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Jun 21st, 2008, 12:33 AM

Wimbledon preview part two: Ana, Serena, Venus or Maria?

By Christopher Clarey (http://www.iht.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?query=By Christopher Clarey&sort=publicationdate&submit=Search)
Published: June 19, 2008


CHRISTOPHER CLAREY, IHT: We're back for the second installment of this Wimbledon edition of the forum, and before we examine the sensitive case of Scotland's Andy Murray, let's take a look at the women's field. Everyone who follows tennis is well aware of how difficult it is for the men to pull off the French Open-Wimbledon double. No man has managed it since Bjorn Borg in 1980. But it's not exactly routine for the women either. The only woman to do it in the last decade was Serena Williams in 2002. So what are Ana Ivanovic's chances?

JON WERTHEIM, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: For the first time, I saw real fight and self belief from Ivanovic in Paris. I wonder if the attention maelstrom will get to her (see Maria Sharapova, in those months after she won Wimbledon for the first time) but I have to think Ana is a legit contender.

TOM TEBBUTT, THE GLOBE AND MAIL: Too bad Ana has to wear white at Wimby - her dress colors are as terrific as her game. Think she's in a good place mentally and physically to do well. Better than ex-peer Nicole Vaidisova.

CLAREY: Whose slump deepens, even with a good new coach in David Felgate, but Vaidisova is still - lest we forget - just 19.

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Christopher Clarey, IHT
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Stephen Bierley, The Guardian (Great Britain)
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Philippe Bouin L'Equipe (France)
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Tom Tebbutt The Globe and Mail (Canada)
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Jon Wertheim Sports Illustrated (USA)
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STEPHEN BIERLEY, THE GUARDIAN: The very fact Ivanovic is now No 1 will give her a huge advantage, though it will be interesting to see if she can cope with the grass-court power of Sharapova or Venus Williams.

CLAREY: They are going to have to cope with Ivanovic's forehand, too! That shot has an extra gear like nothing else in the women's game.

TOM TEBBUTT: I think there are seven women who could win: two Serbs, two Williamses and three Russians in Sharapova, Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova. My least favorite of those is Kuznetsova, and she's the only one going in to Wimbledon with a grass tournament played.

CLAREY: And lost, beaten by Danish teen Caroline Wozniacki in Eastbourne WERTHEIM: The preparation (or lack of it) is remarkable. These players basically use the first week of Wimbledon as a tune-up event.

PHILIPPE BOUIN, L'EQUIPE: I have a question. How will the WTA be able to convince us that the women's game is more interesting than the men's, with two thirds of the players coming from behind the former Iron Curtain (some after their parents made a detour to the west)?

CLAREY: The problem is not the Eastern Europe to riches story line - that's a universal, aspirational tale. It's the lack of familiar plot lines to play off, with established figures like Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis now out of the game (love them or not) and with Amelie Mauresmo fading toward irrelevance. People aren't emotionally invested yet.

WERTHEIM: To me, it's not a problem of nationality; it's the homogenous games they have.

BOUIN: There is a saying in French: Boredom is born from uniformity. I am not sure that the story of the sisters Karamazova will be as successful as the one about the brothers.

WERTHEIM: You mean the sisters Bondarenko?

STEVE BIERLEY: What about H.M.S. Davenport?

CLAREY: Lindsay is a true wild card at age 32. It depends on her draw. I can't see her getting into the final four but could see her getting into the second week. Her flat shots and big serve still work very nicely on the lawns.

WERTHEIM: This is why she came back after all, isn't it? She's well rested. For all her iffy movement, she's won on grass before.

TEBBUTT: She can't be out two months since her last event, also with a year lost having the baby, and come back and be the old Lindsay. But grass is different - once you have the 'knack' it's huge advantage - and LD and the Sisters (Williams that is) have it.

CLAREY: The difference is that there are too many better athletes who can match Lindsay's power now.

BOUIN: Let's try to be honest here. I do not care about who will win the women's tournament, just as I did not care about who would win the French once Henin was not there anymore and Sharapova and Serena were gone. As an observer, I have to wait to see a kind of hierarchy being stabilized before I can get truly connected.

BIERLEY: So are the Williams sisters still capable of winning another Slam?

WERTHEIM: The Williams sisters can always win in my book, especially on grass.

CLAREY: I will never, ever swear off the Williams sisters again. They could be playing left-handed, hobbling around while using their rackets for canes between points, and I'd still be hesitant to rule them out entirely. They can sense our doubt and they feed off it.

TEBBUTT: I think it's all in the head for Lindsay and the Williamses. They treasure it so much more because they're approaching the end and get more nervous.

CLAREY: Serena's French Open loss to Katarina Srebotnik was horrendous, one of her worst matches and it came seemingly out of the blue (Srebotnik proved it was more about Serena than Srebotnik by losing in the next round, too).

WERTHEIM: But Serena comes and wins out of the blue just as easily. Federer will reflect on France for days. With Serena, you sense she stopped contemplating that defeat a few hours later.

WERTHEIM: Does anyone else like Jelena Jankovic, who could easily have beaten Ivanovic in Paris (and likely won her first Slam)? I get the feeling that bandwagon is emptying. But between her movement and her melodramatic candor, she's one of the players that makes life interesting, I think.

BIERLEY: Jankovic for Olympic gold, not Wimbledon?

WERTHEIM: And a Tony.

CLAREY: I think Jankovic would need a better serve to win Wimbledon. As quick and athletic as she is, she also has more chance of getting overwhelmed on grass than on any other surface.

BIERLEY: And Philippe what about the good doctor's daughter.... any chance of a similar upset for Marion Bartoli? Bartoli=Murray?

BOUIN: Steve, I do not think so. I think Marion Bartoli is intelligent enough to be afraid never to experience again something like last year's Wimbledon. Andy Murray is intelligent enough to know that he will have better times in his career.

CLAREY: Interesting to note that the outsiders who had terrific Wimbledons in the women's tournament last year - Bartoli, Michaella Krajicek and Vaidisova - are all in tailspins.

TEBBUTT: Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska are the Bartolis for 2008. They could easily upset one of the big names and make the semis.

WERTHEIM: Really like Azarenka.

CLAREY: Great ball striker but she seems emotionally fragile - saw her tear up on court when things weren't going well against Kuznetsova in Paris although she's no Zvonareva. But you've got to figure her time to shine in singles will come. She's already a Grand Slam champion (mixed doubles with Bob Bryan in Paris). Speaking of the combustible, though, what of Sharapova? Out in a blaze of anger and expletives at Roland Garros against Safina, she then withdrew from Birmingham.

TEBBUTT: You've got to think the shoulder is acting up again. A special injection, here in Toronto, last fall was supposed to have made it good. But something's fishy if she's not playing before Wimby, just watching Kobe and the boys in LA.

CLAREY: More inspirational than watching Kobe and the boys in Boston. Sharpova lost early enough in Paris that she should have been able to play a warm-up event on grass, would have wanted to based on past efforts. Just for argument's sake, are we clear why she was booed in Paris as she came off court?

WERTHEIM: How much was fallout from 2007 when she was also booed vociferously?

TEBBUTT: I'm clear on why. The French like to participate. Whether it's an umpire getting down to check a mark, a player being so brazen as to throw his racket down, or of course, doing the wave. They want people to know they're there.

WERTHEIM: Noticed that. Players would object to call and be proven RIGHT and still hear the catcalls!

BOUIN: French crowds like to boo, even like to boo singers, not just tennis divas...

CLAREY: Maybe I'm dense but there seems to be too big a disconnect between the kind of competitor Sharapova is and the way crowds reject her - and not just in Paris.

BOUIN: Don't you think this maybe has something to do with her overbearing father and the images of him the fans see on television?

CLAREY: Father Yuri's remonstrations don't help but he was comparatively subdued in Paris, even in defeat. I even saw him clapping for one of Safina's good shots.

WERTHEIM: I think part of the Sharapova's problem is "the camp;" but part is schadenfreude, watching the homecoming queen get a zit.

CLAREY: So Ivanovic should be getting booed soon enough....or not?

WERTHEIM: Right now she's merely sweet....wait till the endorsements start rolling in.

CLAREY: This is trivial or perhaps not. Do you think if Sharapova stopped the grunting, particularly the selective grunting, she'd automatically help her public appeal?

TEBBUTT: I love Sharapova's competitive drive (always gives money's worth) but I can't stand the shrieking and that disdainful pause to stare down opponent in her service motion.

WERTHEIM: Also, her game is not generally appealing. If she had Mauresmo's style I suspect she'd fare better in the court of public opinion.

CLAREY: Mauresmo has heard a few catcalls of her own in Paris over the years.

BOUIN: I think Sharapova looks too tough, implacable, mean: like Serena in a way. They do not look fragile or sympathetic. But I also think that she is one of the most honest and elegant losers when she is beaten.

TEBBUTT: Agreed, she's a commendably honorable loser.

CLAREY: So who REALLY has the best chance to win Wimbledon this year? Is there a favorite? I'm going to treat the French Open as a one-off and go with Serena.

WERTHEIM: I think you have to treat it as a one-off, given the state of the women's game. I'll take Sharapova and the points.

TEBBUTT: I'll take Shazza, as the Brits call her. The Williams sisters will break down one way or another.

BOUIN: I choose Sharapova, too.

BIERLEY: I'm not sure but Ivanovic's win in Paris will have lifted her confidence to a new level, and also played on the minds of her rivals.

CLAREY: So is that an endorsement?

BIERLEY: Er....yes.

BOUIN: Remember that Ivanovic's consultant/coach Sven Groeneveld was once Greg Rusedski's coach. Once with the Empire, always with the Empire.

BIERLEY: I still find Ivanovic a little one dimensional ... but hey!

CLAREY: Multi-dimensional is so last year unfortunately. Henin's retired remember? As for us, we're taking a much shorter break from the game. That's it for this installment of the forum, but we'll be back tomorrow to look in depth at Andy Murray and the cult of expectation. Thanks to our readers for their contributions to the debate. Please continue to give us your take on Wimbledon 2008 in our comments section. Lot of love for Federer there so far. I'll check back in throughout the week.

Jun 21st, 2008, 12:35 AM
Davai, Maria! :bounce: :hearts:

Jun 21st, 2008, 03:24 PM
Lol interesting.

:lol: at the Jankovic Toni comment.