It is the brave man or woman who bets against Serena Williams at the All England Club. Williams has won the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon four times each, and paired with her sister's five Wimbledon singles titles, few other women have had a chance at the title in the last decade.
It's been two years since Williams has won a grand slam event, and with many tennis experts believing that her best days are behind her, many competitors feel they have a real chance at winning Wimbledon for the first time. Still, Serena Williams is one of the finest tennis players on the planet, and only Melbourne Park offers her a better chance to shine.
Now that Maria Sharapova has reemerged as the top-ranked player in the world, most experts believe that either she or Williams will emerge from Wimbledon with the championship.
Here, we take a look at what some of the top tennis experts in the world are saying about Williams' chances at Wimbledon.
Chris Evert won Wimbledon three times along with 15 other Grand Slam titles, so she knows exactly what it takes to win at All England. She predicts that Serena Williams will overcome her recent collapse at the French Open to be a major contender for the title at Wimbledon. Evert said:
Serena will want to come back from the French disappointment. She will not have liked losing in the first round. She has had a few injuries but is over the blood clot which kept her out for a year and seems totally focused on her tennis now. Serena loves it at Wimbledon. She’s seeded sixth and I think she can make it to make the semi-finals at least.
Mary Jo Fernandez, the winner of two Grand Slam women's doubles and two Olympic gold medals, weighed in on Serena's chances in a recent ESPN chat when asked if she could win after her poor performance at the French Open:
Yes, she can. She is a four time champ. She will be that much more determined to right the ship. It was a big shock going out in the first round. I expect her to do very well.
Fernandez again spoke in favor of Williams' chances, saying she represents the best chance for an American woman to win Wimbledon this year:
On the women's side you have to look to Serena Williams...I think as she gets older, it means more to her and she wants it that much more, that could get in the way. But Wimbledon is her place, I mean, she can really do some damage there, so I think she's a favorite...It's Serena on the American side.
Simon Reed, tennis expert for Yahoo! Eurosport, believes that Williams is the clear favorite to win the title at Wimbledon but also cautions that it is far from a sure thing that Serena will win for a fifth time at the All England Club. He writes:
Despite what happened at Roland Garros, you have to look to Serena Williams as the clear favourite for Wimbledon. Serena is still the best female tennis player in the world by some distance, provided she is fully focused and on top of her game.
What happened in Paris was extraordinary...But, even if she is the best, her occasional tendency to self-destruct means I wouldn't put all my money on her winning Wimbledon...
You just never know with Serena though — if she plays well, no-one can stop her. But that is a big 'if'.
Cliff Drysdale regularly makes predictions as part of ESPN.com's Expert Picks and is currently leading the analysts with 13 of 24 correct picks in the past four major tournaments he has participated in. On the women's side in this year's Wimbledon, he has little doubt as to who will win. On a recent conference call he said (via New York Times):
You can name anybody, including Sharapova, and you put them head to head, Serena is the clear favorite. I still think she’s the best player in the business.
Five-time Wimbledon doubles champion Pam Shriver expressed concern about Williams's recent performances at the French and U.S. Opens, but like many analysts, Shriver believes that Williams' ability on grass and the unlikeliness of Sharapova winning make Williams a major threat at Wimbledon. Shriver said:
I think everyone’s just a bit curious about why Serena’s results haven’t been better at the slams this year. At the French Open, she lost in the opening round of a grand slam for the first time in her career. Last year, when she came back from her medical problems, she reached the US Open final, but then she played a strange match, winning just five games against Sam Stosur, who had never won a slam before. It seems to me that, now she’s into her thirties, she’s a lot tighter on court.
Dealing with nerves doesn’t get easier as you get older. Roger Federer has not been finding it easy to win a first slam in his thirties, and it’s not been easy for Serena either. But, grass puts a smile on Serena’s face. She’s one of those players who likes the surface. You don’t have to hit three or four good shots; one or two usually get the job done.
In the Yahoo! Sports tennis blog Busted Racquet, Chris Chase predicts Serena Williams will defeat Maria Sharapova in the finals, pointing out Serena's past dominance on grass.
Serena Williams over Maria Sharapova -- The dream quarterfinal from Paris becomes the dream final at the All England Club. That four-week stretch after the French Open loss should have provided Serena with enough time and the proper motivation to get ready to make another run at Wimbledon.
Chase also predicts that Venus Williams will make a run to the semifinals, writing:
I'll keep predicting Williams dominance at Wimbledon until both retire.
ESPN.com tennis contributor Ravi Ubha predicts that Williams will defeat Marion Bartoli to advance to the finals, where she will beat Maria Sharapova. He writes:
Before the Razzano result, Serena Williams had never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam. Could it happen twice in succession? Barbora Zahlavova Strycova can be tricky at times, but this is grass, and Serena -- who was slightly injured -- routed the Czech at the Australian Open in January.
Though gamblers putting up their money at British-based Ladbrokes are slightly favoring Maria Sharapova, they also have a lot of faith in Serena's chances.
Williams' odds of winning the tournament are currently posted at 3/1, just a hair behind Sharapova's odds of 5/2. This puts her a few points ahead of Petra Kvitova at 6/1, Victoria Azarenka at 8/1, and Kim Clijsters at 16/1. The rest of the field, including Venus Williams, are 25/1 or worse, with the longest of long shots at 5000/1.
These odds demonstrate that those who have money on the tournament see Williams and Sharapova as a virtual tie as the favorite to win at Wimbledon.