June 16, 2011
One of our staff writers offers his take on Wimbledon 2011 and the women's favorites. Instead of Sharapova vs Williams, he sees Wimbledon as being between Na Li and Petra Kvitova.
The women's singles event at Wimbledon 2011 promises to be more wide open than it has been in past years. A major reason for this is that there is not one past champion who is expected to be in Friday's draw that you can have a ton of confidence in at this point.
According to betting odds Maria Sharapova is the favorite to win the title however Sharapova is seven years removed from her only title at the All England Club. She has participated in nine Grand Slams since returning from her shoulder injury in 2009 and has only made one semifinal in those nine tournaments. While that top result was in her most recent Grand Slam, at Wimbledon specifically she has not even made it passed the fourth round since 2006.
The second favorite to win the title is Serena Williams and she is the returning champion at the event. However the American faltered in the second round of the grass court tournament in Eastbourne as Williams suffered defeat to Vera Zvonareva, a player the American has not had many troubles with in the past.
You have to question Williams' ability to win Wimbledon right now following such a prolonged absence from the WTA Tour although she could work things out with a couple easy early round matches at the All England Club.
Venus Williams is among the favorites as well but you can't have tons of confidence in the elder Williams sister either. Like Serena, Venus is returning from a significant absence from tour and in the AEGON International she suffered defeat to Daniela Hantuchova, a player that the former world number one had defeated in ten previous meetings.
Williams was in better match-condition at this time last season and she still suffered a quarterfinal loss to Tsvetana Pironkova at the All England Club. If anything you could expect a worse result this season as the American is not getting younger and her conditioning at this point in her career is more questionable than ever.
Caroline Wozniacki is the world number one and due to that she should be a player that the pundits should have some confidence in. However the Dane's Grand Slam results are not as distinguished as her ranking implies and it's been nearly two years since her solo Grand Slam final appearance from the 2009 US Open. At the recently completed French Open Wozniacki suffered a third round defeat, a discrediting loss for the world number one and if Grand Slam success is to happen for the Dane, as I think it will someday, when exactly that will come is not clear.
She's definitely a threat on tour as her titles keep adding up with WTA Copenhagen over the weekend another example but she just has not brought the same calibre tennis to all of the Grand Slams yet and that is a legitimate reason not to hold confidence in the 20 year old.
Victoria Azarenka is another player who is among the favorites but, like Wozniacki, Azarenka underachieves in the majors. She has not won a quarterfinal match in a Grand Slam draw in her career yet despite making that round four times. That makes her entirely inexperienced deep in Grand Slams and it's hard to have confidence in her to win Wimbledon as a result.
The two favorites that I have the most confidence in are Na Li and Petra Kvitova.
Li's credentials are now obvious as she won the 2011 French Open earlier this month but she also made the final of the Australian Open early in the season. That makes her 13-1 in Grand Slam matches in 2011, the best winning percentage of all players on tour.
Kvitova, like Li, has to have a lot confidence heading into Wimbledon as the Czech player, who is into the semifinals of the current grass court Eastbourne draw and may win the title there, made the Wimbledon semis last year. She did that by defeating Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka en route, wins that seemed improbable at the time.
Kvitova, who won a Premier Mandatory title in Madrid earlier this season, was also incredibly dangerous in the Roland Garros draw - more dangerous than many might think. She was the only player after the first round to take a set off of Na Li at the French Open as Kvitova extended the eventual champion to three sets in the round of 16 before falling.
That was the final ahead of the final and after that there was no one left in Paris who could challenge Li.
It's not yet known where Na Li and Petra Kvitova will fall in the draw in relation to one another as they are seeded third (Li) and eighth (Kvitova). However I do believe that they will both win their matches until they meet one another whether in the quarters, semifinals, or final. If one of them should suffer an earlier round upset, then the other one becomes the title favorite.
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