2010 is turning out to be a fantastic year for the women at the big events, thanks mostly to the added drama provided by the returning Belgians, the continued success of the Williams sisters and the strong performances of likable ladies like Schiavone and Stosur. The way this year’s Wimbledon women’s draw is shaking out, we’re looking at more early round drama and hopefully some fantastic later-stage matches. Let’s take a look (I’ve included some photos from this year’s pre-Wimbledon festivities, just for funzies!):
Round of 16 by seedings (top to bottom):
Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova
Li Na vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Victoria Azarenka
Flavia Pennetta vs. Samantha Stosur
Kim Clijsters vs. Nadia Petrova
Yanina Wickmayer vs. Jelena Jankovic
Francesca Shiavone vs. Marion Bartoli
Shahar Peer vs. Venus Williams
Justine Henin, seeded 17th, is again the major spoiler in the mix, and she happens to be in the same eight with Kim Clijsters.
Intriguing first-round match-ups: Serena Williams vs. Michelle Larcher de Brito, Dominika Cibulkova vs. Lucie Safarova, Jelena Jankovic vs. Great British hope Laura Robson, Shahar Peer vs. Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina* vs. Anna-Lena Groenefeld. In the second round, we could have Serena vs. rising star Andrea Petkovic and 2009 US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer vs. 2009 US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin.
TOP QUARTER: A Real Test for the Real No. 1
Wow, I’m exhausted and partially deaf just thinking about what Serena has to go through to make it to the semis (not to mention the torture of walking more than a couple steps in those high heeled numbers!). The World No. 1 and defending champion has a hellish draw. It starts out with No. 1 Shrieker and headstrong upstart Michelle Larcher de Brito in the first round, moves on to dangerous dark horse Andrea Petkovic in the second, and then it’s either the fearless Lucie Safarova or Dominika Cibulkova in the third round.
The biggest gift the Tennis Gods could give us is a Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova round of 16. The winner of that match may face anyone from Agnieszka Radwanska, Li Na or No. 19 seed (!) Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals.
SECOND QUARTER: Stosur and the BFFs
Caroline Wozniacki likes to keep her friends close, with buddies Sorana Cirstea and Victoria Azarenka both possible round of 16 opponents for the No. 3 seed. (Pavlyuchenkova and Zheng are also in the mix.) Sam Stosur anchors this quarter of the draw, and could face Flavia Pennetta or French “It” girl Aravane Rezai in the Round of 16. Basically this is a pretty open, evenly matched section and it will be interesting to see who wants it most.
THIRD QUARTER: Belgian Fed Cup team
The Tennis Gods are sticking it to Belgium. The country’s Fed Cup Team is all in the same quarter. Here are some matches to look forward to: Henin vs. Petrova in the third round, with the winner taking on Kim Clijsters in the Round of 16. Lucky Kimmie. Whoever emerges from that little section could face Yanina Wickmayer (or Jelena Jankovic) in the round of 16. Clijsters good buddy, Kirsten Flipkens, could be Wickmayer’s second round.
BOTTOM QUARTER: WTA Curiosities
I really like this quarter. It’s filled with all sorts of WTA curiosities, like struggling former World No. 1s Dinara Safina* and Ana Ivanovic, the wacky Marion Bartoli, throwback Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez**, tabloid star Sania Mirza, Alisa “Klubber”nova, this year’s surprise French Open quarterfinalist, Yaroslava Shvedova and the most surprising of them all: 2010 French Open Champion, Francesca Schiavone. Shahar Peer is in there, too, much to Ana Ivanovic’s chagrin (they meet up in the first round.) Five time Wimbledon champ Venus Williams is a beacon of consistency in this happy chaos.
UPDATE: My happy little part of the draw is not so happy anymore.
*Dinara Safina is out with a back injury, Melanie Oudin takes her place in the draw and Canada’s Stephanie Dubois is in as a lucky loser. Has Dinara’s injury moved from serious to career threatening.
**Aww. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez pulled with a knee injury and will be replaced by Kateryna Bondarenko.
Click here for the ladies’ draw at Wimbledon.org. And stay tuned for a preivew of the men’s draw.
Look, it’s Russell Brand!