The second round gets underway at the All-England Club on Wednesday and the best women’s matches all feature a veteran against a rising youngster. Will the old guard manage to stay on top? Or will the youngsters establish a new order? Here’s our pick of the second round matches at Wimbledon to keep an eye on.
At last year’s French Open, Caroline Garcia had Maria Sharapova on the ropes. The then-18-year-old Garcia led by a set and 4-1 before Sharapova, who would go on to win the title, fought back to win in three sets. Such was the audacious play of Garcia that Andy Murray tweeted that she would be world no. 1 someday. Since then, Garcia has not had any major wins but has slowly inched her way into the top 100. Garcia played Williams in the second round of the French Open last month and won only three games there. With that experience, her three wins in qualifying, and a first round straight sets win over former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jie Zheng, Garcia should be ready to put on a better show against the world no.1, who is on a 32-match winning streak. Williams will win but hopefully Garcia will show us some of the stuff that makes her a potential top 10 star someday.
Prediction – Williams in straight sets
If you thought a match-up between Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka was an anti-grunters worst nightmare, you will have to tune into the second round match between world no. 2 Sharapova and world no. 131 Larcher de Brito to believe that the scream stakes could actually be higher. Larcher de Brito’s grunt has been compared to a scream and when you don’t have the results to back it up, like Sharapova does, it becomes more of a nuisance. And if you survive the grunting onslaught, the tennis shouldn’t be too bad either. The 5ft 5 inch Portuguese player packs a punch with her groundstrokes and has honed her skills at the Bollettierri Academy. Larcher de Brito has come through the qualifying and beat Melanie Oudin in the first round which means she has enough grass court matches under her belt. Sharapova has been in good form and survived a tough challenge from Kristina Mladenovic in the first round. The Russian should be able to come through this in straight sets, but it should be competitive nonetheless.
Prediction – Sharapova in straight sets
After a fantastic start to the season during which she went 20-4, Li Na has been stuttering of late – going only 4-4 since Stuttgart in April. Her opponent, on the other hand, is playing the best tennis of her life. Simona Halep has won two tournaments coming into Wimbledon (one on clay and one on grass for good measure) and is on an 11-match winning streak. When you add in that Halep has beaten Li Na the only time they have played (incidentally in the first round of another slam – the 2011 US Open) and the Chinese player has a history of early losses at SW 19 (she has reached the second week only once in the past five years), this one has U-P-S-E-T written all over it.
Prediction – Halep wins in three sets
19 year old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard won the junior girls title here in 2012 and 12 months later, she comes into the seniors draw as the world no. 66. Bouchard is one of the dozen teens making her presence felt on the WTA Tour. Ivanovic is back in the top 15 but still far away from her heydays of being a slam contender. And Ivanovic will feel the pressure of living up to her seeding. As Bouchard puts it, “I think that it’s good that I’m the young one. I have nothing to lose. The older players, the ones ranked better, they’re the ones with all the pressure.” Andwe all know Ivanovic does not deal well with pressure.
Prediction – Bouchard wins in straight sets
Both Stephens and Petkovic came into Wimbledon with a point to prove. After a post-Melbourne slump, Stephens rebounded by reaching the last 16 in Paris and her win over red-hot Jamie Hampton in the first round should give her plenty of confidence. Petkovic, a former world no. 10, has just become healthy after her Annus horribilis injuris, one can only hope she doesn’t go injure herself again. Petkovic comes in having won 10 of her last 11 matches. Wimbledon is the only slam she has not made the quarter finals of. And anyone who can express her views in this manner sure has a chance to win. “Normally when I went into the grass season I was already pissed before I hit one ball. This time I was just in this whole mood of gratefulness for my second chance career. I just see it really as a second career. I was just like, Okay, you’re just going to go for the grass and love it and try to start a romance with it. It if it didn’t want you, you’re going to force it to love back. So I’m just enjoying myself really. I’m never going to be … it’s never going to be my favorite surface, but as I said, I’m working at least on a romance.”
Prediction – Petkovic in three sets