Wimbledon 2009 Preview: Contenders And Pretenders On The Women's Side

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Wimbledon 2009 Preview: Contenders And Pretenders On The Women's Side
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

At first glance one would think that the women's draw is wide open, and that the Wimbledon trophy can be had by at least 10 players.  If we take a closer look we can conclude that is not the case.

What we have learned this year so far is that there really isn't a dominant player on the WTA when we start talking about the majors.  Serena Williams probably comes the closest, but she is by no means a lock.

Dinara Safina

The No. 1 ranked women's player has made tremendous strides in the last year and a half, but still hasen't found a way to get over her nerves in grand slam finals.  It is obvious she has the game, and the tools to be great, but that is not enough to get to the pinnacle of the sport.

It has to be packaged with a calm belief and intestinal fortitude that will not let her shrink on the big stage.  It seems like her emotions get the best of her in the major tournament finals and she is unable overcome it during the match.

She really didn't show up against Svetlana Kuznetsova, and there is not really a good reason why.  The question is does Dinara really believe that she is the best women's player in the world?

Not the most consistent, but the best.  If she really believes that, then she has to believe that she is supposed to win Grand Slams.  That has to be the logical progression, and if she is not winning them, then something is wrong.

Dinara has conquered her emotions before and it has helped her get to this point, so it is not a question as to whether she can get over that hurdle.  The question is how long will it take and how many opportunities will she miss?  

There are no real weakness' in her game.  Her serve could be more consistent, and maybe she could be more aggressive and come forward more (especially on grass) but other than that she is fine.

She is a contender, but we have to wait and see how the crushing loss at Roland Garros affected her, either for the better, or worse.

Serena Williams

Definitely a contender.  There are no confidence issues with Serena Williams, and as she has stated before, she believes that she is the favorite in any tournament she is in.

She has come under fire for her bold comments proclaiming that everyone knows who the best women's player is, and for not giving her opponents credit when she loses.

There is certainly room for more humility on her part, but we can't argue with the results.  She has won two of the last three Grand Slams, and one she didn't win she lost to the eventual champion.

Other than her booming serves and over-powering ground strokes, Serena's biggest asset is her confidence.  Combine that with the fact that she will never quit no matter what the score is, and her ability to stay calm in big spots, and you have a player capable of dominating, if she puts in the work.

One of the interesting things is that Serena admitted that she choked after her loss to Kuznetsova in the semi's at the French Open.  She was up a break in the third set but but uncharacteristically couldn't get it done.

That was an interesting and candid admission from a player that normally forces others choke in big moments. There are no issues with Serena's game overall.  She can serve her way out of trouble when necessary, and when fit, covers the court like no one else.

If you want to know about Serena's will to win, ask Nadia Petrova, when she was up a set and serving for the match in the Australian Open, and an out of shape Williams came back and won.

If she is going to go down in a major before the semi's it usually is within the first three rounds.

Venus Williams

The reigning Wimbledon champion hopes to defend her title and has to be one of the favorites.  Her results in past tournaments can't be used as a gauge because she seems to transform herself on the grass.

Venus, with her five Wimbledon titles, can lay claim to being the best grass court player of her time.  Her willingness to force the action and finish points at the net is an advantage on this surface.

Her serve and forehand have been known to breakdown during matches, but she has enough firepower to over-come that.  The other women on tour need to take a page out of Venus' book if they want to be successful on this surface.

Most of the women on tour are content to bang away from the baseline until the point is over, but if it is not working on a particular day you are at an immediate disadvantage if you are uncomfortable at net.

Not only is Venus a contender, but I would install her as the favorite. 

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Kuznetsova is brimming with confidence after winning the French Open.  The knock on her was that she didn't come through in the big spots against the best players.

That doesn't seem to be an issue any more as she seemed more mentally up to the challenge than Serena Williams was in their semi-final match in the French. 

She is a good athlete and moves around the court well.  When she is playing with confidence she is able to overwhelm her opponents with her ground strokes.  Kuznetsova is equally dangerous with the back hand and forehand, and not afraid to go for her shots.

If she is physically and mentally on her game, she can win her third major here.  She has all the tools and doesn't want to take a step back.

Definitely a contender.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova made a good showing at the French, coming back after her shoulder injury.  She did better than most thought she would. 

She probably needs more court time to get all the way back, but the main thing for her is to make progress and not get hurt again.  Her serve, if working, is capable of dominating, but the question is where is she with her fitness and movement.

Sharapova can be beaten if you make her move, and she is not willing to come forward.  She has won this tournament before, so at least at the outset you have to take her seriously. 

She is in a pretty favorable part of the draw, along with Serena Williams, Lucie Safarova, and Victoria Azarenka, so if she gets past the first couple of rounds it could get interesting.

Jelana Jankovic

The former No. 1 in the world has slipped to number six and hasn't really shown signs of returning to the top of the rankings.  She has logged a lot of matches the last couple of years, and seems to have flamed out.

That is why you can never assume that you will continue to get opportunities to win grand slams when you don't take advantage other chances that you have had.  You never know what can happen.

Jankovic has a great tennis IQ, but really lacks the weapons to completely impose her will on her opponent.  If she gets into a hitting contest with the top players, most of the time she will lose.

She has improved her serve the last year and a half, but it is not enough.  I would be surprised if she made it to the semi's, but stranger things have happened.  Jankovic needs to reinvent herself and her game so that she can get back into the equation as far as the majors are concerned.

If you are losing ground, it makes no sense to keep doing the same thing the same way because it is obviously not working.

She is a great competitor, but I would have to label her as a pretender, not a contender.

Other Pretenders

Elena Dementieva - great athlete, and great ground game.  Her serve doesn't pose a real threat.  Capable of pulling the upset, but has problems putting everything together in the big matches.

Nadia Petrova - good ball striker, and able to put pressure on her opponent, but has had trouble closing out matches against ranked opponents in the past. 

Ana Ivanovic - The free spirited Ivanovic has all the goods to be a multiple grand slam champion.  The question is whether she wants it bad enough, and is she willing to put the work in necessary to consistently play at the level.

It seems as if she needs more of a competitive edge.  She has a good tennis IQ as well.  That is why it is surprising that she hasn't gotten results, and that it doesn't seem to bother her a lot.

She has all the physical tools, but does she have what it takes on the inside?

The women's game today is up for grabs for anyone who will take it.  It seems like it is not a matter of talent, but a matter of mental fortitude and belief.  Of the top players, the ones who can conquer themselves are the ones who will win the slams and rise to No. 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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