Ten women to watch at Wimbledon
Maria Sharapova leads the way after her victory at the French Open, but order rarely prevails in the women's field these days. Here are 10 women whose fortunes are worth following.
1. Maria Sharapova
She should be coming in full of confidence after her win at the French Open, which completed a career Slam and gave her a third title in four tournaments. And that was all on clay, once considered by far her worst surface. She should be even more formidable at Wimbledon, where the grass plays more to her strengths. The only question: How often does a WTA player win two Slams in a row anymore? It hasn't been done since Kim Clijsters won the 2010 U.S. Open and 2011 Australian Open, and the French Open-Wimbledon double hasn't been completed on the women's side since Serena Williams did it in 2002.
She started out like this year's version of Novak Djokovic, going on a 26-match winning streak to begin the season. Then exhaustion, injuries and the old temper set in, and she exited the French Open in the fourth round. Which one of these Azarenkas is the real one? Wimbledon could signal the answer.
The defending champion crushed Sharapova in last year's final, but she has lost to the Russian in the past two majors. She'll be happy to be back on the grass, but the shy left-hander will have a lot more attention on her this time around, something she's struggled to cope with in the past.
4. Serena Williams
It's hard to remember ever seeing Serena choke, but that's what it looked like against Virginie Razzano at the French Open, where she went up a set and 5-1 in the tiebreaker before falling in a shocking first-round loss. It's hard to remember Serena regularly winning WTA titles but underperforming at Grand Slams, but that's what she's been doing since she returned to the tour a year ago after suffering some serious medical complications from a foot injury. All that means it'll be fascinating to see how she responds at Wimbledon. If she can't turn it around there, then where?
The way she's underperformed at Grand Slams, Radwanska could be a modern No. 1 in the making. She has reached the quarterfinals for five Slams but never has gone further despite winning 10 titles at regular tournaments. Though she lacks power, grass suits other aspects of her game, and two of those Grand Slam quarterfinals have been at Wimbledon. Radwanska is having the best season of her career so far, highlighted by winning Miami and reaching No. 3 in the world. Apart from overplaying and injuries, her biggest roadblock has been former friend Azarenka, who has beaten her six times this season. Guess whose side of the draw Radwanska is hoping to avoid.
Even more than Serena, if there's one place for Venus to turn it around, it's Wimbledon. The five-time champ returned to the tour in March after being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Sjogren's syndrome last year. She's had some impressive wins but also some difficult defeats, and Venus admits she never knows how she's going to feel from one day to the next. Getting to the second week would be impressive and unexpected, particularly because she'll be unseeded, but she's one name all the top players will want to avoid drawing in the first couple of rounds.
7. Kim Clijsters
Given that she's injured herself nearly every time she's stepped out on court over the past year, all we ask is that Clijsters finishes healthy. If she can do that, then a deep run is entirely possible, though lack of match play could hurt her in a tough encounter. But the popular Belgian should get a nice reception at her last Wimbledon before she retires again after the U.S. Open.
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Last year, the question was how Wozniacki could be ranked so high. This year, it's how low she might go. Though still in the top 10 for the moment, she's had little to write home about this year. But with a good feel for grass courts and (another) new coach Thomas Johansson in tow, she could be poised to start climbing back up. Even if she doesn't, there won't be much fallout. There aren't many expectations surrounding her these days. But Wozniacki wasn't No. 1 for nothing, even if it wasn't for winning a Slam.
9. Sara Errani
It's almost becoming a tradition: The year's French Open surprise goes on to lose in the first round of Wimbledon. Will Errani keep it up? She's made a start, losing her opening match on grass this week.
10. Melanie Oudin
Oudin fell apart when everyone started looking at her after her 2009 U.S. Open breakout, and a year ago was struggling just to win a match -- any match. But after revamping her team and her training, she has slowly rebuilt her game and burst out again in a big way. This week, Oudin won her first tour title in Birmingham -- and as a qualifier no less. It also got her a wild card into Wimbledon, and in this form and with a decent draw, she could score a win or two. And either way, it's a boost for the rest of the season. The only problem is everyone's looking at her again.
Wimbledon 2012 -- June 25-July 8
Serena and Venus Williams
Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen
Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan
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