There really is only one story going in to the ladies singles event at Wimbledon. It is Serena Williams and her quest for her 2nd career “Serena Slam.” Wimbledon is the only major title she does not hold at the moment. As always, she is the favorite. However, she will have her work cut out for her. It has only been three weeks since her French Open triumph. As I begin to reveal my predictions, I will tell you all right now that I am either crazy like a fox or just plain crazy.
Top half- Familiar foes and dangerous floaters for Serena
This is by far the tougher half. Serena is joined by 3 former world number ones and multi time grand slam champions. More specifically, 4th seed Maria Sharapova, (23) Victoria Azarenka, and her big sister (16) Venus Williams. Venus is a five-time Wimbledon champion in her own right and the one name Serena did not want to see anywhere near her own. They will play in round 4 if form holds. Playing her sister is always tough on Serena not only from a tennis standpoint, but also an emotional one. We have seen the Williams sisters play each other countless times, often times the winner comes out flat the next day. Despite their mastery of big hitting grass court tennis, I think playing each other so early will be a death nail for both their chances.
Has it really been 11 years since a baby faced 17 year old named Maria Sharapova won this title? She has struggled here since that magical run, only going beyond the quarterfinals once since 2007. This year, she has had some extra time to prepare by virtue of her early French Open exit. The early rounds will tell the story for the fiery Russian. If she doesn’t mess around, she has a shot to go deep again. She could potentially face her kryptonite Serena Williams in the semis. As for (23) Victoria Azarenka, it is nice to see her back playing at a decent level after dealing with injuries for the last year or so. She will pull a minor upset to reach the 4th round, but her seeding will prevent her from going further.
In this half, there is one first-round match that I think will decide a lot, (30) Belinda Bencic vs. Tsvetana Pironkova. Bencic is a teenager with lots of talent and Pironkova is a veteran who possesses big shots, but also can put wicked slice on all of them. They stay nice and low on grass. She is among the top 10 players in the world on the surface. She has had more than one deep run here in the not-too-distant past. I like the winner of this match to get all the way to the semis and upset Serena in the quarterfinals. It is a coin flip, but Bencic could suffer a letdown after winning her first title at a smaller event this morning, I’ll take Pironkova. I may be the only person in the world predicting an unseeded semifinalist. This match will be played Monday.
Other seeds here worth noting: (7) Ana Ivanovic, (11) Karolina Pliskova, and (6) Lucie Safarova who I think is in first round danger against American grass court specialist Allison Riske.
Semifinal prediction: Sharapova d. Pironkova
Bottom half- Wide Open
The big name seeds in this half all have questions. Defending champ (2) Petra Kvitova is the closest thing to a safe bet, but she struggled in Paris with an illness that is still bothering her. Even so, it’s hard to pass up her raw power and ability. She is a two-time Wimbledon champion, capable of making it three. For (3) Simona Halep, she is still stinging from her 2nd round French Open exit. She can get overpowered on grass very easily. She has made a coaching change the week before a major, which is unheard of. She is lost at sea and searching for answers. I don’t expect her to find them here. Last year’s finalist Canadian (12) Eugenie Bouchard is rail thin and has lost 10 of her last 12 matches. She will fight hard, but it is difficult to have much faith in her right now. The door is wide open for former finalist (18) Sabine Lisicki to make that kind of run again. She broke the record for aces by a female in a match last week with 27. She has a love affair with these courts and will be a tough out for anyone. Also here is 2012 finalist (14) Aga Radwanska who possesses the variety and movement to frustrate any opponent on any surface, but particularly this one. Her projected 4th round match with Kvitova will go a long way towards deciding the finalist from this half.
Other seeds: (15) Timea Bacsinszky- The hotel worker turned French Open semifinalist has a dangerous first round against hot and cold German Julia Gorges. She is joined by (8) Ekaterina Makarova- The Russian lefty is having a breakout year. Speaking of breakouts, 21st seeded American Madison Keys has yet to really back up her semifinal round in Australia. She should stick around for at least a few rounds here.
Semifinal prediction: Kvitova d. Lisicki
Final: Kvitova d. Sharapova