Sharapova's impressive charge to the French Open title, the big question is,
can anyone stop her from claiming a second Wimbledon
title? Those best equipped to test her on grass include Serena Williams and last year's champ, Petra Kvitova.
When Maria Sharapova stepped out to play
the 2011 Wimbledon final against Petra
Kvitova, the odds were stacked in the Russian's favour. Kvitova was playing in
her first Wimbledon final and was expected to
crumble under the pressure, allowing Sharapova an easy victory.
Of course, that's not the way things panned
out. Kvitova played a great match but so often allowed a low-on-confidence
Sharapova to beat herself. The double faults started to come thick and fast,
the confidence drained away and, before she knew it, Petra Kvitova was the
How different things are in 2012. Having
gone several years without a Grand Slam success, Maria Sharapova turned her
promising 2012 form into the French Open title, and the confidence she showed
in winning the title for the loss of just one set, makes her the clear favourite
to win this year's SW19 Championships.
When Maria is playing well, grass is best
service. The very fact she comes into this event having won a Slam on clay must
be very worrying to her rivals. Especially as it came with such ease. Last year
she almost won the title without being anywhere near her best, this time
around, clearly playing the best tennis of her career, you do wonder if anybody
will get near the 25-year-old, world no.1.
There are other contenders, and there are
women who will give Sharapova a tough time on any surface.
Petra Kvitova herself is the defending
champion for a reason. Her no-nonsense style, big serve and heavy hitting are
very well suited to the grass courts. She may have been comfortably beaten by
Sharapova in the French Open semis, but on grass she will give her more of a
match. Up until her good run in Paris,
it hadn't been the best of years for Kvitova, and the confidence which won her
so many events last year just didn't seem to be there. My feeling is that the
pressure of being the defending champion will get to her a little at times, but
if she remains calm and focused, there shouldn't be many players who can cause
real problems for her until the semi-final stage.
Serena Williams is the second favourite with
the tennis odds makers, but since coming back from a life threatening injury last
year, she has now played in four Slams and not won any of them. In fact, she
hasn't even made it to the quarterfinal stage in three out of those four
A little bit like Federer in the men's
draw, Serena knows that time is running out for her, and if she wants to
experience the joy of winning a Wimbledon Championship again, this could be one
of the last opportunities she gets.
A dismal first round exit in Paris will spur the
American on, and if she can see herself through the first week, then her very presence
on the court will be enough to ensure she has a great chance against any of the
On her day, Serena Williams is possibly the
only woman who could truly stop Sharapova from running away with another Grand
Slam title, and it would be fantastic if we could get a final between the two.
Having won the Aussie Open and risen to
world no.1 for several months, the year seemed to be going from strength to
strength for Victoria Azarenka. The wheels began to come off a little during
the clay season though and she must have been disappointed to drop out of the
French Open at a relatively early stage.
Azarenka reached her first Grand Slam final
here last year, so we know she certainly has the tools to play well on grass.
The problem is, that when you're suffering a dip in form and so much is expected
of you, it can be very difficult to get out. Having been beaten by Petra
Kvitova at Wimbledon in each of the last two
years, I don't se Azarenka quite having what it takes to go all the way this
time either, but with a bit of luck in the draw, the Belarusian could certainly
have her chances.
Kim Clijsters is one of the most
interesting names in this year's Wimbledon
draw. Currently at world no.53, Clijsters has missed the last six months
through injury and has announced she will retire from tennis following the US
Open in September.
This will therefore be the Belgian's last
crack at Wimbledon, a title she has never won.
The most concerning thing about Clijsters for the rest of the draw, is that she
is not seeded so will float around her section of the draw with real menace.
The same goes for Venus Williams. Like
Clijsters, Venus is ranked at world no.55 and is attempting to climb back up the
rankings following illness. She will not be seeded here at SW19 and again that
will strike fear into any of the big name opponents on her side of the draw.
Other names who could go deep into the
event include Angelique Kerber, Sabine Lisicki, and Marion Bartoli.
It's tough to see beyond Sharapova for this
one and, with her completely rediscovered confidence, she would be the favourite
against any opponent.
If Serena can play consistently well and
grow into the tournament, then she is probably the next best bet for success.
The presence of Venus Williams and
particularly Kim Clijsters as unseeded assassins, is going to provide plenty of
scope for drama and surprises in the early rounds, but I don't see either woman
going all the way.
It's Sharapova for me, but keep a close eye
on Serena too.
Maria Sharapova - 11/4
Serena Williams - 3/1
Petra Kvitova - 9/2
Victoria Azarenka - 7/1
Kim Clijsters - 20/1
Venus Williams - 28/1
Li Na - 33/1
Sam Stosur - 40/1
Angelique Kerber - 60/1
Marion Bartoli - 66/1
Sabine Lisicki - 66/1
Daniela Hantuchova - 500/1