Serena Williams Venus Williams of United States and Serena Williams of United States celebrate match point and winning the women's doubles Final match against Lisa Raymond of United States and Samantha Stosur of Australia on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 5, 2008 in London, England.

Williams, Inc.:  Ruling the All England Club for most of this millennium, they become de facto contenders despite nearly disappearing since last year’s Wimbledon.  Still the best servers in the WTA by a wide margin, Serena and Venus will win more free points than their rivals and continue to intimidate most of the draw.  The short, offense-rewarding exchanges on grass will benefit two players who may lack in timing and instincts after prolonged absences.  If they can survive the rust to reach the second week, both have proven before (as in 2007) that they can win majors without any match preparation.  Unless Wimbledon jolts their seeds upwards, though, reaching the second week could prove more challenging than usual.

Sharapova:  The only former champion here outside the Williams sisters, she also will relish a surface where she can terminate points with one or two vicious blows.  A Roland Garros semifinal will have whetted her appetite to proceed further at her favorite major, while her serve stayed steadier this spring than it has throughout her comeback, allowing the rest of her game to converge around it.  But the low bounce can bother the statuesque Siberian, and she has not defeated either Williams sister since 2007 or reached a quarterfinal here since 2006.

Li / Schiavone:  Neither of last year’s surprise Paris finalists excelled at Wimbledon, likely still staggering from their unexpected success.  A quarterfinalist on grass last year, and a Birmingham champion, Li has the requisite grass-court skills but swooned after her previous breakthrough in Melbourne.  Although the low bounce should sharpen Schiavone’s biting slice, she probably lacks the serve and raw power to launch a deep run.

Azarenka:  Winless in four trips to Slam quarterfinals, Vika continues to frustrate just when a breakthrough looks imminent.  Nevertheless, she has either won the title or lost to the eventual champion in every event that she has played since March, so only a dominant performance will conquer her.  Her evenly balanced groundstrokes should thrive on the grass, while her serve could gain some valuable extra sting.  Until she harnesses her emotions more effectively, though, she remains too volatile to withstand the ebbs and flows of a major.

Kvitova:  Vaulting into visibility last year, the most accomplished Czech lefty since Navratilova bludgeoned Wozniacki and Azarenka en route to the semifinals.  A stern test for Serena at that stage, Kvitova can crack outright winners from anywhere on the court to anywhere else.  She nearly broke through Li’s defenses on clay and possesses the most formidable serve of her generation.  Less impressive is a tactical rigidity that prevents her from adjusting in adversity.

Zvonareva:  Winning her most important title at Indian Wells in 2009, Vera struggled to defend that accomplishment a year later and has crumbled under pressure throughout her career.  The Russian has receded this year with only a single final and five losses to players outside the top 20.  Now without emotional anchor Sergei Demekhine, she showed traces of the former, fatalistic Zvonareva this spring.  But she will find these tranquil surroundings more conducive to her calm than the raucous Paris arenas.

Wozniacki:  Armed with a reliable but not overpowering serve, she will not win Wimbledon unless she learns how to unleash her groundstrokes more freely and with less margin.  Winning just two games from Kvitova here last year, the world #1 cannot trust her consistency to outlast seven shot-makers on the worst surface for counterpunchers.  Sooner or later, someone will outhit her.

Clijsters:  Not fully healthy since February, the Belgian probably lacks the match preparation to capture her first Wimbledon.  The points rush past on grass more than anywhere else, preventing Kim from establishing the baseline rhythm that she prefers.  As she did last year, Clijsters should focus on settling into a groove for the summer hard courts, the scene of her greatest achievements.

Bartoli:  Seemingly a one-Slam wonder when she reached the 2007 final, the double-fister suggested otherwise by reaching a Roland Garros semifinal.  If those flat, oddly angled lasers darted past opponents on clay, they will prove even more effective on grass.  Her serve remains a permanent liability, however, inviting elite returners to whack winners before the point even begins.

Stosur:  In theory, her thunderous serve and incisive volleys should thrive on the grass, which rewards those strokes more than the clay where Stosur has excelled.  In practice, her indifferent footwork and movement allow opponents to quarantine her in her backhand corner.  Like Kuznetsova, Stosur often runs around her harmless two-hander to hit forehands, a fruitless tactic on a surface that punishes those who open too much court territory.

Petkovic:  Often rising or sinking to the level of the competition, she remains too raw and undisciplined to capture the crown jewel of the sport.  Still, three victories over former or current #1s this year and consecutive quarterfinals at the first two majors leave her positioned to cause a stir with the austere Brits.  One smiles to imagine the premiere of the Petko-dance, moon-walk, etc. on Wimbledon’s immaculate Centre Court.

 

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