Wimbledon Week 2 Ladies’ Singles Preview
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It has been a week of sunshine, surprises, and strawberries at Wimbledon, and after six days of the most gripping tennis you will ever see, the players will now rest on the middle Sunday and prepare to do it all again next week.
We are three rounds in and now have four more to go as we reach the last 16 of the women’s draw. As always we have had the drama, upsets and occasional brilliant tennis that we have come to expect from the best the WTA has to offer.
It started with bang on the opening day with Margarita Gasparyan looking like she could challenge Serena Williams for a few games. The Russian was a break up in the first set, but as is usually the case the world number one found her feet and stamped her authority. From there it was only heading in one direction- 6-4, 6-1 to the American.
There were a few blowouts for the likes of Andrea Petkovic and Venus Williams who both cruised through without losing a game, but the most surprising of which saw Carla Suarez Navarro say her farewells to SW19 after winning only two games against 2014 girls champion Jelena Ostapenko.
The upsets poured in on day two, with Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep continuing their recent struggles. Just when you thought Bouchard could not sink much further, she goes and loses her final points by falling to qualifier Ying-Ying Duan 7-6(3), 6-4. Halep fared slightly better, but the end result was the same- A first round defeat. The world number three was defeated by Jana Cepelova 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Ana Ivanovic would be the next casualty as temperatures soared on the third day. The Serb could not stand the heat of Bethanie Mattek-Sands as he lost 6-3, 6-4. Karolina Pliskova would also make her exit as the seeds continued to tumble. In a big serving battle against Coco Vandeweghe the Czech came up short, and lost 7-6(5), 6-4. Sara Errani would be another seed to drop out after losing to Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, (3)6-7, 6-2.
With the seeds falling faster than Bouchard’s ranking, you just knew there would be another surprise on day four. Ekaterina Makarova, Elina Svitolina, Alize Cornet and Svetlana Kuznetsova would be the next victims of the ‘upset bug’ than had plagued the first week.
The tournament would really pick up on Friday, where an unlikely source gave the world number one an almighty scare. Britain’s Heather Watson rallied to a double break lead against Serena in the final set, but as many times before the five time champion showed why she is labelled ‘the best’. The world number one rallied back to take the set 7-5, and end the British involvement in the draw. But despite the loss, Heather was labelled as a hero by the British press the following morning.
It was labelled as the best match of the tournament thus far on the women’s side, but it soon got a run for its money when Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza took to court on the Saturday. The clash in styles made for an excellent contest which included a 33 shot rally at the start of the first set tiebreak. It was long, but the mental fortitude of Muguruza shone as she saved nine set points to take the tiebreak 14-12. The Spaniard dropped the second set 6-1, but ran away with the third to book her ticket in to the second week.
In a week of upsets, none was more shocking than the one that took place on centre court on Saturday evening. Petra Kvitova had not broken a sweat in the first two rounds, barely losing any games. But she soon found herself in a three set battle with Jelena Jankovic who had come from a break down to level the match. The Serbian’s pressure was soon rewarded at 5-4, where she to the Kvitova serve to claim victory and the biggest upset of the tournament so far.
Sabine Lisicki, often a contender at Wimbledon, also found herself heading for an early exit. In her worst performance here since 2008, the 2013 finalist was ousted by Timea Bascinszky 6-3, 6-2.
After six days of intense tennis, we have gone from 128 women to 16. That will be halved to eight on Manic Monday where all the round four matches will be played.
Round of Sixteen Matches:
(1) Serena Williams vs (16) Venus Williams:
It is the main event of manic Monday. Serena vs Venus XXVI will capture the intrigue of every tennis fan around the world as they collide on centre court yet again. It is their first meeting here since the 2009 final where Serena overcame her older sister to be crowned champion. The world number one leads the head to head 14-11 overall and 3-2 at Wimbledon, but Venus was the winner the last time they met which was in Canada last year. Serena has had her struggles thus far, especially in round three against Watson where she pushed to the brink. Things have been a little easier for Venus who has not dropped a set thus far.
Will Serena remain on course for the calendar grand slam? Or can her older sister reel back the years to end all hopes of the Serena slam?
(23) Victoria Azarenka vs (30) Belinda Bencic:
For all the talk of the Williams sisters’ showdown, many will overlook this potentially exciting round four match-up. Bencic has found her form on the grass by winning the title in Eastbourne a week prior to The Championships. The 18 year old is touted as a future star of the WTA tour, and she could claim the scalp of a former two time grand slam champion in Azarenka. The Belarusian has not dropped a set in the tournament as her mission to rebuild her ranking continues. Bencic has been made to work for her fourth round place after being taken to three sets twice. There was a knee injury concern for the Swiss against Bethanie Mattek-Sands, so it will be interesting to see if that has an impact on this match.
(4) Maria Sharapova vs Zarina Diyas:
Not many people have talked about Sharapova as a possible title contender, but the fourth seed has still quietly (well not quietly, but you get what I mean) gone about her business during the first week. Sharapova has barely been tested in the first three rounds, and she will be hoping not to join boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov on the Wimbledon exit list when she faces Diyas on Monday. The Kazakh has made the fourth round for the second year in a row, and she has played well thus far, only losing one set in the first week. It is hard to see Diyas springing an upset, especially given how their last meeting went. Sharapova raced through 6-1, 6-1 in Melbourne earlier in the year.
(6) Lucie Safarova vs Coco Vandeweghe:
Last year’s semi-finalist Safarova, has not quite been at her French Open form so far, but she has done enough to squeeze past some very tricky opponents none the less. The Czech has defeated two Americans in three sets to get to the second week, and she will have to defeat another one if she is to make the quarter finals. Vandeweghe has shown excellent form during the first three rounds, not dropping a set on the way to defeating the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Sam Stosur. The American’s big serve and powerful ground strokes suits the grass, but will it be enough to defeat last year’s semi-finalist?
(5) Caroline Wozniacki vs (20) Garbine Muguruza:
With Kvitova out, the bottom half has opened up for a surprise finalist. Both Wozniacki and Muguruza will fancy their chances of a first Wimbledon final, but first they must get past the other. Wozniacki was troubled by Saisai Zheng in the opening set of their first round encounter, but since then it has been plain sailing for the Dane. Muguruza has struggled on the grass prior to this tournament, but her three set victory over Kerber in round three shows she has adapted well. The mental fortitude of the Spaniard was particularly impressive in that match. Muguruza leads the head to head 2-1, but Wozniacki won their last meeting in Tokyo. A great clash of styles here in the fourth round which will pit the consistency of Wozniacki vs the power of Muguruza.
(15) Timea Bascinszky vs Monica Niculescu:
If you were told that Bascinszky vs Niculescu will contest for a quarter final place you may have looked at me funny. However, that is exactly what we have got with the early exits of Lisicki and Halep. Niculescu is the last Romanian standing, and she has shown good form on the grass court with her unique game suiting the surface. Bascinszky has been untouchable so far, and unbreakable. The dissection of Lisicki was stunning, and her fairy tale comeback continues to wow the tennis community. Can she now find a way to deal with the unusual style of Niculescu?
(21) Madison Keys vs Olga Govortsova:
One name nobody expected to see in the second week is Govortsova. The Belarusian came through qualifying to make the second week, beating Alize Cornet along the way. Keys will be one of the favourites to make the final with her big game, and proven record on this surface. The American has not been at her best so far, but it has still been enough for her to make the second week. It will be a surprise if she does not make the quarter finals at least here.
(13) Agnieszka Radwanska vs (28) Jelena Jankovic:
Jankovic’s reward for her efforts in beating Kvitova is a round four match with an in form Radwanska, who seems rejuvenated on the grass after a poor start to the season. The Pole has cruised through her opening three rounds without dropping a set. Jankovic was taken to three in all her matches here so far, but will be full of confidence after beating the defending champion. Radwanska is on her best surface and has a 5-2 head to head record over her opponent, but Jankovic will fight all the way to the end.
Serena def. Venus in 3
Azarenka def. Bencic in 3
Sharapova def. Diyas in 2
Safarova def. Vandeweghe in 3
Muguruza def. Wozniacki in 3
Bacsinszky def. Niculescu in 2
Keys def. Govortsova in 2
Radwanska def. Jankovic in 2
Serena should have too much for Venus at this stage of their careers though Venus will take a set. I feel Bencic’s injury will hinder her against Azarenka so she will lose in three. Sharapova will overwhelm Diyas, and Safarova will survive Vandeweghe. I feel Muguruza’s form will be too much for Wozniacki which will set up a quarter final with Bacsinszky who should defeat Niculescu. Keys will overpower Govortsova, and Radwanska will be too much for Jankovic on this surface.
Serena def. Azarenka in 3
Sharapova def. Safarova in 3
Muguruza def. Bacsinszky in 3
Radwanska def. Keys in 3
Serena and Vika will have another epic, but on this surface it should be the world number one who comes through. Sharapova’s form will be enough to see her past Safarova. Muguruza vs Bacsinszky was the hardest to predict, but I feel second week grass will give the Spaniard an advantage. Radwanska’s consistency will shine through against Keys.
Serena def. Sharapova in 2
Radwanska def. Muguruza in 2
Serena has not lost to Sharapova in 11 years and I do not see it changing here. Muguruza will be out of energy after four straight three sets battles which will allow Radwanska to come through in straights.
Serena def. Radwanska in 2
With Kvitova out it is hard to see anyone stopping the world number one here. The title is on her racket, and unless she defeats herself I cannot see Williams letting it slip.