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2014 Ladies Wimbledon Preview

Last year's Wimbledon saw all the big names tumble out early on, leaving the field open for Marion Bartoli to come through to win her first ever grand slam title against Sabine Lisicki in the final. If she plays to her best, this title will be Serena Williams', but there are growing doubts surrounding her game and if she slips up, there are plenty of players waiting to lift the title.
Marion Bartoli won the title last year, but her retirement means that a new
champion will be crowned in 2014

In this article, I look at 20 of the seeded players that could fancy a chance at a run to the title and one unseeded player that is always a dangerous outsider to be avoided at Wimbledon.

Serena Williams
Seeding: #1
Best Odds: 6/4
Best Performance: Champion (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012)
Grass Court Record: 59-7
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 13-2
Strength: World-class serving on both first and second serves. World-class limiting of break points and ace production. Very good return game and break point creation
Weakness: Could improve break point save rate

Prediction: She is by far the best player in the women's game and if she plays to her ability, she is unbeatable. However, she has suffered some unexpected defeats this year and one might begin to wonder whether the intensity and motivation is still there given that she has won everything there is to win during the past few years. She will have one poor match during the tournament - if her opponent can make the most of it, then she is beatable. Otherwise, she will be lifting her sixth Wimbledon title.

Na Li
Seeding: #2
Best Odds: 18/1
Best Performance: QF (2006, 2010, 2013)
Grass Court Record: 35-17
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 4-4
Strength: Very strong second serve and return game. Above average on break point creation and conversion
Weakness: Few major weaknesses, although a lack of free points on serve via aces is not ideal

Prediction: Grass is not a surface that Na Li has thrived on in the past. While she has no clear weaknesses on the surface, she is not outstanding in any particular areas, which means that she often comes up short against the better grass court players. If she can avoid any specialists, she has a chance of a decent run, but it seems unlikely that she will be lifting the title.

Simona Halep
Seeding: #3
Best Odds: 16/1
Best Performance: R2 (2011, 2013)
Grass Court Record: 9-8
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 3-1
Strength: Excellent at converting break points. Return game is also well above average
Weakness: Too many double faults and slightly below average performance on both first and second serves

Prediction: Simona Halep's improvement over the past twelve months makes it slightly difficult to judge her based on previous statistics, but she will need a big improvement on grass if she is to really challenge her and back up her run to the French Open final. She has always had a solid return game on grass, but she really needs to improve on her own serve if she is going to avoid throwing away the hard earned leads that she creates through her excellent break point conversion rate. She could go well, but it would be a monumental leap forward if she wins the title.

Agnieszka Radwanska
Seeding: #4
Best Odds: 20/1
Best Performance: Finalist (2012)
Grass Court Record: 38-17
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 6-5
Strength: Excellent return game and break point creation. Well above average on second serve and avoids too many double faults. Very good break point save rate
Weakness: First serve points are poor and break point conversion rate could also be improved

Prediction: She should have reached back-to-back Wimbledon finals last year, but threw away the match against Lisicki in the semi-final. She is excellent on return and uses her game well to protect her second serve. She does very well at fighting off break points, but the lack of easy service points means that she will have to grind her way through the tournament. She has done that before, but she is always vulnerable to the big hitters.

Maria Sharapova
Seeding: #5
Best Odds: 11/2
Best Performance: Champion (2004)
Grass Court Record: 74-16
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 3-6
Strength: Excellent first serve, return game, break point creation and break point limitation. Plenty of free points through aces
Weakness: Too many double faults. Break point conversion could also be improved slightly

Prediction: Sharapova won this title ten years ago and it is slightly surprising that she has not won it again since then. Her return game is as good as any and she protects her serve very well, both winning plenty of first serve points and limiting the number of break points that she faces. With the exception of last year, she rarely loses to anyone other than the very best and with the lack of truly outstanding players at the moment, there is every chance that she could go very well again this year.

Petra Kvitova
Seeding: #6
Best Odds: 14/1
Best Performance: Champion (2011)
Grass Court Record: 30-12
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 8-5
Strength: Very good at limiting break points faced. First and second serves above average, as is the return game
Weakness: Few weaknesses, although possible a few too many double faults

Prediction: The 2011 champion will be hoping for another good run this year. She is strong behind her serve and her return game is good enough to create chances for her to break. There is a slight worry about her fitness after she withdrew in Eastbourne this week, but that seems to be precautionary, so one would expect her to be fully fit next week. Always a threat if her serve is working well, she could go well, but she can be very unpredictable at times.

Jelena Jankovic
Seeding: #7
Best Odds: 150/1
Best Performance: R4 (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010)
Grass Court Record: 40-23
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 0-1
Strength: Very good return game and break point creation
Weakness: Second serve could be improved. Break point conversion rate is below average and too many double faults

Prediction: Jankovic has reached the second week a number of times, but without getting any further than the Monday. However, she has struggled in recent years, twice going out in the first round and once in the second round in the last three attempts. She relies on her return game as her serve can often prove too weak on grass - the second serve in particular is below average and can result in too many double faults being given away. Her preparation for this year was less than ideal, with a first round defeat in Eastbourne as the third seed meaning that she has little practice on grass this year. No disrespect to Jankovic, but she is the player that the top four seeds will be hoping to draw from the 5-8 seeds bracket.

Victoria Azarenka
Seeding: #8
Best Odds: 25/1
Best Performance: SF (2011, 2012)
Grass Court Record: 32-14
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 8-5
Strength: World-class return game and break point creation. First serve is very effective and limits break points faced well
Weakness: Second serve could be improved and a few too many double faults

Prediction: Over the past few years, Azarenka has firmly established herself as the closest contender to Serena Williams. Her return game is outstanding, she uses her first serve and rallying ability to limit the break points that she faces and she creates plenty of break point opportunities for herself. The second serve is a real weakness though, but she will attempt to protect that by getting plenty of first serves in play. She has only been beaten by the very elite players in the past few years at Wimbledon - Serena in 2012 and at the Olympics and Petra Kvitova in 2011. Last year, she picked up an injury in a first round win over Koehler that forced her to withdraw. The major worry is that she has only just returned from a foot injury that has hampered her year, but if she gets a kind draw to ease herself into the tournament, there is no reason that she cannot do well here.

Angelique Kerber
Seeding: #9
Best Odds: 100/1
Best Performance: SF (2012)
Grass Court Record: 30-16
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 2-4
Strength: Good return game and break point creation
Weakness: Not many free points on serve through aces. Break point save rate could be improved

Prediction: A semi-final two years ago marks Kerber's best performance at Wimbledon. Her problem is that she is solid in most areas, but there are no areas that mark her out as a serious title contender. Her return game is comfortably above average, she creates a reasonable number of break points, but her serving statistics are nothing more than average. However, she is currently enjoying a good run at Eastbourne and if she gets a reasonable draw, there is no reason that she cannot have a good run at Wimbledon.

Dominika Cibulkova
Seeding: #10
Best Odds: 125/1
Best Performance: QF (2011)
Grass Court Record: 19-15
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 3-3
Strength: Good break point conversion and return game
Weakness: Very poor on both first and second serves, too many double faults and very few aces

Prediction: Grass has never really been a surface where Cibulkova thrives. Her best performance was a quarter-final three years ago, but that is the only time that she has reached the second week and it would be a surprise if she changed that this time around. Her serve is a major weakness on grass as shown by the fact that both her first and second serve win percentages are below the WTA average, let alone the level that would be needed to challenge here. Her returning is slightly above average, but this is unlikely to be enough to compensate for her serve. Certainly a player that the top names would like to see in their section.

Ana Ivanovic
Seeding: #11
Best Odds: 50/1
Best Performance: SF (2007)
Grass Court Record: 36-18
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 2-4
Strength: Very good first and second serves, plenty of free points from aces and above average return
Weakness: Few weaknesses, although break point conversion rate could be improved slightly

Prediction: Fresh off a first grass court title, Ivanovic is arguably playing as well as she has done for many years. It is a long time since she reached the semi-final as a 19-year old, but there are growing expectations that she could be set for another run here. Her first serve is very effective on grass, her second serve and return games are above average and there are few clear weaknesses in her game. Grass has long been her worst surface, but she has a reasonable chance to do well this year.

Flavia Pennetta
Seeding: #12
Best Odds: 250/1
Best Performance: R (2005, 2006, 2013)
Grass Court Record: 28-24
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 1-5
Strength: Above average return and break point save rates
Weakness: No major weaknesses, although possibly allows too many break points on her own serve

Prediction: Pennetta has reached the second week on several occasions, most recently last year having started the tournament as an outside to beat the late Elena Baltacha. She has a solid all-round game without being outstanding in any area. Despite an above average serve, she does allow too many break points against her and the way that she fell apart against Heather Watson in Eastbourne raises a few questions about whether she really has the game to challenge here. A tough opponent, but one that any real contenders should expect to come through without too many problems.

Eugenie Bouchard*
Seeding: #13
Best Odds: 16/1
Best Performance: R3 (2013)
Grass Court Record: 4-6
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 1-1
Strength: Excellent break point save rate. Above average first serve points won
Weakness: Poor on return and break point creation

Prediction: Bouchard has been the most consistent Grand Slam player this year, reaching the semi-final in both Australia and France. She reached the third round last year on her first attempt and is a former Wimbledon junior champion. She was disappointing against King in s-Hertogenbosch this week, but it felt like she was just there for a bit of practice ready to save herself for Wimbledon. The sample for her statistics is below the minimum that I would usually use, so it is difficult to put any real faith in the radar, but she does have the ability to go far and she has plenty of drive and confidence in her own ability. It might be too soon for her to win this year, but she has the ability to worry any of the top contenders.

Sara Errani
Seeding: #14
Best Odds: 300/1
Best Performance: R3 (2010, 2012)
Grass Court Record: 11-17
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 1-3
Strength: Very strong on break point creation and above average return
Weakness: Awful on both first and second serve points won, terrible break point conversion rate and very few free points through aces

Prediction: Her return game and break point creation is still good on grass, but her serve is hugely exposed on this surface, which is why she will never succeed at Wimbledon. Given her poor serve, she has to take advantage of any opportunities to break and her substandard break point conversion rate is a clear sign that she does not do that. She has lost her last four matches on grass in straight sets and any top players will be delighted to see her in their section of the draw.

Caroline Wozniacki
Seeding: #16
Best Odds: 125/1
Best Performance: R4 (2009, 2010, 2011)
Grass Court Record: 29-13
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 4-1
Strength: Very strong behind second serve, very good on return and break point creation. Limits break points faced
Weakness: Below average on break point conversion and save rates, suggesting possible mental fragility on big points

Prediction: Her radar looks impressive, so it is possibly surprising that Wozniacki has never been past the fourth round at Wimbledon. Her second serve win percentage is close to world-class, her return game and break point creation is very impressive and she does not face many break points on her own serve. The worry is the inconsistency that has crept into her game ever since she made it to the number one spot and with her lack of power to hit winners, if she cannot get enough balls back in court, she will struggle. She is currently enjoying a good run at Eastbourne and a run to the second week at Wimbledon is certainly not out of the realms of possibility.

Samantha Stosur
Seeding: #17
Best Odds: 100/1
Best Performance: R3 (2009, 2013)
Grass Court Record: 39-32
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 2-4
Strength: Strong behind the first and second serves, plenty of aces and very strong mentally on break points as shown by high break point conversion and save rates
Weakness: Very poor on return and struggles to create break points. Too many double faults as well.

Prediction: Sam Stosur is yet to make the second week of Wimbledon. While she is strong behind her serve and on the break points both for and against, her returning is a major weakness and means that she very rarely is able to get back into sets where she has fallen behind. She also has a tendency to fall apart after a good start, as we saw in the French Open against Sharapova. Last year at Wimbledon, she won the opening set against Lisicki, but won just three further games in the match. Two poor showings at Eastbourne and Birmingham in the warm-up events does not fill you with any confidence that she might chance her poor record at Wimbledon.

Sloane Stephens
Seeding: #18
Best Odds: 50/1
Best Performance: QF (2013)
Grass Court Record: 12-7
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 0-3
Strength: Reasonably strong on second serve points won
Weakness: No major weaknesses

Prediction: Sloane Stephens somehow scraped her way through to the quarter-finals last year despite seemingly being second best in almost every match. The radar suggests that she has no real weaknesses in her game, but also that there is no category where she is any more than slightly above average. She usually saves her best tennis for the Grand Slam events, which is probably for the best given she was pretty average during her matches at Eastbourne and Birmingham. She will scrap her way through a match or two, but it is tough to see her really challenging any of the serious contenders for the title.

Sabine Lisicki
Seeding: #19
Best Odds: 33/1
Best Performance: Finalist (2013)
Grass Court Record: 30-12
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 9-6
Strength: Excellent first serve win percentage, lots of free points through aces and above average break point save rate
Weakness: Sub-standard behind second serve, struggles to create break points and too many double faults

Prediction: Sabine Lisicki always comes alive at Wimbledon as shown by two quarter-finals, a semi-final and a final in her last four appearances at the event. She has an excellent first serve, which gives her plenty of cheap points, she is very strong at saving break points on her own serve and converting break points when she gets the opportunity. The major weaknesses are her return game and especially her second serve. On her day, she can beat anyone as demonstrated by wins over the likes of Serena, Sharapova, Radwanska and Bartoli in recent years at Wimbledon, but her form this year has been awful and she has not played a warm-up tournament. She is dangerous to write off at Wimbledon, but there are few signs that her form is good enough for a repeat of last year.

Andrea Petkovic
Seeding: #20
Best Odds: 150/1
Best Performance: R3 (2011)
Grass Court Record: 9-9
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 0-2
Strength: Excellent break point conversion rate, limits break points faced and very strong on second serve
Weakness: Poor break point creation and poor break point save rate

Prediction: She has done well to come back from injury and had a good run in Paris, but has rarely shown her best tennis at Wimbledon. She pushed Sloane Stephens last year and really should have won that match, but fell just short. Her second serve, break point limitation and break point conversion rate are her best attributes, but despite a slightly above average return game, she struggles to create break point opportunities or to save break points on her own serve. Again, a potentially dangerous opponent on her day, but not likely to really challenge later in the tournament.

Garbine Muguruza
Seeding: #27
Best Odds: 28/1
Best Performance: R2 (2013)
Grass Court Record: 10-6
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 1-1
Strength: Excellent break point creation
Weakness: Awful break point conversion rate

Prediction: One of the stars of the French Open, having eliminated Serena Williams and pushing Maria Sharapova to the limit, she will be hoping for another good performance here. She showed glimpses in s-Hertogenbosch last year that she has the game to play on grass and she is now fully-fit having taken time out during the second half of 2013. Her break point creation is world-class in the admittedly small sample of matches, although she struggles to convert those break points. Other than that, her all-round game is solid and she is improving by the week. Probably too soon for her to challenge for the title here, but as she showed in Paris, she has the ability to seriously trouble the top players on any given day.

Tsvetana Pironkova
Seeding: N/A
Best Odds: 125/1
Best Performance: SF (2010)
Grass Court Record: 31-22
Grass Court Record (vs Top 20): 5-5
Strength: Above average on first and second serve. Limits break point against her serve and gives away few free points through double faults
Weakness: No major weaknesses, although wins few free points on aces

Prediction: Pironkova is a strange player that only seems to come alive once each year - at Wimbledon. A semi-final in 2010 where she lost to Vera Zvonareva and a quarter-final in 2011 losing to Kvitova showed her ability. She took a set of Sharapova in 2012 and was only beaten by Radwanska last year. She has a very good all-round game with no clear weaknesses and will always be a threat to any player at this tournament.

* Sample size for Bouchard is below normal minimum, so radar could be inaccurate

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