Wimbledon Women’s Singles preview
They have come and they have gone – a succession of pretenders to Serena Williams’s throne – and several have even usurped her for a time at the top of the world rankings.
But 14 years after winning her first Grand Slam as a teenager, Williams is still the undisputed Queen of Tennis as she embarks upon yet another Wimbledon campaign as odds-on favourite.
The American’s record is phenomenal: 16 Grand Slam singles titles, including five Wimbledon triumphs. But it is her appetite for the game that is, if anything, even more remarkable. She has nothing left to prove, having bounced back to number 1 in the world five times since first topping the rankings in 2002, but here she is, at 31, playing some of the best tennis of her life and raring to go again.
Coral rate her a 2/5 shot and it is difficult to see anybody taking the Venus Rosewater Dish from her if she plays close to her best.
Maria Sharapova (5/1) probably has the best chance. When the glamorous Russian first burst on the scene as 17-year-old, beating Williams in straight sets, everybody thought it might be a changing of the guard. But that was nine years ago and although Sharapova has since won four Grand Slam titles (one of each), a more productive career still has been thwarted by a shoulder problem.
Sharapova, too, is at the top of her game coming into Wimbledon fortnight, but it is a startling fact that she has lost every time she has played Williams in 13 encounters since 2004, most recently in the final of this year’s French Open.
Coral’s third favourite, Victoria Azarenka (8/1), another former world number 1, also has a dismal head-to-head record against the younger Williams sister, seven defeats out of seven in Grand Slams. The dual Australian Open winner has progressed with each appearance at Wimbledon, but has still to make the final in SW19.
Others to consider include Petra Kvitova (20/1), who beat Sharapova in the 2011 final, and Agnieska Radwanska (50/1), who surprised most when reaching the final last year (the first time she had progressed beyond the quarter finals in a Grand Slam in seven years of trying) and then taking Williams to three sets.
Caroline Wozniacki is another former number 1 who wasn’t able to stay at the top for too long and though still in the top 10, is better known to the wider public these days as the girlfriend of Rory McIlroy.
She is pretty much dismissed as a possible winner by Coral at 80/1, while Britain’s main hope, Laura Robson, although climbing steadily up the world rankings (currently 37th) and guaranteed to add some flavour to proceedings, is still not regarded as ready for a major breakthrough yet and is priced at 125/1.
Written by Jon Freeman