Wimbledon 2013: Dark-Horse Candidates to Win Women's Final

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2013

Wimbledon 2013: Dark-Horse Candidates to Win Women's Final

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    The early exits of Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and several other ranked players provide an opportunity for several dark-horse candidates to win their first Wimbledon title.

    Wimbledon's grass rewards the big hitters with big serves. Usually when a dark horse races to the front, she is armed with those two weapons.

    Examples include the then-unknown 17-year-old Sharapova, who upset Serena Williams in 2004. In 2011 a relativity unknown Petra Kvitova upset Sharapova

    Sabine Lisicki has that powerful combo, too. Whether she has the belief or the nerve is another story.

    But she makes the list of dark-horse candidates who can win the women's final. 

Samantha Stosur

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    Samantha Stosur as a dark horse? Seems odd that the winner of the 2011 U.S. Open is flying under the radar. Especially since Stosur has the serve, the net game and the groundstrokes to win at Wimbledon.

    However, Stosur has struggled to maintain consistency. She has never progressed beyond the third round at Wimbledon. But this year she is injury free and poised to make a run. 

    If she does, Serena Williams will be waiting in the quarterfinals. 

Angelique Kerber

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    Angelique Kerber's biggest win of her career was an upset over Serena Williams in Cincinnati last year.

    That puts her in category of three. Only three women have defeated Williams since she lost in the first round of the French Open last year.

    Although Kerber is more of a counterpuncher, she packs a big punch. Unlike other counterpunchers who have no weapons that can really hurt the opponent, Kerber possesses a ferocious forehand.

Sloane Stephens

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    Sloane Stephens has turned her season around. After a few horrendous months, Stephens seems to have steadied her game.

    She had a solid French Open and is into the third round at Wimbledon after taking out Andrea Petkovic, a former Top -10 player, in the second round.  

Laura Robson

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    Even before Laura Robson upset No. 10 Maria Kirilenko in the first round, she was a dark horse to reach the final.

    The British teen has been touted as the next big thing in London ever since she made her Wimbledon debut in 2009.

    She has solid groundstrokes but often loses focus.

    With her country behind her, she is poised to make some noise this fortnight. 

Sabine Lisicki

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    Sabine Lisicki made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2011. She always seems on the verge of a breakthrough moment. However, that moment has eluded her.

    To reach the final she will have to go through heavy hitters and champions Sam Stosur and Serena Williams. 

    Lisicki has the second-fastest serve recorded this year. Only Williams has served faster.

    With a killer serve and powerful groundstrokes, Lisicki needs only to sharpen her focus to make a serious run at Wimbledon. 

Na Li

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    Rarely is a Top-10 player with a Grand Slam title considered a dark horse. But Na Li is. 

    The 2011 French Open champion has had an up-and-down year.

    Recently it's been mostly down. She lost in the second round at the French Open and in Rome. She was bounced from Madrid in the first round by American teen Madison Keys. 

    She reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2010. Could this be the year she finally gets it together on grass?

Honorable Mention: Madison Keys

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    Madison "Avenue" Keys is what ESPN tennis commentator Brad Gilbert calls her.

    The lanky 18-year-old product of Chris Evert's Evert Academy is more long shot than dark horse. But she has the weapons.

    In her Wimbledon debut, Keys has knocked out British darling Heather Watson and No. 30 Mona Barthel.

    She has a powerful serve. She can even serve and volley.

    Even if she doesn't break through this year, Keys will become a mainstay in Wimbledon's main draw.