If five-time Wimbledon champion and top seed Serena Williams wants her title back at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 2014, she’s going to have to work hard for it.
The official draw for the ladies’ singles event was made on Friday and Williams, who last won here in 2012, has a number of notable names in her path, including a potential quarter-final clash with rival Maria Sharapova, the woman who beat her here in 2004.
The 32-year-old American opens against No.114 Anna Tatishvili and has a potential third-round appointment with fiesty Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, who defeated Williams earlier this year in Dubai. Williams then has a possible fourth-round encounter with Roland Garros semi-finalists Andrea Petkovic or Genie Bouchard.
Along with Williams and Sharapova on the top half of the draw sits Roland Garros runner-up Simona Halep, who is seeded to face Jelena Jankovic, the former world No.1, in the quarter-finals.
Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Li Na landed in the bottom half of the draw, with Azarenka and Radwanska set to square off in the quarterfinals and the 2011 winner Kvitova to meet the reigning Australian Open champion Li.
Plenty of intrigue surrounds the draw, with potential showdowns like Kvitova vs. Venus Williams (third round) and Caroline Wozniacki vs. Li (fourth round) sprinkling it throughout.
First Quarter: Williams-Sharapova
Williams is the de-facto favourite at The Championships, with her booming serve and unmatched groundstrokes particularly lethal on the grass. Petkovic and Bouchard loom in the fourth round, though the 20-year-old Canadian (who has two Grand Slam semi-finals to her name so far this year, the only player to do so) opens with a tough ask in former Top 5 player Daniela Hantuchova, the world No.35.
Sharapova, who won her fifth major two weeks ago at Roland Garros, opens her campaign at Wimbledon against British wild card Samantha Murray, a 26-year-old making just her second appearance here. The Russian could face compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, then is slated to meet either No.9 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany or 2013 semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens in the fourth round before her match with Williams.
It would be the 19th installment of Serena-Maria, though their “rivalry” has been anything but. Williams leads their head-to-head 16-2, winning 15 straight and not losing to Sharapova since the 2004 WTA Championships.
Second quarter: Halep-Jankovic
All eyes will be on the Romanian Halep, who will look to follow up her breakthrough performance in Paris in which she played toe-to-toe with Sharapova in her first-ever major final. She gets Teliana Pereira to open, a little-known Brazilian ranked No.91.
Halep is slated to meet countrywoman Sorana Cirstea in the third round, then either No.21 Roberta Vinci or No.14 Carla Suarez Navarro should the seeds hold.
In the lower half of this quarter sits plenty of solid potential encounters, though former world No.1 Ivanovic is certain to meet Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, in the first round. They’ll play Tuesday as 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki has been handed the duties for opening play that day in the absence of now-retired Marion Bartoli, who won here a year ago. Ivanovic and Lisicki could meet in what would be a hard-hitting third round. The Serbian who was once ranked No.1 won their only career meeting, which took place on clay earlier this year.
No.7 seed Jankovic is Halep’s drawn-in quarter-final opponent, though she’ll have to make her way through a tough path with Kaia Kanepi (first round), Yaroslava Shvedova (second), Madison Keys or Monica Puig (third) and then Ivanovic or Lisicki (fourth).
Third Quarter: Azarenka-Radwanska
No.8 seed Azarenka is coming in with a question mark floating abover her head, the two-time semi-finalist here having been out since March with an ankle injury. She lost her first comeback match in Eastbourne earlier this week, and will have to deal with the always-unpredictable Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to start, a 1999 semi-finalist at Wimbledon who is now 32.
Should Azarenka make her way through her first two matches, she could face Roland Garros upstart Garbine Muguruza, the Spaniard who shocked Serena Williams en route to a quarter-final appearance in Paris, in the third round. Lucie Safarova and Dominika Cibulkova loom as fourth-round opponents, seeded Nos. 23 and 10, respectively.
It could be a last-eight battle for Azarenka and Radwanska, the 2012 finalist here, who have had a topsy-turvy rivalry and off-court friendship over the years. The Belarusian leads that head-to-head 12-4, though the crafty Radwanska ran away with their last meeting, which happened earlier this year at the Australian Open. They’ve met twice on grass, splitting the two matches in 2006 (Wimbledon) and 2010 (Eastbourne).
Fourth Quarter: Kvitova-Li
The 2011 champion Kvitova is always dangerous on grass, the left-hander having wallopped her way through the field to claim her lone major here three years ago. She has a potential blockbuster against the elder Williams sister in the round of 32, the Czech leading that series 3-1. Venus, a five-time winner here, is seeded No.30 and makes her 16th appearance at The Championships, having missed Wimbledon last year for the first time in her career.
American Sloane Stephens or Flavia Pennetta could be waiting in the fourth round for the Williams-Kvitova winner should they all get that far.
In the bottom part of this quarter it is Li who anchors the draw, the two-time Slam champion and No.2 seed having what appears to be a standard path with qualifier Paula Kania to start and then either Vania King or Yvonne Meusburger next and Elena Vesnina, the No.32 seed, in the third round.
Above Li is No.16 seed Caroline Wozniacki, the former world No.1 trying to re-vamp her career after a series of struggles. She will play 2012 US Open champion Sam Stosur in the third round should their seeds hold, the two having met six times and splitting the wins down the middle, including a 1-1 head-to-head on grass.
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