The women’s draw for this year’s Wimbledon Championships are out and there are a few interesting match-ups that could take place over the next fortnight.
Last year’s finalists, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska, are in the same half as each other, while Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova will be forced to tussle it out in the bottom half.
Here are some of the interesting matches that could take place this year:
Serena Williams (1) versus Zheng Jie (due to meet in the second round)
Serena Williams almost didn’t win the title last year – as 2008 semi-finalist Zheng Jie pushed her to three gruelling sets in the third round last year, with the final set stretching to 9-7.
It was the first of three such matches that Williams was forced to endure on her way to the title last year – she was also tested by Yaroslava Shvedova (who in the third round golden-bagelled Sara Errani) in three sets and Agnieszka Radwanska turned what appeared to be a one-sided match into a contest in the final.
The two have somewhat of a history of meeting at Wimbledon – apart from last year’s third round thriller, they also met in the 2008 semi-finals, where Williams ended the giant killing run of the Chinese wildcard who advanced after famously upsetting then-World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the third round.
They also met in the first round in 2004, with Williams also winning en route to a failed shot at a third consecutive Wimbledon title.
One would have to wonder what the fourth edition of the Williams/Zheng rivalry will deliver if they are to meet in the second round.
Arantxa Rus versus Samantha Stosur (14) (due to meet in the second round)
Samantha Stosur has a history of under-performing at Wimbledon, and here in the second round she could face the woman who knocked her out at the same stage last year.
The Australian appeared to have turned a corner when she comfortably beat Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round last year, but her weakness on grass was brutally exposed when the 2008 Australian Open junior champion beat her in three sets in the very next round, in spite of Stosur winning the second set 6-0.
Should Stosur get past lucky loser Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round, she will very likely have a second shot at Rus – and if she can get her revenge, she’ll reach the third round for only the second time in her career.
Additionally, if she can defy her poor record at the All England Club and reach the fourth round for the first time, then she will very likely face American rival Serena Williams, who is in the best form of her career.
Agnieszka Radwanska (4) versus Heather Watson (due to meet in the third round)
Last year’s Wimbledon journey was somewhat of an experience for Heather Watson, as she reached the third round last year, only to find soon-to-be finalist World No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska too good for her.
The Pole also got the better of her earlier this year, claiming a straight sets victory in the third round at the Australian Open, Watson being Radwanska’s 12th consecutive victim of a 13-match winning streak to start the season.
Both players are battling demons of their own – Watson was recently grounded by illness and Radwanska’s form has dipped since the end of March. The Pole, in particular, lost her first round match in Eastbourne in a tournament which many predicted she would win, and will head to Wimbledon short on match practice.
Grass has, however, proven to be Radwanska’s best surface over the years – in addition to reaching the final at Wimbledon last year, she also won the girls’ title in 2005. Will this year’s edition see her go one better, or at least try to get back some form, or will her poor recent run continue?
Agnieszka Radwanska (4) versus Li Na (6) (due to meet in the quarter-finals)
Should Radwanska reach the quarter-finals, as one would expect, she will face her first genuine threat in the form of China’s former French Open finalist, Li Na.
Li has her own tough draw to navigate through first – she could face Romanian nemesis Simona Halep in the second round, and recent Birmingham champion Daniela Hantuchova in the third.
Should this projected quarter-final occur, it will deliver the next page in their rivalry – earlier this year, they ended each other’s undefeated starts to 2013, with Radwanska beating Li in Sydney before the Chinese turned the tables at the Australian Open two-and-a-half weeks later.
They have met twice at Wimbledon, with both sharing the honours – Radwanska won in 2009 before losing to Venus Williams in the quarter-finals, while Li got her revenge 12 months later and herself reached the quarter-finals, losing to Serena Williams.
Li also enjoys a 6-4 head-to-head record against Radwanska, but has never reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon, while her Polish rival has.
Wimbledon is also the only Grand Slam tournament in which Radwanska has gone past the quarter-finals, so you get the feeling that a little bit of history could be made….
Sara Errani (5) versus Maria Sharapova (3) (due to meet in the quarter-finals)
Both players may not have had the clay court seasons they would have wished for, but they can at least be happy about how they have gone about their business this year.
Errani has reached a career high rank of World No. 5 and this follows a hat-trick of semi-finals in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. But the transition to grass will be her biggest test, undoubtedly.
Last year, neither Errani or Maria Sharapova made the transition to grass very well – Errani was golden-bagelled by Yaroslava Shvedova in the third round while Sharapova was sent packing by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.
Errani has never reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and grass is undoubtedly her worst surface, as her results over the last few years has shown. Sharapova, on the other hand, has only gone past the fourth round at SW19 once since 2006 – in 2011, on her way to losing to Petra Kvitova in the final.
If Errani does, somehow, reach her first quarter-final at Wimbledon, she could be in for a massive reality check against the 2004 champion Sharapova, who is undefeated against non-Serena Williams opponents since the Australian Open.
Petra Kvitova (8) versus Ana Ivanovic (12) (due to meet in the fourth round)
Both players have been in shaky form so far this year – but a possible fourth round showdown between these two one-slam wonders could see a return to form for one player, while for the other a long second half of the year looms.
Petra Kvitova has struggled to reach the heights of her 2011 form in recent times, scooping only three titles in the last 18 months, while Ana Ivanovic has not reached a tournament final in the same time period and is desperately hungry to regain her lost successes.
The Serbian’s only Grand Slam quarter-final since winning the 2008 French Open came at last year’s US Open, while Kvitova has not gone past the fourth round of a Grand Slam since dropping out of the top four upon the loss of her title defence to Serena Williams at Wimbledon last year.
So either way, one drought could end.
Kvitova only beat Ivanovic for the first time at last year’s Australian Open – their only Grand Slam meeting to date. Ivanovic has, however, won most of their matches and holds a 4-2 record against her, including a victory in the Fed Cup finals series last year.
Alize Cornet (29) versus Victoria Azarenka (2) (due to meet in the third round)
The pair only recently met at the same stage at the French Open earlier this month and although Cornet appeared on track for an upset early on, nerves got the better of her as an error-strewn Azarenka climbed from the canvas to end her hopes of a good run in Paris.
Now, they are due to meet at this same stage at Wimbledon, but only if Cornet can get past the second round for the first time. Azarenka, meanwhile, should not be troubled as she shoots for a fifth consecutive Grand Slam semi-final, which is currently her best streak.
Kvitova or Ivanovic versus Victoria Azarenka (2) (due to meet in the quarter-finals)
The winner of the aforementioned Kvitova versus Ivanovic rubber could face second seed Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals and both could be in for a very difficult time.
Kvitova defeated Azarenka in three sets en route to winning Wimbledon in 2011, and also defeated her in the final of the WTA Tour Championships later that year, also in three sets.
But the pair have not met ever since; what could have been the next biggest rivalry in women’s tennis never eventuated, as Azarenka started to establish the present-day three-way rivalry between herself, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.
If it’s Ana Ivanovic that Azarenka is to meet in the quarter-finals, then Ivanovic will have a point to prove – last year, a very nervous Ivanovic was crushed on Centre Court as her fragility got the better of her at what was such a crucial time in her career.
Azarenka’s crushing victory last year was revenge for a semi-final loss in the 2004 junior tournament – after trading breadsticks in the first two sets, Ivanovic won a marathon final set 12-10, after saving three match points earlier on.
Ironically, it was also against Azarenka in which Ivanovic started her career revival – the Serbian entered the 2010 Cincinnati Masters then ranked World No. 62, having lost 17 of her last 29 matches and her confidence seemingly shot to pieces, but a first round fightback would see her pull off a miraculous three-set victory and set about her rise back up the rankings, which is continuing this year.
Ivanovic has not beaten any of the top four since, but there’s no doubt revenge will be on top of her mind if she can get to as far as the quarter-finals, something she hasn’t done since 2007.
So, there are some of the interesting matches that could unfold over the next fortnight. Who do you think will lift the Venus Rosewater Dish this year?