Petra Kvitova is the emotional and bookmaker’s favourite to win the Women’s Singles at Wimbledon and this is a case in which the heart and head are in harmony. The champion is just about the best player in the draw on grass and winning the title again would complete her comeback after being stabbed at home just six months ago. Serena Williams is heavily pregnant so will be absent this year.
John McEnroe put his foot in it buy suggesting that Williams would lose to the male player at 700 in the rankings. The reaction to a throwaway comment has been over the top and this is a storm in a tea cup. To anyone that believes McEnroe meant any offence, you cannot be serious! It’s a biological fact that men are stronger than women and the best male tennis player in the world would easily beat the best female player but it’s a sensitive issue.
The matter of the relative merits of the men’s and women’s game always comes to the surface at Wimbledon time. The sexes are now on equal pay which is fine in theory but how can you compare a five setter in the men’s singles with a 2-0 straight sets victory for a women? As McEnroe said its apples and oranges but with the same financial rewards. Television figures suggest there is a case for equal prizes. McEnroe regrets making the controversial comment but stands by his opinion.
There have been some attempts to settle the argument in tennis about who would win a mixed singles match but as McEnroe pointed out in effect they are two different sports and he has great respect for the younger of the Williams sisters. Venus is still a contender and it would be fitting if she won the Wimbledon title while Serena is at home getting ready to give birth. However, age may have finally caught up with Williams the elder but she loves playing at Wimbledon on grass.
Virginia Wade was the Wimbledon champion in 1977 when she beat Betty Stove in the final. The Dutch lady played in the final of all three events she was eligible for and lost them all. She beat a youthful Sue Barker in the semis but could not stop Ms. Wade winning in front of the Queen. British player Johanna Konta has a great chance to be the ladies champion 40 years on but winning in front of your home crowd is a massive test that could pan out either way, inspiration or too much pressure.
Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki look dangerous contenders but their best days may be behind them. If Wozniacki wins the title I don’t think her ex, Rory McIlroy, will be sending his congratulations. He dumped her unceremonially and then won two majors. The golden couple of sport went their separate ways and Rory has now married somebody else while Wozniacki would love to win Wimbledon this year but she has never won a Grand Slam tournament. Former finalist Sabine Lisicki is lurking down the betting and could be an each-way steal.
However, the sentimental and professional money will be on Kvitova who was the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014. She has a game ideally suited to grass and won the pre-Wimbledon tournament on the surface at Edgbaston last weekend. Kvitova is back to her best despite only recently returning to the game after a six-month break to recover from a knife attack. Many of the other potential Wimbledon champions are absent, such as Williams, or out of form. Several potential rivals for whatever reason are struggling to contend this year.
The attack at her home caused damage to all five fingers of her left hand and there are ongoing repair issues but Kvitova has not been required to develop a new grip. She targeted Wimbledon for a return to the game but played in the French Open losing in the second round before embarking on a grass court campaign. Kvitova has tournament and recent surface form and even if it did not make such a good story she is best equipped to be the ladies champion at Wimbledon this year.