Wimbledon: Women to watch
Eurosport - Fri, 22 Jun 18:38:00 2007
World number one Justine Henin will begin her Wimbledon title campaign on Monday confident in the knowledge that she is enjoying some of the best form of her career and bidding to secure the only Grand Slam missing from her collection.
But very few women in recent years have managed to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season, such is the stamina needed for the feat and there are a host of women looking to prevent Henin from completing the set.
Eurosport.yahoo.com's Pippa Davis runs through the list of contenders who aim to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish in two week's time and have their name written into history.
The diminutive Belgian enjoyed a sparkling season in 2006 reaching all four Grand Slam finals, winning the French Open, as well as winning the season-ending Tour Championships and finishing the year as world number one. Henin missed the Australian hardcourt season as she dealt with the divorce from her husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne but since returning in February Henin has dominated winning in Dubai, Doha and Warsaw before taking her fourth title at Roland Garros in five years. At home on the grass, Henin is looking in ominous form at Eastbourne, where she is defending champion and will be the one to beat as she looks to go one better than her final loss to Amelie Mauresmo on Centre Court last year.
Mauresmo was another player to enjoy a dominate 2006 particularly in the early months winning her first Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park and Wimbledon both against Henin. Mauresmo failed in the defence of her Australian Open title falling to Lucie Safarova in the fourth round and has since enjoyed a mixed season winning her third straight title in Antwerp, denying Kim Clijsters the fairytale farewell at her home tournament, before being sidelined with appendicitis and enduring another unsuccessful French Open campaign sent packing in the third round again by Safarova. But Mauresmo cannot be discounted as a major threat to the Wimbledon finally enjoying some success at Eastbourne the traditional Wimbledon warm-up.
After threatening to quit the sport in early 2006, Jankovic has found a way to turn her game around and has shot up the rankings as a result. The most consistent player on the women's tour this year, having won four tournaments so far this year in Auckland, Charleston and Rome and Birmingham, Jankovic comfortably leads the WTA race rankings and has risen to third in the world. But the Serb is also the busiest woman on the tour already having played 16 tournaments, a tactic which may backfire at some point as fatigue catches up with her. However, in the meantime, Jankovic is showing no signs of slowing down and won in Birmingham on the grass before heading to s-Hertogenbosch in the lead-up to the third major of the year. Jankovic has already played in, and lost, two Grand Slam semi finals both to Henin, at the 2006 US Open and last month's French Open. With Henin unlikely to stand in her way, Jankovic should be seeded third and therefore be in the opposite half of the draw to the Belgian, Wimbledon could well be the moment when JJ reaches her first Grand Slam final.
Sharapova started the 2007 season well reaching the final of the Watson's Water Champions Challenge, where she was defeated by Clijsters, and the Australian Open final, where she was demolished 6-1 6-2 by Serena Williams. Since then the 20-year-old has struggled with injury and, as yet, has failed to win a tournament this season. But Sharapova returned to make the semi finals of the French Open, with clay being her least favourite surface, and enjoyed a successful run in Birmingham reaching the final of a rain-devastated tournament (Sharapova was forced to play two matches on both the Saturday and Sunday) before losing to Jankovic 4-6 6-3 7-5.
Williams began the 2007 season with a world ranking of 95 after spending the majority of 2006 on the sidelines. A danger player who was clearly far more threatening than her ranking suggested, Williams immediately announced her return decimating the field to win the Australian Open. Williams has since won another title in Miami and reached the French Open semi finals before bowing out tamely to eventual champion Henin 6-4 6-3. Chosing to sit out the Wimbledon warm-up events, Williams' threat for the title should not be underestimated. If the 25-year-old decides she wants to add the 2007 Wimbledon title to the ones she picked up in 2002 and 2003, little will stand in her way.
Another rising Serbian youngster, Ivanovic is enjoying a successful season having already won in Berlin and reaching her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros where she was handed a painful lesson by Henin. Second to Roland Garros, the All England Club has also proven a successful hunting ground for the 19-year-old, who beat 14th seed Dinara Safina in 2006 before losing to eventual champion Mauresmo in the fourth round, and she should arrive at Wimbledon full of confidence following her victories over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova in Paris.
Others to watch
Former champions Martina Hingis
and Venus Williams
are also more than capable of adding to their previous titles although whether they are still able to beat the top five in the world remains to be seen. Williams has lost to Sharapova, Kuznetsova and Jankovic so far this year while Hingis has failed to beat a top five player since her return to the tour in 2006. However, to dismiss them would be foolish as both are more than capable of making it into the second week of a Grand Slam and could threaten some talented players along the way.
could also prove a threat despite failing to live up to the promise shown when she won the 2004 US Open. One of three Russian Grand Slam winners that year, Kuznetsova looked to be heading the pack as the Russian's threatened to dominate the women's tour. But although she has managed to maintain her the top 10 world ranking, Kuznetsova has failed to win another major since, her only other Grand Slam final appearance coming at the 2006 French Open where she was dismissed 6-4 6-4 by Henin.
Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova
is also worth looking out for as a dangerous player. It is perhaps a little premature to tip the 18-year-old as favourite for the title but having already reached the semi finals at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros, Vaidisova has proven she can be a threat on her day.
Simply Stunning, Simply Serena
57 Consecutive Weeks as World #1
Olympic Gold Medalist ('00 Doubles w/ Venus)