Players with best shot to win
Grass isn't for everyone -- even for some of the players who win on it. Ana Ivanovic just won the title in Birmingham and has a game that seems suited to grass, but she says she still doesn't find it an easy surface to play on. But there are others who thrive on the lawns. Here's a look at some of the top women who seem to like grass the most.
Serena Williams: Her legendary serve and powerful strokes become even more effective on grass, making it easier for her to take control of points. As Williams usually doesn't need any extra advantages, her edge on this surface has given her five Wimbledon titles. "Once I step on the match court I feel so good," she said as she returned to the tournament a year ago. "It's something about Wimbledon." As she showed two years ago, she's even more of a force after being unexpectedly ousted at the French Open.
Agnieszka Radwanska: Unlike Williams, Radwanska relies on outmaneuvering her opponents, and grass gives her a little extra power to finish points while rewarding her all-court creativity. Or as she put it, more simply, "I'm doing very good every year. I just like the surface." She might not have an explanation, but it's shown in her results. Radwanska reached her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 2012 and also got to the semifinals a year ago. But the 25-year-old Pole is entering the tournament with little match play, after going out in the first round of Eastbourne this week, so she'll need her aptitude for the surface to kick in once the Championships begin.
Petra Kvitova: The 2011 champion said, not surprisingly, that her favorite tournament is Wimbledon. It's also the event where she is the one thing she isn't elsewhere -- consistent. The Czech has reached at least the quarterfinals every year since 2010.
Sabine Lisicki: The big-serving German has never reached the quarterfinals of any of the other Grand Slams, but at Wimbledon she has reached at least the quarterfinals every year since 2009 that she has played. This year, she will return as the runner-up. "I used to hate it," she said two years ago. "I think I lost five straight matches on grass in the beginning, plus one doubles, and then I turned it around in 2009 when I reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals." Although she is one of the top players on this surface, injuries have been a consistent problem for Lisicki. In yet another incident, she rolled her ankle at the French Open.
Kirsten Flipkens: The Belgian's abilities to slice and play an attacking game mean she is a natural fit for this surface, as she showed in getting to the semifinals a year ago. But after breaking into the top 15 following that result, she has fallen back this season.
Venus Williams: A five-time Wimbledon champion like her sister, grass gives Venus even bigger advantages. Her slice serve is most potent on this low-bouncing surface, and she can wrap up points -- and matches -- before her forehand gets shaky. The 34-year-old is also having her best season since being diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome in 2011, which makes her one of the players to watch at this year's Championships. She went out in the second round of the French Open (also like her sister) but is an entirely different proposition on grass if she can limit her unforced errors.
Daniela Hantuchova: For a player who names grass as her favorite surface, the 31-year-old Hantuchova has reached only one quarterfinal at Wimbledon, though she has done well at the lead-up events. "[My] strokes, I think that's where grass fits my game," she said. "They're quite flat." But returning to Birmingham as the defending champion, she lost 6-4, 6-0 against 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who also is at her best on grass but now rarely wins so emphatically. Still, that hasn't dampened Hantuchova's enthusiasm. "For me, it's the most exciting time of the year to be on grass," she said at Birmingham.
Tsvetana Pironkova: She is perhaps the biggest grass-court specialist on tour, given that she reached the semifinals in 2010 and the quarterfinals in 2011, defeated Venus Williams both times and regularly ousts top players on the surface. "I think it's just that the grass is faster, and I like faster courts," the Bulgarian said on the Wimbledon website. "When you hit a good serve, it really works." But it's not just grass anymore. Pironkova won her first title at Sydney this year on hard courts after coming through qualifying to take the title. If she gets on another run, none of the top players will be eager to play her over the next two weeks.