Wimbledon 2015: Can Serena Williams move a step nearer the Calendar Slam?

Marianne Bevis previews the women's draw at Wimbledon, as top seed Serena Williams looks to take a step closer towards a Calendar Slam

There may be 19 players on the women’s tennis stage who have reached a Grand Slam final, but there is no doubting the queen of tour: Serena Williams has won the most titles, 20, and appeared in the most finals, 24.

That she arrives at Wimbledon this year with three of the Majors already in her grasp gives her the chance to gild her reputation still more: She could complete her second non-calendar Grand Slam—holding all four titles at the same time—which is a feat managed by only four other women.

Perhaps even more prestigious, she could keep alive her chance of completing a calendar Grand Slam—and only three women have ever managed that mighty achievement: Maureen Connolly, Margaret Smith and Steffi Graf.

It is company in which Williams surely belongs as she attempts to edge from 20 to the record 22 Majors won by Graff, and edges, too, to her 250th week as world No1.

And should anyone think, as she heads to her 34th birthday, that her powers are waning, she has proven this year to be as formidable as ever: just one loss, to Petra Kvitova in the semis of Madrid, a 32-1 season.

But mention of Kvitova is timely. For it will be the world No2 who attempts to defend the Wimbledon title, which she added to her first victory at the All England Club as a 21 year old in 2011. So happy is Kvitova on grass that she has not fallen before the quarters since reaching the semis in 2010. That year, she met and lost to Williams, as she did in 2012… and many relish the chance to see these two contest the title in two weeks’ time.

But there are others who have proved their worth on grass, and in the heat of a Grand Slam. First among them is Maria Sharapova, who won her first Major here as a teenager—beating Williams in the final. But since that remarkable year of 2004, Sharapova has never beaten her nemesis: 16 matches, over 10 years.

Ranked No4, she has been drawn in Williams’ half rather than Kvitova’s, though with the French Open finalist Lucie Safarova, riding at a career-high No6, in Sharapova’s quarter, the Russian may have her work cut out to reach the semis.

Indeed, the Williams half, and the Williams quarter especially, is a stacked section. Of the eight Grand Slam champions in the draw, all but one are in the top half. Sharapova may, then, count herself lucky that the only one in her quarter is Sam Stosur, who she cannot meet before the quarters and who has never played at her best on grass.

Williams could meet the next most prolific champion in the draw in the shape of her sister Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion, in the fourth round. And although she cannot face one of her biggest rivals, Victoria Azarenka, as early as she did in their three-set blockbuster at the French Open, she could still meet her in the quarter-finals—though Ana Ivanovic and the fast-rising Belinda Bencic, who just won her first title in Eastbourne, may have a say in that.

The problems may begin sooner even than that for Williams, though: the feisty former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, is returning from injury and so is unseeded—and she falls into Williams’ segment to set a possible third-round meet, though the Slovak has a tricky opener against Daniela Hantuchova—and Briton Heather Watson is in this same segment.

Watson’s opening match against No32 seed Caroline Garcia is a challenge, but not such a mountain as that facing Johanna Konta, even though the 146-ranked Briton reached the quarters in Eastbourne this week via a couple of giant-killing wins. She has drawn Sharapova.

So where are the big threats in the bottom half of the draw? They are hidden, perhaps, not among the top seeds—aside from two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova—but among the rest.

No10 Angelique Kerber has been a semi-finalist here, and reached the quarters last year. She has also just won in Birmingham. She is in a section that also has the big-hitting and fast-improving No20 seed Garbine Muguruza, who seems poised for a breakthrough.

This quarter is topped by Simona Halep, a semi-finalist here last year but still managing to keep under the radar. A potential fourth-round opponent for her is No18 seed Sabine Lisicki, who despite many injury setbacks, is a former finalist.

Kvitova’s quarter holds last year’s losing finalist, No12 seed Eugenie Bouchard, though the Canadian’s fortunes have tumbled this season, and she picked up an injury last week just to add to her woes.

Meanwhile, No13 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who has also been going through a tough stretch, has picked up the grass baton with relish. She pushed Serena Williams to the limit in the 2012 final, and reached the final in Eastbourne.

In the end, though, it is hard to see beyond Williams, no matter who or how many the obstacles. She claims, of course, not to be thinking about that calendar Slam—not yet, anyway: “Doesn’t make it feel any different, which I think is a good thing because I don’t feel any pressure to win all four. I really don’t feel that pressure. Maybe if I would happen to win here, then maybe I might start feeling it after that. Ultimately, I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m not thinking that far.”

They are the words of every champion, every favourite for a title—the stock reply—though no less likely for that. But Serena also knows that if anyone can do it, she can.

No1 seed Williams’ draw
R1, Margarita Gasparyan
R2, Timea Babos or Petra Cetkovska
R3, first seed, No32 Garcia—Watson and Cibulkova also here
R4, sister Venus or No19 Sara Errani
QF, No9 Carla Suarez Navarro or No23 Azarenka, No7 Ivanovic or No30 Bencic

Matches to catch:
R1, Errani vs 34-year-old Francesca Schiavone, who is playing her 60th consecutive Major
R1, Cibulkova vs Hantuchova
R3, Bencic vs Ivanovic

No4 seed Sharapova’s draw
R1, Konta
R2, Qiang Wang or Richel Hogenkamp
R3, first seed No29 Irina-Camelia Begu
R4, No14 Andrea Petkovic or No24 Flavia Pennetta
QF, No11 Karolina Pliskova or No22 Stosur, No6 Safarova or No27 Barbora Strycova

Matches to catch:
R1 Sharapova vs WC Konta: Sharapova admitted to watching one of Konta’s Eastbourne matches
R1, Confident Safarova vs Alison Riske, who has had good runs on grass
R1, Strycova, quarter-finalist last year, vs Sloane Stephens, quarter-finalist 2013

No3 seed Halep’s draw
R1, Jana Cepelova
R2, Monica Niculescu or Monica Puig
R3, first seed No26 Svetlana Kuznetsova
R4, No15 Timea Bacsinszky or No18 Lisicki
QF, No5 Wozniacki or No31 Camila Giorgi, No10 Kerber or No20 Muguruza

Matches to catch:
R1, Bacsinszky vs Julia Goerges
R2 Muguruza vs resurgent Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
R2 Kerber vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

No2 seed Kvitova’s draw
R1, Kiki Bertens
R2, Kurumi Nara or Magda Linette
R3, first seed No28 Jelena Jankovic (and WC Laura Robson, returning after an 18-month break with wrist injury, is also here)
R4, No13 Radwanska or No17 Elina Svitolina
QF, No8 Ekaterina Makarova or No25 Alize Cornet, No12 Bouchard or No21 Madison Keys

Matches to catch:
R1, Cornet vs 17-year-old Ana Konjuh, who just won her first title in Nottingham
R1, Kvitova vs Bertens

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