Kim Clijsters leads challengers to Williams’ Wimbledon dominance

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Kim Clijsters leads challengers to Williams’ Wimbledon dominance

While Serena and Venus Williams aim to keep the Wimbledon title in the family for yet another year there are plenty who will be aiming to prise it from their grasp.

Belgian comeback queens Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin will each be returning to Wimbledon for the first time since launching their respective comebacks in the past 12 months, while Francesca Schiavone will be looking to add another Grand Slam title to the one she won at Roland Garros.

Here’s a look at the chances of some of the main challengers to the Williams' dominance at the All England Club this year.

Kim Clijsters

Dare we doubt Clijsters’ capability to win the title on her competitive return to Wimbledon, a tournament where she was last spotted in the main draw in 2006?

The mum-of-one lived the fairytale at the US Open when she was crowned champion in just the third tournament of her comeback last year, defeating both Venus and Serena in the process. A foot injury sustained playing for Belgium in the Fed Cup kept Clijsters out of the French Open, but she’s back and warming up for Wimbledon at the Aegon International in Eastbourne this week, and at the time of writing had dropped just three games in two matches so far.

It means the world No. 9’s most recent offering at a Grand Slam was that dismal loss to Nadia Petrova in the third round of the Australian Open, where she collected just one game, but Clijsters has two titles to her name already this year and looks like she might be a better bet than Henin to deny the Williams sisters yet another Wimbledon title.

Justine Henin

Still a work in progress in her return to the game she left in May 2008 while ranked as it’s best player, Henin is circumspect about her chances of completing a career Grand Slam at Wimbledon this year. A fourth round exit from the French Open, where she’s been champion four times previously, indicates this might be a sensible approach.

A run to the final of the Australian Open final on her second tournament back in competition at the start of the year suggests that at her best, Henin is still not far off the mark at the majors.

The conclusion? Don’t be too surprised whatever result Henin delivers in SW19 when play begins on June 21st.

Francesca Schiavone

Developed a taste for winning, and kissing centre court, at Roland Garros, and the French Open champion will be keen to find a reason to plant a kiss on the lawns at Wimbledon too. Schiavone was tactically brilliant in her victories against Caroline Wozniacki and Sam Stosur in Paris, picking out their weaknesses and executing the plan to exploit them to perfection.

Whether the 29-year-old can repeat the dose on grass at the All England Club is the big question, and a first-round loss to world No. 57 Sorana Cirstea at the Wimbledon warm-up in Eastbourne provides the reality check for all who have clambered on the bandwagon since the French Open.

Li Na

Victory on grass at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham has returned Li to the top-10, which she first cracked in February on the back of a run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Against Sharapova in the final, Li showed superior movement around the court and outhit the Russian in the baseline rallies to claim a 7-5, 6-1 victory, after defeating powerhouse Aravane Rezai in the semis.

A quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2006, and the US Open last year, Li looms as a dark horse to challenge in the second week at the All England Club this year. Her retirement in the first round of Eastbourne with a left-thigh injury might be a worry, but is hopefully more a precautionary measure ahead of Wimbledon than anything that will prevent the world No. 10 playing in the tournament.

Sam Stosur

The beaten French Open finalist has historically struggled at Wimbledon where her best performance came when she reached the third round last year. In her eighth appearance in the singles draw at the grass court major, there will be plenty of expectation on the Australian to do better.

In recent times Stosur has added self-belief to weaponry that also includes a potent serve and powerful topspin forehands, but her backhand and net play remain weaknesses that can be exploited. It would be a true testament of just how far the world No. 7 has come in the past 12 months if she can feature in the second week at Wimbledon, but not a result her record at the tournament suggests is in any way a foregone conclusion.



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