Revisiting the women's Wimbledon draw after a week littered with upsets
LONDON — With no matches on the schedule and grounds quiet and calm on Wimbledon's middle Sunday of rest, it's time to stop and reflect on the first week of action. While the men's draw has held with the ATP's Big Four of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer progressing with relative ease, the women's draw has seen its top two players suffer upsets. No. 1 Serena Williams came in as the overwhelming favorite to win her sixth Wimbledon title but fell to No. 25 Alize Cornet in the third round. No. 2 Li Na's loss to unseeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova was less surprising, as grass remains Li's least favorite and successful surface.
Those early exits have left the women's draw in slight disarray. Here's a look at the favorites to win the title now:
The Former Champions
Maria Sharapova: Let me tell you a tale: Sharapova won Slam X before. She came into Slam X as a favorite until — gasp! — she was drawn into Serena's quarter. That's bad news because Sharapova had not beaten Serena in nearly 10 years. Serena then loses in the first week of Slam X. Sharapova becomes the favorite and scraps, fights and battles her way to her second Slam X title.
Sound familiar? Yeah, that just happened at the French Open.
Can Sharapova lift the Venus Rosewater Dish 10 years after she did it the first time, as a gangly 17-year-old? The new favorite, Sharapova has blown through her first three rounds. But Sharapova remains vulnerable on grass. In the last seven years she's made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon just once. That was in 2011, when she lost to Petra Kvitova in the final. Speaking of which ...
Petra Kvitova: The No. 6-ranked Kvitova has once again summoned her best form on grass. Her 5-7, 7-6 (2), 7-5 win over Venus Williams in the third round was the match of the women's tournament so far, blending quality with drama. The Czech has made the quarterfinals or better in her last four appearances and she's the strongest player remaining in the bottom half of the draw. She's 5-1 against Agnieszka Radwanska, the highest seed in her half. Her biggest threat might actually be No. 16 Caroline Wozniacki, a potential quarterfinal opponent, but really, Kvitova's biggest threat is her own penchant for imploding.
Sabine Lisicki: Last year's surprise finalist has done little since, her top-20 ranking was buoyed by that one result. But once again, as it seems to happen every year, Lisicki transforms when she steps on the grounds of the All England Club. The German is not in the fourth round yet, as she led Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 1-1 when their match was suspended for light on Saturday, but Lisicki will be dangerous if she does advance. She's in the top half and could face Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.
Agnieszka Radwanska: A finalist two years ago and a semifinalist last year, she's the highest seed left in the bottom half. The Pole has quietly — as she does — dished out two bagel sets in her last two matches. It would surprise no one if she made her second Wimbledon final.
The Highest Seed Remaining
Simona Halep: Halep could have to go through Lisicki, Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard, and Kvitova or Radwanska to win the title. It's a tall order on her worst surface, but she's playing with house money. The third-ranked Halep has already reached another milestone of her rapidly developing career, making the second week of Wimbledon for the first time. She should beat No. 72 Zarina Diyas to advance to the quarterfinals, but from there the level of competition takes a huge leap forward and it's unclear how Halep will handle it. She won a small grass title in Holland last year but otherwise her results on the surface are limited.
The Dark Horses
Eugenie Bouchard: I actually don't think Bouchard's a "dark horse." I think she's a legitimate threat to win the title. A junior champion here just two years ago, Bouchard could face Sharapova in the quarterfinals for the second straight major. She pushed the Russian to three sets at the French Open on her worst surface. She's more than capable on grass of pulling off that upset and tearing through the rest of the draw. Her aggressive style is perfect for grass and she hugs the baseline and takes the ball incredibly early, which is the secret to opening up the court on this surface.
Ana Ivanovic: As I write this, Ivanovic is a set away from losing to Lisicki. As well as the Serb has been playing lately, this was always going to be a tough tournament because of her draw. Having to play Lisicki in the third round is bad luck, and if she gets out of that jam, she would still have to contend with Halep, Sharapova or Bouchard just to reach the final.
Caroline Wozniacki: Don't laugh. Yes, Wozniacki has never progressed past the fourth round at Wimbledon, but she could be the one to take advantage of the draw if the upsets continue in the second week. The Dane got to No. 1 three years ago by refusing to give away matches and that alone could get her through the bottom half, which is filled with talented but unreliable players who are prone to nerves. She's 4-4 against Kvitova, her potential quarterfinal opponent, and 5-4 against Radwanska, a possible semifinal foe.