Plots and Subplots: A Wimbledon Preview

On the Baseline Tennis News
June 19, 2011

Every Grand Slam has main plots and dramatic sub-plots that conjure up excitement during the fortnight. With Wimbledon set to begin on Monday, the return of the Williams sisters is a main plot that is sure to provide twists and turns with each passing day. Considering the history of these two grass court champions, what better setting to watch this plot unfold than Wimbledon.

Subplot #1: The renewal of the long-standing Williams sisters’ rivalry. It’s been almost two years since Venus and Serena have faced each other in competition (2009 year-end championships). Once considered a boring rivalry, tennis fans now salivate over the possibility of seeing the Williams sisters go head to head once again. Will they meet in the Wimbledon final?

Subplot #2: As the No. 7 seed, Serena Williams is a big question mark heading into Wimbledon. Her ability to regain her top form after a lengthy absence from competition (49 weeks to be exact) is in doubt. Will she beat the odds? Can she pull off a three-peat at Wimbledon?

Subplot #3: Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams will be making her presence known as she embarks on her 16th Wimbledon main draw appearance. She holds the record for the most career Wimbledon match wins for active players (W-L 68-9). No current player on the WTA is more powerful, dominant, or confident on grass than Venus Williams. Can she pull off her sixth (and possibly her last) Wimbledon title at age 31?

As always, Wimbledon’s main story is divided into four sections/quarters, with a full cast of characters in each, ranging from contenders to dark horses.

Wozniacki’s Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Maria Sharapova (5) Samantha Stosur (10) Julia Goerges (16) Shuai Peng (20) Dominika Cibulkova (24) Jarmila Gajdosova (27) Lucie Safarova (31). 

In the first quarter of the draw, No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki takes on Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain in the opening round (first meeting). Wozniacki is in good form, having won the title in Copenhagan, and is well rested after taking a week off from competition. Wozniacki is coming into Wimbledon as the No.1 ranked player for the third straight time at a Grand Slam and will hold onto her No.1 ranking through week of August 1, extending her reign to 42 weeks at the top of the women’s game.

Is Wimbledon an attainable title for Wozniacki? There are a few things working against her: She hasn’t made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon (2009-2010) and has only one grass court title under her belt (Eastbourne 2009). Wozniacki will likely advance through the early rounds. She could face No. 16 seed Julia Goerges in the round of 16 (H2H 2-2), which may not be a problem for Wozniacki on grass. Goerges lost in the first round of Eastbourne and has suffered with a few injuries prior to that. No. 5 seed Maria Sharapova, a 2004 Wimbledon champion, could face Wozniacki in the quarterfinals (H2H: 3-2/Sharapova), but not before a potential match against No. 10 seed Sam Stosur in the round of 16 (H2H 8-0/Sharapova). Stosur, who surprisingly advanced to the semifinals in Eastbourne (losing to Bartoli), will have her work cut out for her against Sharapova, who has three grass court titles under her belt, including Wimbledon. If Sharapova advances, her true test will come in the semifinals, where she will likely face Serena Williams (H2H: 6-2/Serena). They are 1-1 when it comes to grass court results, having met twice before at Wimbledon (2004 final), and last year (round of 16).

Li Na’s Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Serena Williams (7) Marion Bartoli (9) Agnieszka Radwanska (13) Ana Ivanovic (18) Flavia Pennetta (21) Maria Kirilenko (26) Bethanie Mattek-Sands USA (30).

In the second quarter of the draw, No. 3 seed Li Na will face Alla Kudryavtseva in the first round (H2H: 1-0/Li Na). We’ve all seen how Li Na shines brightly on the big stages, advancing to the final in the last two Majors. A title at Wimbledon would make her the 8th woman in the Open Era to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year and the first player since Serena Williams in 2002. Li Na made it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2010. She will likely meet Sabine Lisicki in the second round. Lisicki was granted a wildcard into Wimbledon and has risen 117 points in the rankings since the start of 2011.

Lisicki’s recent grass court title in Birmingham could make her a tricky opponent for Li Na, in addition to her win over Li Na in Stuttgart this year (rd. of 16). But having a French Open title under her belt will likely give Li Na the confidence to go the distance. Bethanie Mattek-Sands could also give Li Na a run for her money in the third round. Marion Bartoli, the 2011 AEGON International champion and 2007 Wimbledon runner-up will likely face Serena Williams in the round of 16 (H2H 2-0/Serena. If Serena advances, she will likely face Li Na in the quarterfinals (H2H: 5-1/Serena). The two also met in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year. Given Serena’s lengthy absence from tennis, she isn’t the predictable winner that she once was, so this match could go either way. But experience (and stats) could give the edge to Serena.

Victoria Azarenka’s Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Francesca Schiavone (6) Ekaterina Makarova (28) Shahar Peer (22) Andrea Petkovic (11) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (14) Kaia Kanepi (17) Daniela Hantuchova (25).

In the bottom half of the draw, (third quarter), No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka takes on Magdalena Rybarikova in her opening round (first meeting). Azarenka’s game is, at best, unpredictable. (More specifically, her mental game.) She either wins big, or retires mid-match. Azarenka’s most recent retirement took place during the semifinal in Eastbourne, due to a right thigh strain.

No. 25 seed Daniela Hantuchova could face Azarenka in the third round. Hantuchova has been playing non-stop for the past few weeks, showing impressive results on the grass court tune-up events. She made it to the final in Birmingham, and the semifinal in Eastbourne, where she was forced to retire due to an abdominal strain. Unfortunately, her injury could force an early exit at Wimbledon.

No. 6 seed Francesca Schiavone is the second highest seed in this section of the draw, and is competing in her 44th consecutive Grand Slam (tied with Jill Craybas). She could face Azarenka in the quarterfinals (H2H 2-1/Azarenka). Neither have made it past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon (both in 2009).

Vera Zvonareva’s Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Petra Kvitova (8) Roberta Vinci (29) Yanina Wickmayer (19) Svetlana Kuznetsova (12) Jelena Jankovic (15) Venus Williams (23) Tsvetana Pironkova (32).

In the fourth quarter of the draw, Vera Zvonareva replaces an injured Kim Clijsters as the No. 2 seed. Zvonareva will face American hopeful Alison Riske in her opening round (first meeting). As the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up who recently defeated Serena Williams in the second round in Birmingham, Zvonareva is in a prime position to dominate. That is, until the fourth round, where she will likely face Venus Williams (H2H: 7-1/Venus). Petra Kvitova, a 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist (and the only lefty in the top 10), could face Venus in the quarterfinals, unless she falls to Kuznetsova in the fourth round. Kvitova has only played Venus once before (Memphis 2008), but won the match.

No one knows exactly how this year’s Wimbledon story will end, but that won’t stop anyone from making predictions. Mine are as follows:

Dark Horse(s)

Jarmila Gajdosova, Marion Bartoli, Sabine Lisicki

Final Eight

Wozniacki, Sharapova, Li Na, S. Williams, Schiavone, Azarenka, Kvitova, V. Williams

Final Four

Sharapova, S. Williams, Azarenka, V. Williams

Final Two

Sharapova vs. V. Williams


Venus Williams

(Let the story begin.)

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