Sunday, June 21, 2009

Women's Preview: Williams Sisters Look to Maintain Dominance


There has only been one Wimbledon women's final this decade that didn't include a Williams sister, and seeing how they are on opposite sides of this years Wimbledon Drawsheet, it looks like at least one of the sisters will be wearing all white when Saturday July 4th rolls around.

At The All England Lawn Tennis Club, decade long periods of domination seem to be the norm among the women. The 80's were ruled by a superior specimen known as Martina Navratilova while the 90's were owned by the invincible Steffi Graf.

But the new millenium has featured a sister act that has made the hallowed grounds at Wimbledon's Centre Court seem as if it were the setting for an annual Williams family reunion.

Venus Williams, with five titles and two runner-ups in the last nine Wimbledon's, will look to equal the legendary Billie Jean King's record of six this year. Of the dynamic sisters, Venus definitely has the more favorable draw, with a possible 4th round match with Samantha Stosur (2009 French Open semi-finalist) or Ana Ivanovic, and possible contention in the quarters from struggling Serbian Jelena Jankovic.

If she advances to the semis, Venus will more than likely face either Dinara Safina or Svetlana Kuznetsova, who have the disadvantage of being drawn in the same quarter.

"I think she's every one's worry," said Serena, when asked about the threat of her sister in this years event. "You know, I think she has proven herself to be the best grass court player in our generation."

Serena, who last year was thrashed by Venus in the final 7-5, 6-4, will have to overcome some hurdles if she is to gain a chance to avenge that loss.

With 2004 champ Maria Sharapova and 2009 French Open quarter finalist Victoria Azarenka in her quarter, the two-time champ and two-time runner-up will be tested. Serena, who lost to Sharapova in the 2004 Wimbledon finals, is 5-2 lifetime against the 6'2" Russian.

Serena is 2-1 against Azarenka in her career, but their last match was won by the Belarusian in Miami and it has helped Azarenka springboard her career - the No. 8 ranked 19-year-old appears to be one of a handful of young ladies on the tour destined for a breakthrough.

Threats to the Dynasty

The Williams Sisters quite clearly have the edge going into the fortnight, but their dominance on grass can't last forever. As sensible as it would be to put your money one or both of the Williams sisters to get to the final, there are a handful of girls who are hell bent on ensuring that their reign of terror at Wimbledon finally comes to an end.

Here's a look at a few of the hopefuls:

Dinara Safina - As disappointing as her loss in the French Open final was, Dinara is not going to give up her dream of winning a slam that easily. While she's never been past the 3rd round at Wimbledon, her power game and vicious serve (when she's not a mess of nerves out there) can definitely cause a world of trouble for the competition.

Caroline Wozniacki - If she wants to do some damage, she'll have to get through a quarter of the draw that also includes Safina and Kuznetsova. It'll be tough, but winning the title yesterday on grass in Eastbourne can only help her confidence.

Maria Sharapova - Maria looked so good in Paris that it's hard to not consider her a threat to win here on the grass. If her shoulder holds up, and she's not too worn down by playing five grueling matches at Roland Garros, Maria could find herself staring across the net at Serena Williams in a quarter final match.

Victoria Azarenka - She's got the game, but does she have the maturity? The 5'10" dynamo has made major strides this year. She was close to a breakthrough at Roland Garros (took first set from Safina in the quarters) and there is no reason to believe that she won't be close to a breakthrough at Wimbledon either. But close doesn't mow the grass.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - It's not like Svetlana to play two good tournaments in a row. Since she won the French, a flame out seems more likely than another title, but there is something about the calm that the 24-year-old has been exuding of late - it says that anything is possible.

You Never Know

Will this be the year that the dark horse tramples the freshly manicured lawns of the Centre Court, or will Wimbledon 2009 prove to be another episode in dominance by a pair of sisters with a couple of battery-sized chips on their shoulders? Most would say the latter, but as Nadal's upset in Paris proves, nothing is engraved in silver, and only the strongest will survive.

Let the games begin.

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