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SerenaSlams
Jun 18th, 2007, 09:22 PM
By Richard Pagliaro
Tennis Week
06/18/2007

Serena Williams may not be seeded among the top four at Wimbledon, she isn't playing a Wimbledon warm-up event and has not reached the second week at the grass-court Grand Slam in three years, but the two-time Wimbledon winner's status as a major player makes her the Wimbledon favorite among odds makers.


British bookmaker Ladbrokes.com has installed the reigning Australian Open champion as a 9/4 favorite to regain the Wimbledon crown she successfully defended in 2003 before 13th-seeded Maria Sharapova shoved her aside in straight sets to seize the Rosewater Dish in 2004.

Fresh off dispatching Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic in succession to capture her third consecutive French Open crown, World No. 1 Justine Henin is listed as a 7/2 shot to claim the lone Grand Slam championship missing from her collection.

U.S. Open champion Sharapova, who was sidelined for two months with a strained serving shoulder but has reached the French Open semifinals (losing to Ivanovic) and Birmingham final (bowing to Jankovic) in her return, is a 5/1 shot to earn her third career major.

Defending champ Amélie Mauresmo, who has reached at least the semifinals in four straight appearances at the All England Club, is the fourth favorite choice among the bookmaker at 9/1.

A Grand Slam semifinalist in two of her last three majors, Jankovic is listed at 10/1 to win Wimbledon though those odds could fall given the Serbian's 6-1, 7-5 conquest of Sharapova in the Birmingham final. Jankovic has won four tournaments titles on three different surfaces this season. She defeated defending Wimbledon champion Venus Williams at the grass-court Grand Slam last year. Jankovic has reaches 10 semifinals in 16 tournament starts this year, posting a 49-11 record.

Nicole Vaidisova is also a 10/1 shot with Venus and Ivanovic following at 12/1.

Why do odds makers hold Serena in such high regard?

The eight-time Grand Slam champion is a proven winner whose first serve remains the most lethal weapon in women's tennis. Williams is ranked seventh, but owns a winning record against five of the six women ranked ahead of her: She is 6-4 vs. top-ranked Justine Henin, 4-2 vs. second-ranked Maria Sharapova, 9-2 vs. fourth-ranked Amélie Mauresmo, 2-0 vs. fifth-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova and 1-0 vs. sixth-ranked ana Ivanovic. Jankovic, who has split four career meetings with Williams, is the only top-10 player who has played Serena on even terms in a head-to-head series.

Despite her surprisingly desultory performance against Henin in the French Open quarters, Williams, when fit and focused, is typically a tough out at Wimbledon. Her serve generates cheap points and plenty of short balls, the faster surface permits Williams to play points to her tempo and grass-court tennis maximizes two of Williams greatest assets: her serve and return. When she's holding serve comfortably, as she can at Wimbledon, it emboldens Williams even more on her return game. The smaller, more control-orientated Wilson frame Williams began using in Australia in January has helped her harness her prodigious power, keep more balls in the court and more pressure on opponents.

Continuing her quest to complete a career Grand Slam, two-time Wimbledon finalist Henin owns the all-court skills to win Wimbledon. But recent history dictates it will be a difficult double to attain. Only two women in the past 20 years – Steffi Graf (in 1988, 1993, 1995 and 1996) and Serena (2002) – have captured back-to-back French Open and Wimbledon crowns. While the slow red clay permits Henin to play reactive tennis at times, the speed of grass demands a proactive approach.

"It’s very difficult, not many players are able to do that,” Henin said of the Roland Garros-Wimbledon single-season sweep. “In Wimbledon, it’s another story for me. I’m not as familiar with the surface as here. I'll see what I can do. I'm dreaming of winning Wimbledon one day. It would be the cherry on the cake.”

Henin did not drop a set en route to the 2006 Wimbledon final and appeared poised to finally tame the grass when she took the first set against Mauresmo in the final, but the French woman rallied for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. If Henin can reproduce the attacking style of play she showed in stopping Sharapova and Mauresmo in successive straight-sets victories at the Sony Ericsson Championships last November, she can win Wimbledon.

Sharapova, who has reached the Wimbledon final four for three straight years and sports a 20-3 record at the All England Club, is still pained by her shoulder, but hits the ball so fast and flat she should play up to her serve if she can tame her sometime troublesome serve that strayed at times during the Australian Open in January.

Mauresmo should be at full strength after completing recovery from emergency appendectomy surgery and due to her absence from the Tour for much of the spring she may actually enter Wimbledon with less pressure and attention than any recent champion. Still, the lack of match play is a concern and can be most typically telling when Mauresmo steps out to serve out a match. Mauresmo does not hit as big from the baseline as most women in the top 10, however her net game is rivaled only by Henin and if she can maintain that aggressive mind set she showed in winning Wimbledon last year Mauresmo is capable of going deep in the draw again, but successfully defending her title is another question.

The serve is the biggest question mark for Jankovic, who is such a smooth mover on court you sometimes wonder if she's wearing slippers rather than sneakers when listening to her matches. Like Mauresmo, Jankovic's serve is the most suspect area of her game. She can beat most opponents by spinning her first serve into the box and maintaining a high first-serve percentage, but can Jankovic pick up the pace when she faces the top players in the latter rounds? She'll have to sharpen her serve better if she is to navigate the lawns of the All England Club and reach her first major final.

The Wimbledon seeds will be announced on Wednesday, June 20 and the draws will be conducted at 10 a.m. local time on Friday, June 22. Wimbledon begins on Monday, June 25.

Simply Stunning, Simply Serena
:worship: 57 Consecutive Weeks as World #1 :worship:
:worship: Olympic Gold Medalist ('00 Doubles w/ Venus) :worship:

BuTtErFrEnA
Jun 19th, 2007, 12:00 PM
hmmm must agree with what he points out as her advantages and the H-2-H against everyone else is impressive :devil:

Donatello
Jun 19th, 2007, 06:46 PM
I have said it from time to time to haters that ree's h2h is just to :worship:

Seeds tomorrow ! can't wait !

alex.stef
Jun 20th, 2007, 01:01 AM
Go get'em tiger !

BuTtErFrEnA
Jun 20th, 2007, 12:28 PM
she's only equal with one person in H-2-H and believe me that will be changing soon and she'll have a winning H-2-H against everyone at the top....I don't think anyone else has a wining H-2-H against everyone at the top which makes it even more :drool: