Wimbledon Picks -- The Women
Better late than never. There were no major upsets Monday and little changed, so here we go:
Winner: Serena Williams
Finalist: Venus Williams
Considering the unreliable state of women’s tennis and that the Williams sisters have won seven of the last nine Wimbledons, it’s hard to pick against one of them bagging another. The tougher call is, which one? Although she has admitted it only sparingly, I think Serena’s loss to in last year’s final to Venus was particularly bitter. Family affections aside, you could see the revenge factor in her eyes and gesticulations as she fought off 10 set points (or was it 12?) against her older sibling at the U.S. Open semifinals on her way to the title. I think she wants it bad; it’s been six years since she won here; and let’s face it, she’s been the most consistent player on tour in big matches for the last 10 months.
The top half of the draw is led by No. 1 Dinara Safina, who says she doesn’t like grass (turf aversion apparently runs in the family) and who still has a Grand Slam chip on her shoulder after folding in the French Open final to Svetlana Kuznetsova. She has something to prove, and I see the Russian reaching her first semifinal in London. She will have to step it up against some tough competition, including 2006 champ Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth round and a possible rematch with Kuznetsova in the last eight, if Kuzy gets by Caroline Wozniacki.
No. 3 Venus doesn’t have an easy path either, with confident Samantha Stosur in her round of 32 and then either slumping Jelena Jankovic or Na Li in the quarterfinals. I’m picking Li, who won’t have enough power to get past Venus. By the semifinals, Venus will be hitting her stride. Her defense will be too much for Safina, who will finally realize it’s grass underfoot and implode.
The weakest quarter is the top section of the lower half, with the likes of No. 4 Elena Dementieva, 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, French Open semifinalist Dominika Cibulkova and No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, who is recently back from injury. Suffice it to say, whoever emerges from this part of the draw – I’m going with Dementieva on seeding – will have little chance against their semifinals opponent.
The bottom quarter features No. 2 Serena Williams, who won her opener Monday. The 10-time major champ has a rough road, with 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist Jie Zheng in the fourth round, and one of two big-hitters in the quarterfinals – rising Victoria Azarenka or 2004 champ Maria Sharapova. Serena wants it bad, and she’ll gut her way past either opponent for another look at the trophy with Venus standing in the way.
In a tough three-set final, Serena will deny her sister a sixth Wimbledon and win her third All-England Club championship, putting her one shy of idol Billie Jean King’s career total of 12 majors – just as Venus remains one trophy short of tying King’s mark of six singles titles.