Friday June 17th, 2011

Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at Wimbledon. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses, and his predicted winners.

1. Caroline Wozniacki: For her sake, and for the sake of staving off the inevitable what's-up-with-the-WTA? critiques, you hope she gives a strong accounting of herself. Especially after her Paris debacle. Especially after she played an indoor hard-court event in Copenhagen last week, fueling the charge that she racks up points at lesser events. Her defensive game and modest serve isn't ideal for grass. But looking at her draw, it's hard to envision her falling before the middle weekend. After that, who knows? A likely quarterfinal against Sharapova should tell us a lot.

2. Vera Zvonareva: First, big credit to Zvonareva for elevating her game over the last 18 months or so, emerging as one of the few players to have capitalized on the unrest at the top. A finalist last year, she beat Serena Williams at Eastbourne. On this alone, she's a short-lister. There's a difference between a tune-up and Wimbledon, though. And in a winner-take-all match, it's hard to tip her against a Williams.

3. Li Na: The French Open champion is not only riding a Grand Slam title but has had her share of success at Wimbledon. Hard to know how she's holding up -- her letdown after her success in Australia lasted several months. But if she keeps her head, forgets that 100 million people may be watching her matches, she has a real chance at a Summer Double. Her likely quarterfinal against Serena could double as the final.

4. Victoria Azarenka: Getting close to put-up-or-shut-up time. She oozes self-confidence, which is fine, especially given the legion of those who don't. But one of these days, she needs to back it up. Is she good, or is she great? Though she retired midmatch (again) at her last event, she has a real chance here.

5. Maria Sharapova: The only active WTA player to have won Wimbledon and doesn't have the last name of Williams. Yet that was -- gulp -- seven years ago. Sharapova still hits the hell out of the ball and still competes well, if audibly. But she no longer seems capable of stringing together seven matches. There's too often a dud performance in there. An awfully nice chance here and a reasonable draw, but we're not feeling it. (And an intriguing first-round opponent: Anna Chakvetadze.)

6. Francesca Schiavone: You root for Schiavone. You admire a player who competes with passion, who meets the moments, who comes on strong late in her career, who says things like this. But she ain't winning Wimbledon.

7. Serena Williams: We're picking the defending champ to defend again. She's rusty and lacks for match play? True. She's also Serena Williams, who's made a career out of dramatic disappearances and reappearances. Especially on grass. Especially with a day off between matches. (Though note the potentially tough first-round opponent in Aravene Rezai.)

8. Petra Kvitova: A semifinalist last year, she's emerged as a star on the make, a big lefty who lacks anything resembling finesse, but bludgeons the ball.

9. Marion Bartoli: Not only is she coming off a semifinal appearance in Paris but she's a former finalist at the All England. For all the talk of her quirks and eccentricities -- personal and professional -- we ought to be acknowledging her success.

10. Sam Stosur: If her self-belief were at all in keeping with her talent and athleticism, she'd be a real contender. But, unfortunately, she has yet to get over the yips. Her athleticism and net play bode well for success on grass. Her ornate groundstrokes, requiring time to set up, don't always translate well to fast surface. But really this is a mental battle.

11. Andrea Petkovic: Fraulein Fun is continuing her steady ascent. May not be champion material quite yet, but she's week two material for sure.

12. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Such a mystery as a player. Loads of talent and athleticism. A genial and easygoing personality that suggests a calm self-awareness. And yet she is prone to chronic underachievement, not least at the All England where she's never been beyond the quarters.

13. Agnieszka Radwanska: Have a heightened fondness and empathy for A-Rad after reading accounts like this. As ever, had she been born in another era, she'd be a champ. But her game and physique and ill-suited for these Luxilon times.

14. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: "Scrabble" as Brad Gilbertowiczenkovilli so delicately calls her, still hasn't had that breakthrough event. But her progress has been steady.

15. Jelena Jankovic: Sadly, all the vectors are pointing in the wrong direction.

16. Julia Goerges: A big hitter who's made immense strides lately. Not unlike the female Milos Raonic, you wish there were more a track record, especially on grass, but a player to watch nonetheless

17. Kaia Kanepi: Rolling Estonian tends to post strong Slam results.

18. Ana Ivanovic: A long way from her 2008 form and her play at majors has been particularly shaky. But she still is a former No. 1.

24. Venus Williams: Seeding be damned, she's a top-five contender, especially given her generally encouraging play at Eastbourne.

25. Daniela Hantuchova: A fragile player but one who's found her game of late.

32. Tsvetana Pironkova: Semifinalist last year.

Sabine Lisicki: German won Birmingham grasscourt tune-up and, now healthy, is a good 50 slots better than her ranking indicates.

Virginie Razzano: Not because she'll win, but because she could the support.

Jelena Dokic: Played well in the tune-up and is former semifinalist, albeit in 1973 or thereabouts.

Lucie Safarova v. Lucie Hradecka: The Charlie Brown Special.

Ivanovic v. Melanie Oudin: A player in need of a win will get one.

Aravene Rezai v. Serena Williams: Hard to imagine Serena not pulling through, but here's one opponent who will not be cowed.

Schiavone v. Dokic: You root for both players, if for very different reasons.


Huber and Raymond: Experience rules.

Serena def. Sharapova Zvonareva def. Total Surprise (Petkovic?)


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