Experts' predictions: Women's final
Maria Sharapova is favored to win her second Wimbledon title in Saturday's final against first-time major finalist Petra Kvitova. (Kyodo /Landov)
We asked SI.com's experts to predict Saturday's Wimbledon women's final between No. 5 Maria Sharapova and No. 8 Petra Kvitova (9 a.m. ET, NBC). Here's what they said:
Shares in Petra Kvitova LLC are soaring now, initial skeptics (self included) now loading up. She will win a major title one day. But not Saturday. Experience is simply too important, especially in the Wimbledon final and all that goes with it. What about Sharapova's temperamental serve? She double-faulted 13 times in the semifinals and still lost only seven games. Having been there before, Sharapova will meet the moment and win in straights. Sharapova in two.
Sharapova has been lasered in for months now; when she's healthy, only Serena Williams can match her for competitiveness. The irony about Sharapova, of course, is she's known for her cool attractiveness -- she's the tennis version of a Hitchcock blonde -- but wields a game that, aesthetically, is fairly ugly. Despite her reach, she barely comes to net; there's little imagination or creativity behind her jackhammer strokes. Yet, she's compelling like few others because, in singular counterpoint to the rest of the field, she never equivocates. Despite the potential distractions of money, vanity and a dreamboat fiance, she has never suffered from fractured ambitions; it would be stunning to hear that she'd ever suffered an identity crisis. Sharapova knows who she is. Sharapova always needs to win. Sharapova in two.
Much as I’d love to see a fellow lefty win the women’s title, and much as I hate to see pointless shrieking rewarded on the sport’s most hallowed court, I have to go with the louder, more experienced Sharapova, who won’t be cowed by the occasion and seems hungrier than ever for a Grand Slam trophy. Kvitova could keep it close by liberally drop-shotting her opponent, who moves better from side to side than forward. Sharapova in two.
Everything about this matchup would seem to favor Sharapova and her vast experience. But I'll take Kvitova in a roller-coaster match that goes three sets. She plays such calm, clear-headed tennis, I don't think she'll be overwhelmed by the experience. She knows only one way to play -- just blast away, hard as she can -- and as such, her game goes on occasional holiday. But seldom for long. Sharapova continues to serve horribly (13 double-faults against Lisicki in the semis), and I think that will be her undoing. Kvitova in three.
I’m torn. My rule of thumb is to never pick a first-time finalist to win a major but I love Kvitova’s game and I think she provides serious danger for Sharapova, especially if the lefty serves well. But Sharapova has played here with a steel that reminds me of the player who won three Grand Slam titles before her shoulder injury. Sharapova’s serve remains a mess but she’s also yet to drop a set here. Kvitova is ultimately going to produce great things on tour, but I go with the player who has more on the line regarding legacy. Sharapova in two.
Bryan Armen Graham
There are so many reasons to pick Sharapova here, not least of which are form (she's yet to drop a set) and experience (she won the first of her three majors here in 2004). But in Kvitova I see a rising star with talent enough to win multiple Slams. And, more important, the icy demeanor and tunnel-vision common to all great champions. (See: her cool rebounds from moribund second sets in the quarters and semis.) Rather than endure the when-will-she-win-a-major interrogations that have dogged so many of her fellow stars-in-waiting, the Czech southpaw will bypass them altogether by capturing her maiden Slam at 21. Kvitova in three.
With the Williams sisters in a swoon, the women's game is there for the taking and I think Maria seizes the moment. She's overcome tremendous odds to get to this point. (Name another dominant player that's made it this far back after major reconstructive surgery?) The serve is still shaky at times, but I think her groundies and gangly intimidation will be enough to carry her past Kvitova to the finish. Sharapova in two.
I didn't have much faith in Sharapova making it to the final two weeks ago. However, with Caroline Wozniacki and the Williams sisters out, the stars have aligned for Maria, the Grand Dame of the finals, to capture her second Wimbledon crown. Although Sharapova will be the favorite, I think all of the pressure will rest on Kvitova's shoulders. Sharapova is relaxed on the grass, with a healthy shoulder and competent serve in her arsenal. Plus she's been there, done that as it relates to Wimbledon finals. On the flip side, this is Kvitova's first taste of the big time and the glare of Centre Court. Her inexperience, coupled with Sharapova's will to ground out every point as if it were her last, will prove too much for the 21-year-old lefty. Sharapova in two. How do you see Saturday's final? Share your prediction in the comments below.