As the eight survivors line up for today's quarter-finals of the Ladies' Singles at The Championships 2012, the feeling grows that Wimbledon may be poised to welcome a new champion. The mix is fascinating after a fourth round on Monday which saw the downfall of the world No.1 and top seed Maria Sharapova and that perennial favourite and four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters. There are two Germans still remaining, and one from each of these countries: Poland, Russia, the United States, the Czech Republic, Austria and Belarus.
Three Grand Slam champions remain in contention. First and foremost is Serena Williams, 13 Grand Slams tucked into her tennis bag, four of them with the name of Wimbledon etched on them, second, last year's champion Petra Kvitova, and third, Victoria Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in January. That win, plus a streak of 26 straight successes at the start of this season, propelled the Belarusian to the top of the rankings; since Sharapova's defeat means she has been deposed from the summit, Azarenka can reclaim that top spot. All she needs to do is keep progressing at these Championships and stay in front of the only other contender for that honour, Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.
The day's most important - and fascinating - contest will be that between Williams and Kvitova and the sadness is that one will depart the scene. It is a tough one to call. Serena, four times a champion and twice the runner-up at Wimbledon, has the experience, the background and, at 30, definitely the incentive to hoist the Venus Rosewater Dish one more time, while Kvitova, the hard-hitting left-hander from the quiet Czech town of Fulnek, will understandably want to repeat last year's performance.
Serena has the edge when it comes to previous clashes, having won both. She conceded just three games to Kvitova in the second round of the 2010 Australian Open and then pulled off a much closer victory 7-6, 6-2 in the 2010 Wimbledon semi-finals. But as the sport's Serena-watchers have observed since she fought back from a serious illness and injury lay-off, a degree of uncertainty has crept into that once iron-clad game of hers. Will the errors outweigh the winners? Will the Kvitova howitzer forehand be too much? A great match is in prospect.
Azarenka also holds a 2-0 career advantage over her quarter-final opponent, Austria's Tamira Paszek and should in theory be odds-on for a semi-final place. There is one "but", and it is a rather big one. The 21-year-old Paszek, daughter of a Tanzanian father and Chilean mother (under whose surname she plays), is by some distance the form player on the turf this summer. Arriving in Britain with only two singles victories to her credit in 2012, Paszek reeled off five on grass by winning Eastbourne and has now added a further four here. Will she make it ten?
The day's one certainty is that Germany will have a Ladies' semi-finalist for the second straight year, since Sabine Lisicki upset the odds in reaching the last four of the 2011 Championships. But to go one round further and find a German finalist, it is necessary to evoke the name of Steffi Graf in 1999. Lisicki, who is based at the Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Florida, pulled off the day's fourth round shock against Sharapova, but it is Angelique Kerber who is favourite to win this, having triumphed in all four meetings, once with ease, once on a retirement and twice with difficulty.
The third-seeded Radwanska, twice a Wimbledon quarter-finalist previously, will have the twin ultimate incentives of being Poland's first Wimbledon champion and first world No.1 if she can maintain her streak of straight-sets wins here and see off the last of the Russians, Maria Kirilenko, as she has done on five of the seven occasions they have met, including the last four in a row.
Though this is normally the day when the Ladies' quarter-finals dominate the programme, there is a sheaf of Gentlemen's fourth round contests left over from yesterday's programme which will also seek a share of the headlines. So preceding Williams-Kvitova and the all-German clash on Centre Court, David Ferrer and Juan Martin del Potro will get their match under way, while on No.1 Court Andy Murray will try to press home the advantage he holds over Marin Cilic. Three more Gentlemen's matches will feature on the Show Courts, with the start time moved forward to midday just in case, while fingers are crossed for better weather.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all