Monday is a busy, busy day at Wimbledon, with men and women playing round of 16 singles matches, as all manner of doubles and junior matches take place at the same time. Here is the women's round of 16 draw:
Dinara Safina vs. Amelie Mauresmo: The world number 1, never that keen on grass, faces the 2006 Wimbledon champion, a master on the surface. Of course, there are several other factors involved, such as Safina's struggle to win a major, and the pressure she may feel, and Mauresmo's efforts to be a meaningful factor on the tour again.
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sabine Lisicki: The two friends meet for the first time since Lisicki defeated Wozniacki for the Charleston title. This has the potential to be a wonderful match because neither player is likely to fold easily. However, Lisicki has been double-faulting a lot, which could hurt her at this point in the tournament.
Venus Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic: I thought Williams would be playing Sam Stosur in this round, but Ivanovic has made a bit of a turnaround at this tournament. She's still having trouble with her ball toss, but her confidence appears to have increased. Williams looks simply great.
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Melanie Oudin: Radwanska didn't look that great today, but she still found a way to defeat Li Na in the third round. If she gets herself straight on Monday, she can stun Oudin with her groundstroke lines and angles, and with her spooky anticipation. But Oudin could stun her right back with all the shot variety she displayed in her third round match.
Virginie Razzano vs. Francesca Schiavone: Is that a typing error? No--Fran Schiavone really is in the fourth round of Wimbledon. The respected clay veteran has been having a high old time in London, taking out Eastbourne semifinalist Aleksandra Wozniak, rising star Michelle Larcher De Brito, and grass court specialist (and 2007 Wimbledon finalist) Marion Bartoli. You'd think it was Fed Cup. At the rate she's going, who's to say she won't also defeat Razzano? Razzano, like Bartoli, is a very aggressive player. Expect a lively match.
Elena Vesnina vs. Elena Dementieva: Vesnina hurt her back in the third round, but won her match anyway, upsetting Dominika Cibulkova. Unless she has a disastrous summer hard court season, I'm ready to give Vesnina the Most Improved award; this just isn't the same player we've seen for the last few years. She has become clever and instinctive, and a fine shotmaker. She'll be playing against one of the finest athletes on the tour. A superb shotmaker herself, Dementieva will probably give Vesnina all she can handle.
Victoria Azarenka vs. Nadia Petrova: For reasons unknown to me, Petrova showed up at Wimbledon wearing a dress covered in wide ruffles. Aside from the fact that such a dress just doesn't suit her frame (or probably anyone's frame), there is also something gently ironic about the sight of a mass of ruffles unleashing the kinds of serves and groundstrokes that Petrova delivers on a good day. Petrova eeked out a 7-6, 7-6 win over Azarenka in the third round last year, so the revenge factor should be in play. If Petrova has a good day, ruffles will fly.
Daniela Hantuvhova vs. Serena Williams: The last time these two played each other at Wimbledon, it was also in the round of 16, and it wasn't pretty. Two years ago, Williams felt pain in her calf, took a fall, and sustained a very painful leg injury; it looked as though she would retire. She was in a lot of pain, though a lengthy rain delay did allow her to get some rest and some extra strapping. What many people didn't realize was that Williams had also injured her thumb when she fell. The upshot of all this is that Williams, playing with one functioning leg and one functioning hand, won the match. To make things even more interesting--the year before--Hantuchova had defeated Williams at the Australian Open when Williams was the defending champion. They have, you could say, some history.
Hantuchova is a very fine tennis player, but is known for choking as much as for anything else. One never knows how she is going to handle things when she pulls ahead in a match. So far, at Wimbledon, she has defeated 2008 Wimbledon junior champion Laura Robson, 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, and Ai Sugiyama. These matches were challenging, but the real challenge will appear on Monday. Will Hantuchova's past with Williams motivate her? Or will it be part of her undoing?