|ESPN.com: Wimbledon 2008||[Print without images]|
LONDON -- Changing surfaces? You wouldn't have noticed judging by the recent activity of the top female pros. Most chose to bypass grass-court tune-ups, opting instead to get to Wimbledon early and take it from there.
The surging Ana Ivanovic should ease into the fortnight, the Williams sisters are hoping to bounce back from a miserable French Open and Maria Sharapova is seeking to regain the form she exhibited early in 2008.First Quarter: Cruise for Ana
Not with this draw.
|Serena and Venus Williams will have their work cut out for them if they are to meet, again, in the final.|
Ivanovic opens against a player outside the top 100, her second-round opponent won't be ranked higher than 91st, and in the third round her scheduled seed is Dominika Cibulkova, the feisty Slovak who opted to attend a clay-court event in Barcelona after Roland Garros, only to suffer an abdominal strain that kept her out of this week's grass-court Ordina Open. Ivanovic's first test -- kind of -- might come from Agnes Szavay in the fourth round, though the erratic Hungarian has to get there first.
Ivanovic's scheduled quarterfinal foe is Anna Chakvetadze, who is having a season to forget. Possible floaters are the slumping Nicole Vaidisova -- surely her form has to better sometime -- and Aussie net rusher Sam Stosur, on the way back from viral meningitis.
Prediction: IvanovicSecond Quarter: Smarting Serena
Her draw appears tricky, mind you. Up first is Estonian Kaia Kanepi, just outside the seedings. Kanepi reached the French Open quarterfinals and has climbed 40 spots in the rankings since January. In the third round, in what would be one of the women's matches of the first week, 2006 winner Amelie Mauresmo is looming. Mauresmo, though, continues to suffer niggling injuries and retired from a second-round match in Eastbourne with a thigh strain.
Williams, according to the seedings, will meet last year's finalist, Marion Bartoli, in the fourth round. Bartoli isn't 100 percent, either, her wrist the culprit.
Fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova may exit if she encounters Kateryna Bondarenko -- a winner in Birmingham, England last week -- in the second. Kuznetsova's performance against Dinara Safina in the French semis was dismal, and she lost early in Eastbourne.
Crafty Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, 18, tangles with Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 16, in the first round -- shouldn't they be in school? The returning Li Na, a quarterfinalist in 2006, most likely meets the young victor.
Prediction: Serena WilliamsThird Quarter: Sharapova and Davenport
If her ailing knee is up for it, Davenport, despite not competing since April, might just sneak into the second week. A hard-hitting contest against France's Aravane Rezai in the second round might intrigue, and possible third-round opponent Elena Dementieva lost to Davenport on her comeback tour in 2007.
Glancing a tad further, the fourth round could bring Safina, full of confidence following her Paris run and a winner over Davenport in Miami this season. Marat Safin's kid sister, however, has yet to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon.
We could be in for a Safina-Sharapova rematch. Sharapova, bundled out of the French by Safina in an ill-tempered thriller, has a cakewalk to the fourth round. Even then, potential challengers Victoria Azarenka and Nadia Petrova wouldn't stand much chance.
Prediction: SharapovaFourth Quarter: Venus' tribulations
Logic helps little in trying to assess the fortunes of the Williams sisters, but note Venus hasn't reached a tour final this season and exited in the third round at Roland Garros, just like Serena.
She had to rally in the first and third rounds last year against much lesser opponents, though only a more severe meltdown would repeat that trend this time. Her projected fourth-round foe, the grass-adept Daniela Hantuchova, hasn't played since April because of a heel injury.
Things could get interesting for second-seeded Jelena Jankovic in the third round as fast rising Danish teen Caroline Wozniacki, who eliminated Kuznetsova in Eastbourne, figures to be waiting. Jankovic, still struggling to win the big one, hasn't made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon. She did, mind you, team with Jamie Murray in 2007 to capture the mixed doubles crown.
Prediction: Venus WilliamsSemifinals
Venus Williams trounced Sharapova in a stunning fourth-round performance last year and hasn't dropped a set against the Russian in two grass-court outings.
Prediction: Williams sisters to advanceFinal
Serena toppled Venus in her two previous winning finals at the All England Club, and this makes it a hat trick.
Prediction: Serena Williams (in three)Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.