Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wimbledon begins Monday
I have already discussed my mixed feelings about Wimbledon, but there is more: I also have confused thoughts about Wimbledon. This confusion occurs every year, when I have no clear idea about who, other than Venus Williams, might win the tournament. (Actually, it didn't happen in 2006, when I knew that Amelie Mauersmo had a very good chance to win, which she did.)
So here we are, just a few days away from the event, and when I think of who might win, my list is short.
Venus Williams--Williams is the current queen of Wimbledon. She has won it five times, and--whatever other problems she may be having on the tour--she always shows up in London as The One To Beat. This means that she can play with a lot of confidence, and that she can also probably count on players going off-track against her, as Tammy Tanasugarn did at one point last year during their quarterfinal match. Williams uses her big serve, fast pickup, considerable net skills, and superior athleticism to win on grass with considerably less effort than it might take her to win on other surfaces. She remains The One To Beat.
Serena Williams--Williams won Wimbledon in 2002 and 2003, so we know she can do it. She tried to do it last year, competing against her sister in the final, but she was not able to pull it off against TOTB. She is the better server of the two, but her sister is the better grass mover. There is always the possibility, however, that Venus's younger sister will find a way--she has found a way so many times before.
Maria Sharapova--Sharapova says she believes she will win Wimbledon again some day, but not this year. She is currently struggling with using a new service motion, which she adopted in response to her serious shoulder injury. She was also off the tour for a long time. If she continues to have trouble getting used to her modified service motion, I don't see her going that far in the draw. But if it suddenly clicks for her, I make her a contender. Because she's Maria Sharapova.
CONTENDERS ON PAPER
Dinara Safina--She's the number 1 player in the world, though she just flubbed another major final. She has never gotten beyond the third round at Wimbledon, though last year doesn't count because she sustained an injury in the middle of her third round match.
Svetlana Kuznetsova--Clay is clearly her best surface, though she is no slouch on hard courts. But with her athleticism and variety, there is no reason she could not--theoretically--win Wimbledon. She just went out in the first round in Eastbourne, but we'll let that pass for now.
Elena Dementieva--Technically speaking, there is nothing to keep Dementieva from winning any major, but the irony is--now that she finally has a good serve--she has returned to having a not-so-good mentality.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ana Ivanovic--This hasn't been a good season for Ivanovic, but if she can get her ball toss somewhere within reason and regain her serve, she could still do well in London.
Jelena Jankovic--What is there to say that hasn't been said? I've certainly said enough about one of my favorite players, who just can't seem to get it together.
Victoria Azarenka--Fiery and unpredictable, the very talented Azarenka has been plagued by injuries lately. As I write this, she is out of Eastbourne because of a hip injury. If she is healthy going into Wimbledon, she could go quite far--if she can keep a lid on her emotions, that is. I had originally picked Azarenka as a contender on paper, but her recent injury caused me to change my mind.
Marion Bartoli--The 2007 Wimbledon finalist is about as good on grass as she could get, but mental and physical vulnerabilities keep her from the attaining the glory she briefly experienced two years ago.
Zheng Jie--Last year's outstanding semifinalist just doesn't seem to be up to the job this year, judging from her pre-Wimbledon grass play. Still, one never knows.
Amelie Mauresmo--The 2006 champion says she wants another Wimbledon win. Her grass skills are hard to beat, but Mauresmo's comeback hasn't been what some of us hoped it would be.
Caroline Wozniacki--Is Wozniacki a Player to Watch or a Contender? I don't know, but I believe she may go far into the draw.
Vera Zvonareva--She's always a player to watch. Right now, though, she's returning to the tour after a couple of months off to heal a bad ankle injury, so this may not be her best Wimbledon opportunity.
Jelena Dokic--We haven't really had a chance to see what Dokic can do since the Australian Open because she has been either ill or injured. Here's hoping she's healthy for Wimbledon.
Samantha Stosur--Her French Open run looked like a mental breakthrough, but her second round in Eastbourne looked like business as usual for the mentally shaky Stosur. Her serving and volleying certainly are good grass court skills, though.
Patty Schnyder--Because it is probably her last Wimbledon, and because she is always worth watching.
Virginie Razzano--Because she plays so aggressively, she is going to be a player to watch on grass. Also, the entertaining Frenchwoman appears to have made some progress in her own battle against mental instability on court.
Nathalie Dechy--Because her game is so lovely.
Kai Kanepi--I hope to watch Kanepi as much as my limited coverage will allow me; she could very well succeed in London with her big serve.
Tamarine Tanasugarn--Veteran Tanasugarn comes to life during grass court season, which is--for her--regrettably short. Last year, after making several rounds of 16, the 2008 Ordina Open champion made it to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon for the first time, but kind of fell apart when she saw Venus Williams on the other side of the net. But it is always great fun to watch her on the Wimbledon courts.
Daniela Hantuchova--Because I can't give up my Hantuchova-watching habit.
Agnieszka Radwanska--What a mystery she is, in every way. Last year's Eastbourne champion isn't looking her best right now, and she has not progressed enough to put herself into the next level of play. All the same, she is almost always worth watching, with her great anticipation and her sometimes laser-like groundstrokes.
and, regrettably, with some reservation...Sabine Lisicki--She has everything it takes to win on grass, but since her shoulder injury and intestinal illness (one directly followed the other), she hasn't done much of anything. If she can somehow pull herself together for next week, she is very watchable, but I'm not holding my breath.