The foremost topic that will be on everyone’s lips is can she do it? She is already half way there and there are many who believe that if not now, then it will never happen. We are of course talking about Serena Williams’ chase into history to complete the calendar year Grand Slam and be two-thirds of the way through to tying Steff Graf’s record. Winner of the Australian and French Open, Serena has not won Wimbledon since her return from life threatening injuries in 2012. She seems to be on a mission to accomplish these milestones and as a fan of the women’s game, I am slowly rooting her on.
Can Venus raise Venus Rosewater dish one more time? At 35 years young, Venus has accomplished so much in her career. After a fast start in 2015, she has tapered off somewhat with some quite disappointing results. However, I am looking forward to seeing her on her beloved grass. I would have loved to see her play a warm up tournament as she has not played a competitive match since losing early at the French. If the seeds hold, she is scheduled to meet her sister in the fourth round.
News broke early this week that current Wimbledon title holder, Petra Kvitova has withdrawn from the Aegon Championships at Eastbourne with a sore throat. While I am not too concerned as to whether Petra will be ready for her Wimbledon title defence, I can’t help but think that she needs some match play heading into Wimbledon. Petra, like Venus has not played a competitive match since losing in the fourth round at the French. As most people know last year Kvitova played Wimbledon with her right leg taped, but she was able to power her way through and claim her second Wimbledon title. There is really no one on her side of the draw who could cause her problems, but look for the consistent Nara to cause her problems and could possibly pull the upset.
Simona Halep is once again coachless, choosing to let her Romanian coach go after losing in the quarter-finals of Birmingham to Kristina Mladenovic. Halep will be “coached” by Darren Cahill during the Championships. A semifinalist last year, Halep seems to be struggling not with the pressure of performing but with the pressure of expectations. I believe that Simona is one of those players who just wants to get out on court and play tennis. The peripheral things that attend being a top player seem to be more of a distraction for her. Here's hoping that she is able to maintain her focus during the 2 weeks of the Championships. She is on the bottom half of the draw and is scheduled to face Petra Kvitova in the semifinals if the seeds hold. The most dangerous players on her side of the draw is Sabine Lisicki and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Maria Sharapova has not played a match since being ousted in the fourth round at the French Open. Since winning the title here in 2004, Sharapova has only made one other final and that was a losing effort to Petra Kvitova in 2011. Sharapova has a tricky draw but I don't see anyone who could cause her any difficulties. She is scheduled to face Johanna Konta who lost to Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals of Eastbourne this week. Konta picked up an injury during that match and if she plays as well as she did in Eastbourne, look for her to give Sharapova some trouble in the early goings. The most dangerous player in Sharapova's section of the top draw are Zarina Diyas, Daria Gavrilova (who has caused her trouble in the past) and the always dangerous Flavia Pennetta. Sharapova is on the top half of the draw with Serena Williams and if seedings hold they could meet in the semifinals.
Can Eugenie Bouchard recapture the magic of 2014 once she steps on the lawns of SW19. A former junior champion here, it could be that the sight of her biggest failure and also her biggest accomplishment could either make her rise up or she will continue in the doldrums with her game. Bouchard has found herself in the bottom half of the draw in the same quarter as last year's champion, Petra Kvitova. She has a very tough draw and with her confidence at an all time low, she could find herself searching for answers after her first round match. Look for an early exit.
Who will be the breakout star of the Championships. At the Australian Open it was Madison Keys who aced her way to the semifinal. At the French, it was the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova who found her way to the final and eventually ended up winning a set in a very memorable final. Lucie Safarova and her pick up partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands would come back to win the women’s doubles title, making them half way to winning a calendar year Grand Slam in doubles.
Madison Keys has claimed to love the grass. Can she make magic happen at the Championships this year? Last year she earned her first WTA title by defeating Angelique Kerber in one of the best finals of the year. Keys suffered an injury last year during her match against Shvedova. Hoefully she is healthy for a run at the Championships. She has had a disappointing grass outing this season, losing her opening match to Belinda Bencic in straight sets.
Sloane Stephens has been playing inspired tennis. She has still not regained the form that took her to the semifinals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon 2 years ago, and it remains to be seen whether she is ready to take that next step. The next few weeks and months will answer those questions.
Without further ado, here are the Spin’s list of Contenders, Pretenders and Maybes for the third Major of the tennis season, The Championships, Wimbledon
· Serena Williams (has not won here since 2012)
· Simona Halep (last year’s semifinalist and can play on grass)
· Petra Kvitova (2x champion. Does she really need match play to win a third title?)
· Madison Keys (failed to defend her Eastbourne title, but hopefully with a few wins in the early rounds she should have her groove back)
· Angelique Kerber (finally won a title on grass playing inspired tennis. Can she back it up at a Major)
· Ana Ivanovic (made the semis here in 2007. Not much is expected here)
· Belinda Bencic (a former junior champion here. Loves the grass & plays well on it)
· Sloane Stephens (former semifinalist, trying to find her way back to the top of the game)
· Karolina Pliskova (big serve & ground strokes but needs to schedule better)
· Kristina Mladenovic (made the semis in Birmingham and loves the big stage. Can she repeat her FO performance here?)
· Maria Sharapova (former champion & semifinalist. Has not been a feature on fast surfaces but this is Wimbledon)
· Garbine Muguruza (has played well on the big stage. Has not done much on the grass before this)
· Camila Giorgi (won her first title this season on grass. Fell to Gavrilova in Eastbourne. Needs the rest)
· Ekaterina Makarova (has been struggling this season since losing in the semis in Australia. Game is suited to the green stuff)
· Victoria Azarenka (made the semifinals here twice. Game not suited for grass. Pulled out of Eastbourne with recurring foot injury)
· Svetlana Kuznetsova (has been playing solid tennis. Made the quarters here in 2008)
· Alize Cornet (pulled one of the biggest upsets at Wimbledon by taking out Serena last year. Has not been much of a factor this year)
· Eugenie Bouchard (the trials of Sisyphus are many and so are the trials of Bouchard. Playing in Eastbourne this week)
· Lucie Safarova (Made the semis here last year which is her best showing. Doubtful she can back it up again this year)
Williams v. Bencic
Diyas v. Pliskova
Wozniacki v. Halep
Keys v. Svitolina
Williams v. Pliskova
Halep v. Keys
Williams over Halep