Less than two weeks after Serena Williams hoisted the French Open trophy, the defending Wimbledon champion now knows exactly who she’ll have to beat to win a sixth title at the All England Club.
Check out the Full Wimbledon Women’s Draw Here: Wimbledon 2013 Women’s Draw
The women’s singles draw threw up a number of intriguing first round matches, as well as the possibility of some fascinating quarter-finals. There will be no repeat of Serena versus Agnieszka Radwanska in the final however, as the two have been drawn in the same half and are therefore seeded to meet in the last four. The other projected semi-final could be a blockbuster clash between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
While her draw at Roland Garros was relatively kind in the early stages, Serena faces a much tougher path to Wimbledon glory this year. After taking care of 92nd ranked Mandy Minella in her opening match, she could play Jie Zheng in the second round, a rematch of their marathon battle last year that Serena scraped through 9-7 in the deciding set. Seeded to face the top seed in the third round is Tamira Paszek. The Austrian is one of the few grass court specialists on the women’s tour, and the majority of her ranking points have come from Wimbledon quarter-final appearances in 2012 and 2011, but she has been in dire form this season, and was forced out of Eastbourne with injury. If a return to SW19 reinvigorates Paszek, she could push Serena harder than most players, but if her dubious form continues she might not even make it to that stage.
Sam Stosur, the 14th seed, has never produced her best tennis at Wimbledon, but she won’t face a top 80 player in her first two matches, giving her an excellent chance to find her feet on the grass this year. However, the Aussie will have a hard time making it past Sabine Lisicki, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, in the third round. The ensuing Serena-Lisicki last 16 match could be a superb battle between two of the game’s hardest hitters, and another difficult test for the world number one.
She may have the home advantage, but the Wimbledon draw gods have not been kind to Britain’s top player, Laura Robson. The 19-year-old will take on 10th seed Maria Kirilenko in her opening match, a very capable player on grass who came close to reaching the semi-finals last year and competed in the bronze medal match at the London Olympics. The other big-name player in this section in Angelique Kerber, who did make the semis in 2012. If the German can get through a tough opener against the resurgent Bethanie Mattek-Sands, she will be favoured to make the last 16. A Kirilenko-Kerber contest on the second Monday would be a tough one to call, but the Russian’s powerful game would perhaps give her a slight edge in their first meeting on grass.
Quarter-final prediction: Serena def. Kirilenko
After reaching her first Grand Slam final at last year’s Championships, many expected Agnieszka Radwanska to go on to even bigger and better things. She has certainly maintained a firm footing in the world’s top five, but hasn’t been past the quarter-final stage of a major event since, and has looked increasingly vulnerable against more powerful opponents. She lost her opening match in Eastbourne, but the good news for Radwanska is that she has a very winnable route to the last 16 at Wimbledon 2013. She won’t play anyone ranked inside the top 95 until the third round, and even then she is likely to face one of the slumping Mona Barthel, the inexperienced Madison Keys or British number two Heather Watson, who she thrashed on Centre Court last year.
The three most dangerous players vying to be Radwanska’s fourth round opponent are 13th seed Nadia Petrova, 21st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova. Petrova, who ended 2012 with a bang, hasn’t performed strongly in 2013, while Pavlyuchenkova has had a very inconsistent season, a head-scratching mix of title wins and first round losses. Pironkova, rather like Tamira Paszek, has not made much of an impact outside of Wimbledon, but she always tends to produce her best tennis at the All England club, and holds the distinction of beating Venus Williams twice there.
Sixth seed Li Na hasn’t made it to the Wimbledon quarter-finals in three years, and she will need to be at her best early on if she is to get that far this year. In the second round, she could face one of the trickiest floaters in the draw, Simona Halep, a finalist in s’Hertogenbosch this weekend. If she can get through that test, another stern challenge awaits in round three, against either 32nd seed Klara Zakopalova or Birmingham champion Daniela Hantuchova. Roberta Vinci and Dominika Cibulkova, the 11th and 18th seeds respectively, are the other notable names aiming to come through this section.
Quarter-final prediction: Radwanska def. Li
Moving onto the bottom half of the draw, we find Sara Errani as the fifth seed. The diminutive Italian has proved the doubters wrong by following up her strong 2012 with another excellent season, and she remains one half of the world’s best doubles team. We haven’t seen Errani in singles action since her infamous drubbing at the hand of Serena in Paris, and she does not have the fondest memories of Wimbledon, where she gave up a set without winning a single point during her third round loss last year. The fast surface is not the best fit for her scrambling, defence-based game, but she does have a favourable draw at this year’s championships, her first few rounds littered with unthreatening names such as Monica Puig and Misaki Doi. Her first big test is likely to come from 27th seed Varvara Lepchenko who, although on the rise, looked out-of-sorts during a first round loss to Heather Watson in Eastbourne.
One of the first round highlights of the women’s draw is a clash between two of the USA’s hottest prospects, Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton. Stephens lifted herself out of a lengthy slump with a run to the fourth round of the French Open, while Hampton has been going from strength to strength recently, her semi-final appearance in Eastbourne lifting her into the top 30.
The player who has most to gain in this section is Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane endured a miserable time on clay this year, with a succession of early round losses leading to speculation that she might be on a permanent slide. But she got her mojo back in Eastbourne, looking more confident and assured on court than she has in a long time. If Wozniacki can get past either Stephens or Hampton in the third round, she knows she will have an excellent opportunity to reach her first Wimbledon quarter-final when she takes on Errani in the last 16.
Maria Sharapova will begin her 2013 Wimbledon campaign against Kristina Mladenovic, the promising 20-year-old from France who is already ranked inside the top 40. Although not expected to beat the third seed, Mladenovic is a tough first round opponent, and the Russian will need to shake off any lingering rust quickly if she is to progress smoothly to the second round. She should have fewer problems at that stage against either Melanie Oudin or Michelle Larcher De Brito, and none of her third and fourth round opponents look in good enough shape to pull of an upset. Lucie Safarova and Sorana Cristea always seem to threaten more than they deliver, while Marion Bartoli, a former Wimbledon finalist, has had a decidedly mediocre 2013 so far. It has been a long time since Sharapova lost to a much lower-ranked player, and it would be a huge surprise if that happened at Wimbledon.
Predicted quarter-final: Sharapova def. Wozniacki
Her run to the last four of the Roland Garros, combined with Sharapova’s loss in the title match in Paris, ensured that Victoria Azarenka would be seeded second at this year’s Championships, meaning she won’t have to play Serena until the final. The Belarusian will face world number 109 Maria Joao Koehler in her opener, followed by either Elena Baltacha or Flavia Pennetta in the second round. Azarenka’s competition steps up a notch from round three onwards: a rematch of her French Open tussle with Alize Cornet looms, and in the last 16 she could play either a rejuvenated Jelena Jankovic or Yanina Wickmayer, a semi-finalist in Eastbourne.
What fans would love to see is quarter-final battle between Azarenka and Petra Kvitova. The Czech has a 4-2 record in the pair’s head-to head, but they haven’s squared off since 2011, when Kvitova looked very much like the best player in the world. Since then, erratic form has seen her tumble down the rankings, and aside from a title win in Dubai and a runner-up finish in Katowice, she has had an unmemorable 2013 season so far. Making matters worse for the eighth seed is a tough draw section that features Yaroslava Shvedova, who pushed Serena to a 7-5 third set in the fourth round last year, 25th seed Ekaterina Makarova, and 12th seed Ana Ivanovic, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist who has looked confident on court lately. An on-form Kvitova could sweep past each of these players in straight sets, but she hasn’t been reliably on-form for months, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if we lost the 2011 Wimbledon champion before the first weekend.
Predicted quarter-final: Azarenka def. Ivanovic
Predicted semi-finals: Serena def. Radwanska; Azarenka def. Sharapova
Champion: Serena Williams
Could Serena, having finally won that elusive second Roland Garros title, suffer a let-down at this year’s Wimbledon Championships? The change of surface is a notoriously difficult one, and no player has won the French Open-Wimbledon double since 2002. But the woman who achieved that feat over a decade ago was none other than Serena herself, and the 16-time Grand Slam champion is an even better player these days. Her sights set firmly on a sixth Venus Rosewater Dish, it would be folly to bet against her, even in light of a difficult draw.
But Serena’s overwhelming status as tournament favourite doesn’t mean that this year’s Wimbledon will be lacking in drama. There are many players capable of making it to the latter stages, and it will be fascinating to see which comes through the bottom half to face Serena in the showpiece on July 6th. Azarenka-Sharapova battles are always evenly-matched, intense affairs, and either one could win their predicted semi-final. Sharapova beat her arch-rival at that stage of the French Open earlier this month, but grass changes the dynamic completely, and Azarenka will be desperately seeking revenge. Moreover, she has a better chance of pushing Serena and giving fans the fiercely competitive final we crave. Yes, this will probably be Serena’s year again, but she might not have it all her own way.