Sunday, June 24, 2012

2012 Wimbledon -- Women's Preview

Every time another major rolls around for the past year, I think “I couldn't possibly be less interested in women's tennis than I am right now.” And yet the next one arrives and voila! I'm less interested.

In the interest of getting through this preview, I'm going to list the odds published on and then just deal with the players that have a reasonable chance of winning. Here we go.

Maria Sharapova – Seed: 1 Odds: 11/4 – It's no secret that I'm a huge Maria Sharapova fan. She's certainly not my favorite player on the tour (Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters continue to battle it out for that title), but she's right up there. It was great to see her win the French Open, mostly because the only way she wouldn't have won would have been by playing terribly. After Serena lost in the first round, it was her trophy to give away. The fact that she didn't means her head has finally caught back up with her heart. No one ever tries harder than her, but since her shoulder surgery she has often just not been able to seal the deal in the clutch.

She's got a pretty good draw. There's a chance that she'll play Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round, but since Lisicki hasn't won a match since April, there's an even better chance she won't. She could get Clijsters or Angelique Kerber in the quarters. Honestly, I can't see anyone in her half of the draw beating her. Book her slot in the final now.

Serena Williams – Seed: 6 Odds: 11/4 – It says a lot about women's tennis that a woman who lost in the first round of the French Open is seen as having the same chance of winning Wimbledon as the woman who won the French Open. To be fair, it probably says as much about the respect people have for Serena as it does about the rest of the field. Still, the way she choked away that match again Razzani in France it's hard to see her winning seven matches in a row here. But if she returns to her old self, she'll have no problem winning five. After that, anything can happen. One final note: I've read in a few articles that the feeling is that if Serena doesn't win Wimbledon this year, she probably won't win another major. I think that's total bullshit. She wants the gold medal at the Olympics and has to realize that this is her very best chance. No matter what happens here, she'll be ready on July 28.

Petra Kvitova – Seed: 4 Odds: 7/2 – She's the defending champion, which must be the reason she's got such good odds. It can't be on the merits of her play this year. She has yet to win a tournament in 2012; in fact, she hasn't won a single match against a player ranked in the top ten. She needs a big tournament just to keep her in the top five. She'll probably get to the quarterfinals, but I don't see her beating Serena. Her real worry is that once the Wimbledon points are gone, she could very easily slip out of the top ten entirely by the end of the year.

Victoria Azarenka – Seed: 2 Odds: 6/1 – Vika probably gets to the semifinals because there's no one in her quarter to worry her. Well, Marion Bartoli could actually give her trouble if they meet in the quarterfinals, but Bartoli has to get there first. If she does get to the semifinals, I have a hard time picking a winner of her match with either Kvitova or Serena. There's very little to separate any of them right now. They all have the ability to win a major; and none of them has shown it lately.

Na Li – Seed: 11 Odds: 20/1 – Na Li is the perfect example of what happens when you don't defend your title at a grand slam AND you don't have many great results at other tournaments. She had already dropped to the seventh seed at Roland Garros. Now she's out of the top ten. Don't expect her to get back into it on the strength of her play here.

Kim Clijsters – Seed: Unseeded Odds: 25/1 – My heart says that Clijster has to play Sharapova in the quarterfinals here. Then no matter what happens I won't be too disappointed. But until last week she hadn't played since March and she didn't even finish this tournament. If she is physically able to get through the matches, she's got as good a chance as anyone not named Sharapova or Serena, which is why she's still the sixth favorite to win it. If I were her though, I'd just focus on beating Jelena Jankovic in the first round. Clijsters typically has to play her way into a tournament, so having to play a top 20 player right off the bat isn't her ideal draw.

Sam Stosur – Seed: 5 Odds: 25/1 – Here's all I want to say about Sam Stosur: She's seeded fifth and the odds makers have given her the same chance of winning the tournament as a woman with an auto-immune disorder (Venus Williams) that keeps her from even knowing if she'll be able to finish a match when she wakes up in the morning.

Venus Williams – Seed: Unseeded Odds: 25/1 – The good news is that the woman that has beaten Venus the last two years (Tsvetana Pironkova) isn't in her quarter of the draw. The bad news is what I just said in the paragraph before this one. Grass court matches tend to be shorter, so that could help her. It's just hard to imagine her making much headway here. Look for her to make her last great showing on these courts during the Olympics. The adrenaline of playing for her country could help her get through her matches there.

Caroline Wozniacki 30/1, Agnieszka Radwanska 30/1, Sabine Lisicki 40/1, Angelique Kerber 50/1, Marion Bartoli 60/1, Ana Ivanovic 60/1, Sara Errani 80/1, Svetlana Kuznetsova 80/1, Vera Zvonareva 100/1, Julia Goerges 100/1, Dominika Cibulkova 100/1, Jelena Jankovic 150/1, Tsvetana Pironkova 150/1, Francesca Schiavone 150/1, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 150/1, Yanina Wickmayer 150/1, Daniela Hantuchova 150/1, Shuai Peng 200/1 and field 20/1 – One of these players will make the semifinals. If I had to pick which one, I'd have to go with Bartoli.

Semifinals – Sharapova is way too mentally tough for Sam Stosur to handle. It could be one of those lopsided, 75-minute matches. Sharapova in two

Serena will get to avenge last year's loss to Marion Bartoli, but it won't be easy. Bartoli can really get under your skin and Serena will have to deal with her nerve, which failed her last month. Serena in three

Final – I'm predicting the best women's final at Wimbledon since Venus beat Lindsay Davenport 9-7 in the third set in 2005. For years, Serena has been in Sharapova's head. But now the circumstances are different. Maria has a lot of confidence and hasn't lost a lot this year. Serena is dealing with uncertainty and is still a little rusty. The quality of the tennis might not always be fantastic, but the quality of the drama will be. Sharapova in three

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