Magnificent Maria's the one to beat as old guard look to send out message
22:01 GMT, 1 July 2012
For three women with 21 Grand Slam singles titles between them, this week is about more than just winning Wimbledon. It’s about the old guard sending out a message to the new generation: we’re not done yet.
Win their last-16 matches and Serena Williams (13 Grand Slams), Maria Sharapova (four) and Kim Clijsters (four) will go some way to doing just that.
Williams takes on record-breaking Yaroslava Shvedova, the Kazakh who did not lose a point in the first set of her last-32 win over French Open finalist Sara Errani.
One to beat: World No 1 Maria Sharapova practices on Sunday with her coach Thomas Hogstedt
Sharapova faces a rematch of last year’s semi-final against Sabine Lisicki, while soon-to-be-retired Clijsters takes on Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the most improved player in the past year.
Each will no doubt be tested and know that, if they do come through, there are plenty more young guns waiting to steal the glory.
Defending champion Petra Kvitova is slipping into the sort of form that suggests she will not be a one-Slam wonder, while Agnieszka Radwanska, Victoria Azarenka and Eastbourne champion Tamira Paszek look in the mood to challenge for a first Wimbledon crown.
Despite the test against big-serving Lisicki — Li Na last year said she served ‘like a man’ — world No 1 Sharapova still looks the best bet to win a second title. The 25-year-old has impressed everyone at the All England Club. Nobody works harder on the practice court, the Russian urging her coach to feed her more balls. But a potential run to glory could be blocked by Lisicki (below), Clijsters, Radwanska or Williams.
Challenge: Serena Williams will be looking to see off the threat of Svedova on Court 2
Williams roared and growled like a wolf with a sore head on her way to beating China’s Jie Zheng 9-7 in the third set on Saturday, and Shvedova and the other women in her quarter will feel she is vulnerable.
Strength of character, her huge serve and an intimidating presence count for a lot but Shvedova will feel confident after her golden set, even though she, like Williams, was quick to play it down.
‘I had no idea,’ said the 24-year-old, who bizarrely held the previous record for consecutive points — she won 23 in Memphis in 2006 in a match she somehow lost.
‘I was just playing every point and every game. I remember she won the first or second ball of the second set and all the people started to clap and scream. I thought, “What’s going on” I thought they just wanted to see a good match.’
Williams played down the achievement but acknowledged she has a tough match ahead.
‘I never knew that existed,’ she said. ‘Sasha (her hitting partner) said she got a golden set. I said, “What does that mean” I thought, “Has she won all four in a row and the Olympics”
‘Hopefully, I’ll be able to win a point in the set. That will be my first goal and then I’ll go from there.’
In form: Germany's Angelique Kerber will look to send Kim Clijsters packing
Clijsters’ match is possibly the toughest. The Belgian, who will retire at the end of this year, faces in-form Kerber, the German who lost in the first round here last year to Laura Robson but has since reached the US Open semi-final and broken into the world’s top 10.
Her blonde hair has led to some Germans branding her the new Steffi Graf. While she is not that, she has the tools to take advantage of Clijsters’ lack of match practice, and her huge serve suits the grass.
‘I’ve never played against her,’ said Clijsters, who is struggling with a stomach injury. ‘A left-hander is always tough. She’s a fighter and a physically strong girl.’
Kerber and Lisicki make it two Germans in the last 16, with the Italians boasting the most representatives with Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci and qualifier Camila Giorgi.
All could be out by the end of play, especially as Vinci is up against Paszek, the 21-year-old Austrian who excels on grass.
A win for Paszek would set up a tie against No 2 seed Azarenka or Ana Ivanovic, who is aiming to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2008. Azarenka looks too good to let that happen.