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Sunday, July 8, 2012
Updated: July 9, 11:13 PM ET
Azarenka finding her form again

By Ravi Ubha
ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams' win over Agnieszka Radwanska in the women's final at Wimbledon on Saturday had to be tough. For much of the two weeks at the All England Club, Williams struggled, unable to put away opponents as convincingly as she has in the past at Wimbledon.

The bottom line, though, is that she won a 14th major title to match Pete Sampras.

Maria Sharapova fell early, and 2011 champion Petra Kvitova underwhelmed here, but there was better news for incoming No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

With that, here are five takeaways from the women's draw at tennis' most prestigious tournament:

1. Hard work for No. 15

Landing a fifth Wimbledon title was nothing short of amazing for Williams given she was, in her own words, on her "deathbed" last year when she was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs.

Williams
Can Serena Williams dominate on any surface other than grass?

Even if she rankled many by verbally abusing a linesperson and then having a spat with a chair umpire at the U.S. Open in consecutive years -- it shouldn't detract from her accomplishment Saturday. Her desire, which was questioned in the past, was more than evident.

However, this Wimbledon proves that Williams will have a tough time winning Grand Slam title No. 15 -- at least until next Wimbledon. She'll be 31 in September, and her serve bailed her out during the fortnight in England. Her serve isn't as dominant on hard courts or clay.

When Williams dispatched Azarenka in the semifinals, she, apparently, had turned a corner. After going up a set and a break, Williams was then forced to a second-set tiebreaker, only to recover in time. She avoided a repeat performance of the French Open debacle against Virginie Razzano.

Yet when Williams led an ill Radwanska by a set and 4-2, some doubts, judging by what ensued, remained. Instead of cruising to a routine straight-sets win, Williams was pushed to the limit. Matches she used to win comfortably are now becoming increasingly more difficult.

It happens to the best of them.

2. Kvitova needs reining in

Oh, what a disappointment Petra Kvitova has been this season. She blew a bundle of break points against Sharapova in Melbourne and she didn't really show up against Sharapova at Roland Garros. Kvitova sprung to life against Serena at Wimbledon only in the second set.

If there's one player, though, who can dominate the women's game for years to come and perhaps follow Williams, it's Kvitova. Her overpowering groundstrokes, lefty serve and solid net play make for an impressive arsenal.

Kvitova must now subscribe to the "less is more" philosophy. With the awesome power the Czech possesses, she doesn't need to go for as much as she does from the back of the court. One or two extra shots to give her a more secure opening in a rally would pay dividends. Develop the point. Pulling the trigger too early isn't working.

Tennis is all about adjustments. Roger, Rafa and Novak have all improved considerably in their careers, and they were all pretty good to begin with.

The time is now for Kvitova to act. And react.

3. Azarenka is back

This was gut-check time for Azarenka.

She was tired, annoyed and going back to her old, temperamental ways on court during the clay-court swing. As it turns out, her decision not to play a grass-court warm-up was the right one.

Azarenka needed the break to recharge after what was a mentally draining first four months.

No, Azarenka didn't beat Serena. But she did get to the semis on her least favorite surface and held it together mentally to give Williams a serious challenge. If the two were to square off at the U.S. Open, as they did last year, her chances would be much better. Hard courts are her surface.

"I actually take a lot of positive things out of today," Azarenka said after losing to Williams. "I think it was a great performance for me."

Azarenka's consolation? A return to the world No. 1 ranking.

4. No worries, Maria

As fine a competitor as Sharapova is, for someone who seemingly shows up to every match motivated, she, too, is bound to suffer a letdown once in a while. Who could blame her? She invested so much time and effort rehabbing her serious shoulder injury and trying to win another major.

When Sharapova won the French Open to end a four-year drought at majors, it was thus plenty to absorb. The French also completed her Grand Slam collection.

That, coupled with a dangerous, unpredictable opponent who gives you no rhythm (Sabine Lisicki), led to a fourth-round loss.

She'll be ready for the Olympics and U.S. Open Series.

"It will be nice to rest for a little bit and be in a home atmosphere," Sharapova said. "I've missed it for over two months. But, yeah, once I relax a little bit, I'm sure to use this as great motivation and keep going after the many goals that I have."

Will Sharapova be distraught at losing the No. 1 ranking? Not one bit.

5. Tough luck for Woz

It'd be fashionable to pounce on Caroline Wozniacki. Her ranking is set to tumble to No. 8 -- from No. 1 at the start of the year -- after a first-round loss to Tamira Paszek.

Wozniacki is proof that when you're down, it all goes against you. Paszek, apart from being good, was a tad lucky on at least one of the match points she saved.

If Wozniacki prevailed, she'd likely have progressed to the quarterfinals, as Paszek did.

That would have been considered a decent result.

Her partnership with Thomas Johansson is in its infancy, and she's still coming to grips with a reduced string tension to give her more power.