London, England (Sports Network) - Maria Sharapova completed a career Grand
Slam earlier this month with her long-awaited triumph at the French Open, but
she will have a difficult road toward claiming a second Wimbledon crown.
Sharapova is the top seed at the All England Club for the first time, but the
2004 champion in the London suburb has a tough draw with numerous potential
pitfalls throughout, including four former Grand Slam champions in her half.
After opening with Russian-born Australian Anastasia Rodionova, Sharapova
could meet Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in round two. Pironkova has already
proven herself as a more than capable grass player, having reached the
Wimbledon semifinals two years ago and the quarterfinals last year.
Potential fourth-round opponents for Sharapova include German 15th seed Sabine
Lisicki, a semifinalist last year, or Czech Petra Cetkovska, who reached the
fourth round a year ago.
A host of notable players could await Sharapova in the quarterfinals,
including four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, former world No. 1
Jelena Jankovic, 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva and eighth-seeded
German Angelique Kerber.
Clijsters, who pulled out of the Den Bosch semifinals on Friday because of an
abdominal injury, will take on Jankovic in a marquee first-round matchup.
Clijsters, unseeded at Wimbledon for the first time since 2000, has never been
farther than semifinal appearances in 2003 and 2006. Jankovic, seeded 18th,
was ousted in the first round last year and has never been past the fourth
round at Wimbledon.
The bottom quarter of the top half of the draw is led by third-seeded
Agnieszka Radwanska. The Polish star was bounced in the second round last year
and was a quarterfinalist in 2008 and '09. She could face another early exit,
as five-time Wimbledon champ Venus Williams could be her opponent in round
two. The unseeded Venus will open with Russian veteran Elena Vesnina.
Two other Grand Slam champs -- Samantha Stosur and Li Na -- are also featured
in the bottom quarter of the top half. The fifth-seeded Stosur has not fared
well at the All England Club with first-round flameouts each of the past two
years, while the 11th-seeded Li followed up her French Open title last year
with a second-round exit, although the Chinese star has twice been a
quarterfinalist, including as recently as 2010.
Petra Kvitova is the defending Wimbledon champ, having beaten Sharapova in
last year's final. Seeded fourth this year, the Czech will open against
Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova and appears to have an easy road to the fourth
round, where she could meet Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova -- a quarterfinalist
last year -- or former French Open champ Francesca Schiavone.
Potential quarterfinal opponents for Kvitova include Italy's Sara Errani and
American Serena Williams. Errani, seeded 10th, made a surprising run to the
French Open final earlier this month, while the sixth-seeded Serena will be
trying for a fifth Wimbledon crown and will take on Czech Barbora Zahlavova
Strycova in the opening round. The 13-time Grand Slam champ was ousted in the
fourth round last year and is coming off a stunning first-round loss at Roland
Garros -- her first-ever opening-round loss in a major.
Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka heads the bottom quarter and will meet
American Irina Falconi in the first round. A semifinalist last year, Azarenka
could meet former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round, while 2007
Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli, two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana
Kuznetsova and former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki are possible quarterfinal
Play opens on the famed lawns of the London suburb on Monday.
The Sports Network