown all season except in Dubai.
Elena Baltacha, only recently back on tour, got her grass season off to a great start by winning in Nottingham and almost put out Kirilenko in Eastbourne. She plays Flavia Pennetta in her opener, with the prospect of Azarenka in the second round.
Jo Konta has a tough opener against Jankovic while Anne Keothavong is in Kvitova’s section.
Final: Williams beats Sharapova◀ The Sport Review homepageNext story ►
Read more on...
Milos Raonic reaches out for World Tour Finals with opening Basel win The Canadian No1 looks to book his place in London next month 3 hours ago Tennis
Roger Federer: Happy, surprised and feeling the love in home-town Basel World No2 gears up for Swiss Indoors Basel 5 hours ago Tennis
Rafael Nadal: It is ‘beautiful’ to be in rival Roger Federer’s home town Basel Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could face off for a 34th time at the Swiss Indoors in Basel 10 hours ago Tennis
Swiss Indoors: David Goffin and Dominic Thiem lead young bloods and old hands Both Dominic Thiem and David Goffin have risen to their highest rankings this autumn 13 hours ago Tennis
Swiss Indoors 2014: Rafael Nadal relieved after first-round win Rafael Nadal beats Simone Bolelli to reach round two in Switzerland 1 day ago Tennis
WTA Finals 2014: Serena Williams delights in win over Ana Ivanovic Serena Williams makes a solid start to the WTA Finals in Singapore with win over Ana Ivanovic 1 day ago Tennis
Photo: Ana Ivanovic ready for WTA Finals in Singapore Ana Ivanovic is raring to go in Singapore 1 day ago Tennis
Photo: Andy Murray celebrates Vienna Open title win Andy Murray poses with his team after beating David Ferrer in Sunday's final 2 days ago Tennis
Murray and Berdych steal march on Ferrer and Dimitrov in Race to London Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych are the winners as the race to the ATP World Tour Finals hots up 2 days ago Tennis
Swiss Indoors 2014: Nervous Rafael Nadal uneasy over Basel and beyond Rafael Nadal is unsure if he will be able to play at the ATP World Tour Finals as he recovers from appendicitis 2 days ago Tennis
Andy Murray and David Ferrer lock horns in pursuit of Vienna and London Andy Murray and David Ferrer set to meet in Vienna Open final at the Race to London hots up 2 days ago Tennis
ATP World Tour Finals 2014: Marin Cilic qualifies for first time Marin Cilic books his place at the season-ending tournament for the first time 3 days ago Tennis
Photo: Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki squeeze into selfie Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwańska are in good spirits... 4 days ago Tennis
Four venues to rival London for ATP World Tour Finals London faces competition from 'four other regions' to stage the ATP World Tour Finals from 2016 onwards 4 days ago Tennis
Nikolay Davydenko: no more whip-cracking tennis from retiring Russian Nikolay Davydenko announces his retirement from playing tennis at a press conference at the Kremlin 5 days ago Tennis
Rafael Nadal readies for Ronaldo poker ‘duel’ – with some Q&A on the side! Rafael Nadal responds to some #AskRafa tweets from fans 6 days ago Tennis
Roger Federer: The renaissance of a ‘half-broken’ man Roger Federer is hitting top form when it counts. 'I’m playing the way I was hoping I could play again' 7 days ago Tennis
Rising Stars Riske, Bencic and Diyas light up end of Asian swing Alison Riske, Belinda Bencic and Zarina Diyas are among the rising stars on the WTA Tour 1 week ago Tennis
Serena Williams marks 210 weeks at No1, but Sharapova in chase to top Serena Williams is enjoying her longest continuous spell as world No1, which now stands at 87 weeks 1 week ago Tennis
Bryan brothers make history with Shanghai Masters crown Bob and Mike Bryan become the first doubles pairing to win all nine Masters tournaments 1 week ago Tennis
Stan Wawrinka qualifies for ATP World Tour Finals: four places remain Stan Wawrinka becomes the latest player to qualify for the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals 1 week ago Tennis
Roger Federer wins first Shanghai title to keep in race for year-end No1 Roger Federer beats Gilles Simon to win his first Shanghai Masters title 1 week ago Tennis
Flowing Federer halts Djokovic’s China run to reach Shanghai final Roger Federer halts Novak Djokovic's winning run with a straight-sets victory to reach the Shanghai Masters final 1 week ago Tennis
Shanghai’s ageless QFs: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic surge to 36th meet Top seed Novak Djokovic will take on number three seed Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters 2 weeks ago Tennis
Andy Murray to play three straight tournaments to boost London hopes Andy Murray is taking qualification for the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals seriously 2 weeks ago Tennis
Shanghai’s ageless QFs: Lopez scores 200 over Youzhny in classy battle Feliciano Lopez is through to the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters after beating Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets 2 weeks ago Tennis
Top dogs Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer continue to thrill Shanghai Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are both making progress at the Shanghai Masters 2 weeks ago Tennis
One step forward, one step back as Ferrer beats Murray on and off court Andy Murray is out of the Shanghai Masters after losing in three sets to David Ferrer 2 weeks ago Tennis
Special day in Shanghai delivers special Djokovic, Federer and Nadal results Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are both through at the Shanghai Masters by Rafael Nadal crashes out 2 weeks ago Tennis
Dimitrov loses ground to Ferrer and Murray in Race to London Grigor Dimitrov loses in straight sets to Julien Benneteau in the second round of the Shanghai Masters 2 weeks ago Tennis
Heather Watson loses in second round of Japan Open Heather Watson is out of the Japan Open after losing to Yulia Putintseva in straight sets 2 weeks ago Tennis
Rafael Nadal to play in Shanghai despite appendicitis Rafael Nadal intends to play at the Shanghai Masters this week, despite being diagnosed with appendiciti 2 weeks ago Tennis
Andy Murray impresses in Shanghai opener to set up Janowicz rematch Andy Murray beats Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets to reach the second round of the Shanghai Masters 2 weeks ago Tennis
Rafael Nadal to play charity opener on new Australian Open ‘Court’ Rafael Nadal is named 'Friend of the Australian Open' at the official launch of the 2015 tournament 2 weeks ago Tennis