— Last year Serena Williams lost to her older sister, Venus, in the Wimbledon final. But I see a different ending in store this time around at the All-England Club as Serena’s my pick to walk away with her third Wimbledon title, the others coming in 2003 and 2002.
Serena’s been more consistent in her playing activity and in her results over the past couple of years. She seems very motivated to play, and to add to the number of majors she has won (10).
Serena has great confidence at Wimbledon, where she has been to the final four times.
Working to her advantage on the grass is that she has a huge serve and the best second serve on the WTA Tour. Given her placement and consistency, and her ability to come up with a big serve when needed most, Serena is the best server in the women’s game.
Also in Serena’s favor is that she moves well on the grass, and hits hard, flat groundstrokes. She’s the type of player who seems more vulnerable in the earlier rounds rather than later in the tournament when she gets her game in a groove. I just love the way Serena competes. When it’s all on the line, she just raises the level of her game.
If it’s not Serena taking home the title, it could very well be Venus, who is a five-time Wimbledon champion, and a two-time defending champion at the All-England Club. Venus feels completely comfortable on grass, and she knows that her game translates perfectly onto the lawns.
She has a hard, flat serve, and a second serve that is much improved. Her forehand is better as well, proving sturdier in big moments in a match. She moves well on grass, especially with her long strides. Venus volleys very well, and on grass she should use that weapon even more.
Maria Sharapova’s a threat if she can get up a good head of steam like she did at the French Open, when she reached the quarterfinals in only her second tournament after nine months away from the tour due to injury (she had surgery on her right shoulder in October).
After Paris she played on the grass at Birmingham, where she made the semifinals before losing 6-4, 6-4 to Na Li of China. Sharapova has the type of game that can come through on grass, but she needs to regain some lost power on her serve, and improve her speed and agility.
The Russian, who won Wimbledon in 2004, loves playing on the grass. Her double faults are a little worrisome because her serve is the shot she sets up points with as she’s not the greatest mover on the tour. She needs to get that first strike so that she’s in control of the point. Her groundstrokes are flat and hard, even flatter and harder than those of Serena and Venus.
Opponents don’t seem to fear Sharapova as much as they did a year and a half ago, but from what she showed at the French Open, it doesn’t appear there is anything physically limiting her. After all the time she missed, Sharapova’s gotten a good start in feeling comfortable on the court again, and that’s a real positive for her confidence.
Svetlana Kuznetsova comes off winning the French Open, but her move over to grass has consisted of only one match, at Eastbourne, where she suffered a Roland Garros hangover and fell 0-6, 3-6 against Aleksandra Wozniak. She’s never made it past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. She’s much better on clay than on grass, but her game could be good on the lawns because she has a big serve, a monstrous forehand, and she moves well. Someone just needs to convince her she can excel on the grass.
Dinara Safina is ranked No. 1 in the world, and seeded No. 1 at Wimbledon, but she only has a 7-6 record at the All England Club, and has never gotten past the third round. But she is fitter than in the past, and her confidence is increasing as she has made the final at both the Australian Open and French Open this year. The next step for her is to win her first major.
In the past, Safina tended to be overly emotional, and that was one of the reasons for her inconsistent results. She has gotten away from that a good deal, despite how shaky she was in the French Open final against Kuznetsova. But she’s always had a huge upside when it comes to her talent. She has become a much better player through the combination of a new coach, improving her fitness, and increasing her confidence. It’s all come together for her.
Ana Ivanovic has been very streaky since winning the French Open last year. She is a huge talent, but just has not been able to come up with wins on a consistent basis. Ivanovic, who made the Wimbledon semifinals in 2007, can be very dangerous on grass as she has a big serve, and she can volley well. Playing somewhat under the radar this year could help her.
Two other players to keep an eye on are Victoria Azarenka and Amelie Mauresmo. Azarenka is a very exciting player who is on the rise, and has an intensity level that is off the charts. Mauresmo, who won Wimbledon in 2006, thrives on playing on grass, and is excellent at the net.