2011 Wimbledon Women’s Tennis Championship
Monday, June 20 – Saturday, July 2, 2011
All England Lawn Tennis Center, Wimbledon, England
Playing Surface: Grass
TV Coverage: ESPN2, Tennis Channel, NBC
Defending Champion: Serena Williams
After long absences the Williams sisters finally return to women’s tennis. Venus has played only one event since she bowed out in the third round of the Australian Open in January with an abdominal injury. She made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament at Eastbourne on grass before she lost to Daniela Hantuchova. Serena also played in that event but lost in the second round. Before that Serena hadn’t played since she won Wimbledon last year. She cut a tendon in her foot and later had a blood clot in her lung that almost killed her. Women’s tennis certainly welcomes them back because they bring much needed star power which tennis sorely needs. The fact that they Americans doesn’t hurt either, obviously. However, just as the Williams sisters return, the WTA loses another one of their top stars as defending U.S. and Australian Open champion pulled out with an injury.
It is telling that the Williams sisters have missed a combined 18 months of action and are still among the favorites to win Wimbledon. Since 2000, they have combined to win the event 9 times. Maria Sharapova is the only active player not named Williams to win the event. She won in 2004 and the now retired Amelie Mauresmo won it in 2006.
Here is a look at some of the contenders and their odds to win courtesy of bodog. The women’s draw is so much more wide open than the men’s draw. Ten or more women have a legitimate shot to win as opposed to maybe 3 or 4 men that have a realistic shot of winning.
Maria Sharapova (4/1)
Sharapova is 26-7 this year and has won 1 tournament this year in Rome on clay. Sharapova made to the semifinals of the French and lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open. If she can survive her section of the draw which is loaded with players such as Lucie Safarova, Shuai Peng, Samantha Stosur, and Caroline Wozniacki, she will most likely play Na Li or Serena in the semifinals. She needs to watch out as her first round opponent Anna Chakvetadze could be dangerous. Sharapova still hits the ball hard and will go deep into the tournament.
Serena Williams (4/1)
Serena will turn 30 in September. But that is not the issue with her, obviously. Serena has played 2 matches since last year, so rust will certainly be an issue. Her strength and conditioning could also be in question. Does she have the stamina to play a 2 or 3 hour match? We don’t know how she will respond, but she is one of the top five players in the history of women’s tennis, and you would be foolish to count her out. Especially on the grass of Wimbledon. Her section of the draw isn’t too demanding with Marion Bartoli her toughest opponent before a quarterfinal showdown with Na Li awaits. That match will likely decide the tournament.
Na Li (7/1)
The 29 year old Li made history earlier this month as the she became the first Chinese man or woman to win a grand slam event. She is 27-9 this season with 2 titles. She won the event in Sydney to open the season before losing to Kim Clijsters in the finals of the Australian Open. She has never made it past the quarters in four previous trips to Wimbledon, but she is playing the best tennis of her career. She should cruise to the quarters as Julia Georges in the fourth round is her toughest obstacle before an anticipated duel with Serena in the round of 8. If she can get by Serena she has a good shot to win the whole thing.
Venus Williams (7/1)
Venus is probably the most dangerous #23 seed in the history of tennis. She probably should have gotten the same special seeding as her sister who was moved up 19 spots from her current ranking to the #7 seed. Venus is 4-2 on the season with no titles. She just turned 31 and faces the same questions as her sister. She is an excellent grass player, perhaps even better than her sister. Being seeded so low her draw is very challenging. A potential intriguing second round match-up with Kimiko Date-Crumm is possible. If Venus survives that then she would probably have to beat Jelena Jancovic and Vera Zvonareva back to back to get to the quarterfinals where a probable match-up with Petra Kvitova awaits. That is 3 brutal matches in a row against 3 of the top 15 players in the world. I don’t know if even Venus can run that gauntlet, but she could be worth a small play.
Petra Kvitova (8/1)
The 21 year old Czech made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon last year and the quarters at the Aussie this year. She is 36-8 this year and has won 3 titles at Brisbane, Paris, and Madrid. Her section of the draw contains Yanina Wickmayer and Svetlana Kuznetsova, so she should be careful. Though very talented, I am not sure if she is ready or not to win her first grand slam.
Caroline Wozniacki (9/1)
It is a little unusual that Wozniacki is the number one player in the world but he discussed 5 other players before her. This is because she underachieves at the majors. Wozniacki has made one grand slam final in her career and has never won one. She made it to the semifinals at Australia but flamed out in the third round in the French Open. She has never made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon. This year, Wozniacki is 45-8 with 5 titles at Dubai, Indian Wells, Charleston, Brussels, and Copenhagen. She is too talented to have never won a major and will break through eventually. The soon to be 21 year old Dane shouldn’t be challenged too severely until a possible quarterfinal showdown with Sharapova awaits. I don’t like her chances to win her first grand slam on grass, her weakest surface.
Victoria Azarenka (12/1)
The 21 year old Belarusian is 33-10 this year, with 2 titles at Miami and Marbella. She has never made it past the quarters of any major. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open and in the quarters at the French. Four of the five times she has played Wimbledon, she didn’t even make it past the third round. Her section of the draw includes such potential pitfalls as Daniela Hantuchova, Kaia Kenepi, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (cleverly nicknamed Scrabble by TV analyst Brad Gilbert.) Her potential quarterfinal opponent is Francesca Schiavone or Andrea Petkovic. Azarenka doesn’t lack in self-confidence and could be a nice dark horse pick to win her first grand slam title.
Vera Zvonareva (16/1)
The 26 year old Russian was the Runner up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year. Before last year, she had never advanced past the 4th round here. She is 30-11 this year with one title at Doha. Zvonareva is in the same section as Venus Williams. If she can survive that third round match she has a good chance to go to the semis at least.
Daniela Hantuchova (22/1)
The 28 year old Slovakian has never made it past the quarters of any major, and hasn’t made it past the 4th round at Wimbledon since 2002. She is 27-18 this season with 1 win at Pattaya City, Thailand in February. She was upset in the first round of the Australian Open and bowed out in the fourth round at the French. She has a tough third round match-up with Azarenka and could be in trouble. I don’t like her chances to win.
Marion Bartoli (25/1)
The 26 year old Frenchwoman made it to the semifinals of the French Open. She was the runner up here in 2007 to Venus. Besides those two events, she has never made it past the 4th round of any Slam. Her luck won’t change this year as she will probably get Serena in the fourth round. Bartoli is 36-15 this season with one title at Eastbourne last week.
I will give a lukewarm prediction of Serena to tie her older sister with 5 Wimbledon titles.
Other contenders and their odds are Stosur (25/1), Agniez Radwanska (33/1), Petkovic (33/1), Jankovic (40/1), Kuznetsova (50/1), Schiavone (66/1), Goerges (66/1), Wickmayer (66/1), and Lucie Safarova (100/1)