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Wimbledon Draw Offers the Potential for Another All Williams Final

With the exception of 2004 and 2006 when the Venus Rosewater trophy was leased by Maria Sharapova and Amelie Mauresmo respectively, Venus and Serena Williams have been the proprietor of the Wimbledon title eight out of the last ten years.  In fact, the Williams sisters have been interchangeably the winner and runner-up the ultimate two seasons.   With Serena and Venus as the top two seeds in 2010, a three-peat in the finals is plausible.  However, with Justine Henin having reincorporated herself into the tour with the express objective of hoisting the Wimbledon trophy and compatriot Kim Clijsters a formidable force after rejoining the circuit last summer, a new decade may mark the end of the Williams’ dominance.  Here’s a preview of the draw and the potential obstacles for the chief contenders at the All England Club.

If the outcome is as anticipated, Serena will meet Maria Sharapova in the round of 16.  Despite struggling with her serve since her shoulder surgery, Sharapova has posted some good results the last couple of months.  Moreover, Sharapova reached the finals in Birmingham two weeks ago.  Thus, depending on how well Sharapova plays, the possibility of an upset is undeniable.  With the Birmingham title under her belt, Na Li is a secondary threat in Serena’s section.  A semifinalist in Australia where she loss in two  tiebreaker sets, Li has the weapons to irritate Serena if she gets to the quarterfinals.

Either French Open finalist Samantha Stosur or Caroline Wozniacki could be Serena’s semifinal opponent.  With her recent history at the French Open against Stosur, Serena may have her work cut out for her.  Beforehand, Stosur and Wozniacki may have to battle it out in the quarterfinals.  Looking further back, Wozniacki may have to deal with Victoria Azarenka the 14th seed in the fourth round and Stosur with Flavia Pennetta the 10th seed also in the round of 16.  Since clay is Pennetta’s best surface and with the Italian never making it pass the fourth round, Stosur should prevail.  For Azarenka, the finalist in Eastbourne, a knee injury may be the limiting factor regardless of the rival she faces.

Focusing on the bottom half of the draw, the Wimbledon grass seems to have restorative properties for Venus irrespective of her previous results.  With two titles and finalists status in Miami and Madrid, Venus is in stellar shape.  Venus’ path looks relatively unencumbered until the quarterfinals where she could battle Marion Bartoli or French Open reigning champion Francesca Schiavone.  Still with Venus’ past performance, the scales are heavily tipped in her direction.

For Venus, the clearest danger lies in the semifinals in the forms of Clijsters and Henin.  Although Venus has a 6-6 record against Clijsters, the Belgian is on a four match winning streak.  Moreover, at their last meeting, the Sony Ericsson Open final, Clijsters blew Venus off the court.  While Venus has fared better against Henin, a 7-2 mark, the two have not played since 2007 that in itself may complicate matters for Williams.

Indeed, the most fascinating part of that section has Jelena Jankovic, Nadia Petrova, Henin and Clijsters jockeying for a spot in the semifinals.  Clijsters, the 8th seed, could encounter Henin in the round of 16.  Although Henin seized the warm-up title at the Unicef Open, the fact that she has fallen twice to Clijsters this year carries plenty of weight.  If not Henin, Clijsters could see Petrova in that round.  After the beat down Petrova gave her in Australia, by all means, Clijsters will have an arduous assignment.

Like Venus, Jankovic is another competitor with an unhindered road to the quarterfinals. But, with 1-16 record versus the two Belgians, Jankovic is supplicating the powers that be that Petrova will dispatch those thorns ahead of that stage.  With a 6-2 mark against Petrova, in a quarterfinal setting, Jankovic would have an authentic shot at progressing to the semifinals.

At any major other than the French Open, the Williams are the ones to beat.  In view of the various variables in effect this occasion, their status as favorite is narrower than in previous years.

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