As the Wimbledon Championships approach, we take a look at the women who go into the grasscourt Grand Slam in sizzling form, and those whose results are in need of an upward surge.
Far and away the hottest player heading into Wimbledon, a tournament she’s already won five times and where she’s the defending champ. Williams went a stratospheric 23-0 during the clay season, a run iced with her second victory at Roland Garros, an incredible 11 years after her first title in Paris. The American has lost just twice this season and is currently doing everything better than everyone. Oh, and she’s on a 31-match winning streak.
The Russian backed up her stellar claycourt season and French Open title of 2012 with another solid outing on the dirt in 2013, winning in Stuttgart and reaching the finals in Madrid and Paris. Although it didn’t translate to grasscourt success last year, Sharapova is in great form coming into this year’s Championships, the owner of a sparkling 36-5 record in 2013. She’s a former Wimbledon champion (2004) and finalist (2011).
Despite clay being her least-favoured surface, Azarenka reached the semifinals at the French Open, her best ever result in Paris. It bodes well ahead of Wimbledon, where she has reached the semifinals the past two years on a surface that better rewards her good hands and aggressive baseline game. The new world No.2 will be seeded to avoid Serena until the final – either a pressure release or a confidence boost, both of which are positive – and has shown her game is in nice touch thanks to a 27-3 record this year.
Like Azarenka, Radwanska is never expected to perform as well on clay as on grass, which makes her quarterfinal finish in Paris a surprising confidence boost ahead of Wimbledon. The Pole entered the French Open with a limp 1-2 record on red clay leading in, but after accruing some valuable match play and some morale-boosting victories en route to her career-best showing at Roland Garros, she will arrive at the All England Club – where she was a finalist last year – feeling good and on a surface where she is much more dangerous.
The former world No.1 has slumped to 24th heading into the Miami Masters but is now up to No.16 – and seventh in the race to the WTA Championships – after a dramatic surge in form. A semifinal finish in Miami was followed by a run to the final in Charleston, and backed up by quarterfinals in Rome and Roland Garros, at the latter event coming awfully close to upsetting eventual finalist Sharapova. She heads to Wimbledon with a 28-11 record in 2013 and confidence seemingly restored.
It might seem a little rough to include the German in this list, but she’s the victim of her own success after failing slightly to match the highs of her incredible 2012 season. Although she’s an impressive 24-12 in 2013 and reached the quarters in Madrid before progressing to the fourth round at Roland Garros (her last two events), her record at the majors has been mediocre – she lost in the third round at Melbourne Park – and she’s yet to defeat a top 10 rival this season.
After being just striking distance from No.1 in early 2012, she barely hanging on to a top 10 ranking 18 months later. Her progress has been maddeningly up-and-down this season; following her great play in Doha and title run in Dubai in February, she bombed early in Madrid, Rome and Paris, her last three events. Yet the Czech’s game is perfectly suited to grass – she won Wimbledon in 2011 – so don't be surprised to see an upward swing in her fortunes in the next fortnight.
The Dane can barely win a match these days; Wozniacki went 1-5 during the European claycourt season and her confidence appears to be at a low ebb. She’s 17-14 in 2013 and save for a run to the Indian Wells final in March, it’s been a largely forgettable season. Thankfully, she has no points to defend after first round exits at Eastbourne and Wimbledon last year, meaning her top 10 ranking is, for now, safe.
It's been a tough year for Stosur, who was hampered by a calf injury throughout March and April, and, just when she appeared to be returning to some form on clay, ran into a brutal draw at the French Open and fell to the in-form Jankovic in round three. Moving onto grass – her least-favoured surface – Stosur now finds herself ranked outside the top 10 for the first time in three years and has gone just 16-12 in 2013.
Bartoli will be thrilled to be back on her favourite surface of grass after a mediocre first half of 2013; she’s reached just three quarterfinals in 12 events (and none since February) and stands at 13-12, her last result a demoralising 6-2 6-1 third round loss at Roland Garros to 50th-ranked Francesca Schiavone.