Wimbledon preview

There are some parallels between the men and women’s events at this year’s Wimbledon. Both feature a five-time winner, a great modern rivalry and three strong favourites who are hard to look past in picking a winner.

However, this does not mean the latter stages are easy to predict – certainly not to the extent they would have been at the close of the 2008 championships. At that point it would have been a surprise if the respective 2009 finals were not again between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters, such was there collective dominance last year.

Much has changed since then. A third serious contender has emerged in both events: Andy Murray and Dinara Safina have had stellar tour years but are yet to win their first Grand Slam. Safina has got closest, but her continued struggles under pressure make Murray the more likely player to reward punters looking for a first-time winner.

Venus Williams has made no impression in the latter stages of recent Grand Slams, enhancing her reputation as a Wimbledon specialist. She is rightly second favourite behind her sister, who won at the US and Australian opens and is certainly the player to beat.

Maria Sharapova has made an encouraging return to fitness and as 24th seed will be dangerous. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sam Stosur and Victoria Azarenka were impressive at Roland Garros but will struggle to transfer their form to grass to the extent which will worry the Williams sisters.

The women’s draw is nonetheless more open than the men’s. It would be a major surprise if a player outside the top three claimed the title, even taking Nadal’s knee problems into account.

Federer has regained his strut and will be hard to beat; the suspicion remains that Murray and Nadal are the only players equipped to beat him, despite the recent strides made by Robin Soderling, Juan Martin del Potro and Gael Monfils. Andy Roddick is the next biggest threat and should be backed to reach the last four.

No comments: