Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sharapova is Wimbledon?s new favorite and next upset possibility

Busted Racquet previews the women's quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

We knew the women's field at Wimbledon was wide open, but this is ridiculous. Consider: there are only two repeat quarterfinalists from last year. Eight different European countries are represented, the first time that's ever happened in a Grand Slam. And each of the top three seeds have been eliminated in addition to the two sisters that accounted for nine of the 10 tournament championships held by the field.

Top half

The upsets are good news for Maria Sharapova, a pre-tournament favorite and the only woman left in the draw with a major victory. With Caroline Wozniacki's fourth-round loss, Sharapova's road to her second Wimbledon title is clear. Whether she can get there will depend on three things: her serve, her serve and her serve.

Given the tumult of this year's women's draw, Sharapova's status as presumptive tournament favorite probably makes her its next victim. Dominika Cibulkova is a tough quarterfinal matchup (maybe even tougher than Wozniacki would have been) and a semifinal against either the big-serving Sabine Lisicki or former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli is ripe with upset chances. Still, this is Sharapova's tournament to lose.

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Bottom half

Take a dart and throw it at any of the names on this side of the draw. As long as you don't hit the name of 80th-ranked Tamira Paszek, your pick is as good as any. Even Tsvetana Pironkova, who entered Wimbledon with a 6-15 record this season and only one career appearance beyond the third round of a Slam, could continue her unlikely run if her serve keeps cracking. More likely though, it will be either Victoria Azarenka or Petra Kvitova emerging from this side and playing for their first Grand Slam title. Though Azarenka is the highest remaining seed, Petra Kvitova has to be considered the favorite. Her booming groundstrokes got her to last year's Wimbledon final and a repeat engagement could be in order.

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