It’s hard to believe that we spent the first five months of the season talking about the emergence of the Big Three in the women’s game. And here we are at the quarter-final stage of Wimbledon – Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka all gone and fourth seeded Agnieszka Radwanska being the highest seed still alive in the draw. While two of the eight women still left in the draw have a grand slam title to their names, it will be interesting to see if there will be a first-time grand slam champion crowned at SW19 this weekend. Here’s our preview of Tuesday’s quarter-finals at the All-England Club.
Lisicki and Kanepi are two players who could have achieved a lot more in their careers if they had not spent so much time on the sidelines with injuries. The 23 year old Lisicki is the modern grass-court specialist. The big-serving German is through to the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the fourth time in her career and all four have come at the All-England Club. Meanwhile, Kanepi will be playing in her fifth grand slam quarter-final and has been this far in all of the slams except Melbourne. On grass, Lisicki will be the favourite but she needs to avoid the post-upset letdown that afflicted Darcis, Stakhovsky and Larcher de Brito last week. 28 year old Kanepi, who missed six months and came back to the tour only in April, will capitalize if the German falters and knows she needs to play her best tennis to win. “I think my serve and attacking game are working well for me, which is important on grass, and I feel comfortable on the return too. It was a very tough match and I’m happy to get through it, but I will need to be even better for the next round. Sabine had a great win and she is obviously playing very well. She has such a big game so I guess I’ll have to hit it very hard too!”
Prediction – Kanepi in three sets
(4) Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Li Na (6) – H2H Li Na leads 6-4 (Radwanska leads 2-1 on grass)
This is the only quarter-final that has lived up to its seeding. And it should be a good baseline battle between two of the tour’s most crafty players. However, only one of their previous ten clashes has gone to three sets and Li Na has won four of their last five meetings. Radwanska sure seems to like playing on grass. She reached her only grand slam final here 12 months ago and is in the quarters for the fourth time in six years. Li Na, on the other hand, is into the quarters for the third time but has never made the semis here. Neither player seems to be in outstanding form this fortnight, having dropped two sets each on their way to the last eight. Radwanska’s steady game may force Li Na to go for more on her shots. The Chinese player’s winner-unforced errors ratio will be the key to deciding this match.
Prediction – Radwanska in straight sets
Say what you will about Sloane Stephens’ post Melbourne slump, the 20 year old American sure seems to like playing at the slams. After making the fourth round in Paris, Stephens has gone one step ahead at Wimbledon by reaching the last eight. Stephens has the game and the tools to win here one day but for now, does she have enough fight to take down Bartoli, who is a former finalist here. Bartoli plays tough every time she goes out on court and the Frenchwoman, who recently fired her dad from coaching duties, knows she may not have too many chances to get to the final stages of a slam. Stephens says she is ready for the challenge. “I put in a lot of work, took a lot of sweat, like bad hair days, all that other stuff, to get to where I was. I realize that I just couldn’t let that go to waste. Playing a grand slam, every occasion is big, every quarter is big, even if you’re playing like Timbuktu Court, Aorangi. I’ll go out and play hard. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited. Hopefully I’ll have a good match and have fun.”
Prediction – Bartoli in straight sets
Are the stars aligning themselves for a second slam title for the Czech Kvitova? Or are they aligning themselves for a fairytale grand slam run for the Belgian Flipkens? Kvitova won here two years ago and was soon labelled the next big thing in women’s tennis. But she had not reached another slam final and is barely managing to hold on to her spot in the top 10. 27 year old Flipkens, a journeywoman for most of her career, had blood clots detected in her calf last April, and dropped to no. 262 in the rankings – even forcing the Belgian federation to stop funding her. But Flipkens has made a stunning comeback in the past year and is now ranked no. 20 in the world. The Belgian uses a variety of slices and spins in her game and also likes to attack the net. That may leave Kvitova unsettled as the Czech prefers to play the traditional baseline power-hitter. If Flipkens could exploit Kvitova’a weak movement across the court, she will have a chance to cause another huge upset. And Kvitova knows it too. “I lost to her the last time we played in Miami, so I hope I can play better tennis than I did in that match. We’ve never played on grass, which will be quite difficult against her, as she’s playing quite well. Otherwise she wouldn’t be in the quarterfinals. I have to be prepared for it.”
Prediction – Flipkens in straight sets