Pam Shriver, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, gives her assessment of the contenders for this year’s women’s title at the All England Club. Shriver, an analyst for ESPN’s televised Wimbledon coverage, discusses Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, the Williams sisters and Victoria Azarenka.
Shriver’s analysis of Maria Sharapova:
“I’ve been wrong before with Sharapova, but I think she’s going to have to raise her level to win Wimbledon. Unless you’re a dominant player, it’s exhausting winning grand slams. Winning two slams in a row is always difficult, but it’s never harder when those two are the French Open and Wimbledon. The women’s game is so unpredictable at the moment, with no player dominating. While it’s possible that Sharapova could follow her win in Paris by winning Wimbledon as well, I think she’s going to have to really raise her level to do that. So I think the period of unpredictability is going to carry on. I wouldn’t say that I’m amazed that Sharapova has got back to No 1 in the world, because of her mental and emotional strength. A couple of years ago, people thought that she would never win another grand slam, and she’s gone a lot of problems with her serve, with yips and double-faults.”
Shriver’s analysis of Petra Kvitova: “With a lot of players, their blood pressure rises when they step on grass. Last summer, it looked as though her blood pressure had dropped on the grass. She looked very comfortable. But we shall soon see whether last year was an accident or not. She’s got the game for grass, with that lefty serve and the big shots. She loves that one-two punch on grass, a serve out wide and then a big groundstroke into the open court. If it wasn’t an accident, if she really is as comfortable on grass as she appeared to be last summer, she could win several Wimbledon titles. She could be the leading grass-court player of her generation, just as Venus Williams was for the era that has just been.”
Shriver’s analysis of Serena Williams: “I think everyone’s just a bit curious about why Serena’s results haven’t been better at the slams this year. At the French Open, she lost in the opening round of a grand slam for the first time in her career. Last year, when she came back from her medical problems, she reached the US Open final, but then she played a strange match, winning just five games against Sam Stosur, who had never won a slam before. It seems to me that, now she’s into her thirties, she’s a lot tighter on court. Dealing with nerves doesn’t get easier as you get older. Roger Federer has not been finding it easy to win a first slam in his thirties, and it’s not been easy for Serena either. But, grass puts a smile on Serena’s face. She’s one of those players who likes the surface. You don’t have to hit three or four good shots; one or two usually get the job done.”
Shriver’s analysis of Venus Williams: “Will this be her last Wimbledon? Probably. It’s not just the age, but the auto-immune condition that has been affecting her – she went public with that last year. I believe that, with a condition like that, the symptoms tend to get worst when you’re under a lot of stress, and the second week of a grand slam is very stressful. It’s four years now since Venus last won Wimbledon, and four years is a long time when you’re in your thirties. She was the best grass-court player of generation – she wasn’t a better all-round player than her sister Serena, just the better grass-court player – and maybe if she can get the big serve going she can on a run. But I don’t think it’s going to be easy. And with every Wimbledon that goes by when she doesn’t win the title, it gets even harder for her the next time.”
Shriver’s analysis of Victoria Azarenka: “Becoming world No 1 in this age is such a Herculean effort – you have to play so much tennis to get there – and I feel as though she was a little burnt-out from the effort of getting there. Maybe it was the reality of trying to stay there at the top which has hit here. To stay at the top you need to be fresh, eager and healthy, and it doesn’t seem to me at the moment that she’s capable of being all those three for a long time. She was unbeaten until Miami this year, but it seems as though, with every defeat since, her confidence has been chipped away. She has seemed a bit grumpy. Her tennis hasn’t been going in the right direction. Maybe she will use Wimbledon to put a stop to that and change things around.”
ESPN.co.uk will bring tennis fans coverage of Wimbledon, including live scores, videos, reports, comment, and galleries plus contributions from British tennis player Chris Wilkinson. Pam Shriver is a TV analyst for ESPN’s Wimbledon tennis coverage in the US.