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02 Jul 2018

Serena Williams vs Arantxa Rus: Wimbledon first round preview and prediction

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History

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Last time out

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How do they match up?

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Prediction

(Photo credit: Katherine Shann)

After all the debate about Serena Williams and her potential seeding positions, the world #181 was ultimately seeded 25th for Wimbledon and begins her campaign against Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus. Rus, currently ranked #105 in the world is unquestionably the underdog against Williams, but the seven-time Wimbledon champion hasn’t played a lot of tennis in recent months, and where her game is at is uncertain. Will Rus be able to pull off the upset or will Williams advance?

History

Despite having both been on the WTA Tour for over a decade, these two have never played, largely a result of the starkly different directions their careers have taken. Williams is one of the greatest of all time, having won an extraordinary 23 Slams. Rus has spent much of her career ranked outside the top 100, barring a period during 2011 and 2012 where she reached as high as #61. In 2012 she had a couple of good runs at the Slams, but hasn’t won a match at a Major since.

Last time out

Williams made her much anticipated return to Grand Slam tennis at Roland Garros in May after pregnancy. She didn’t appear to have skipped a beat, winning through to the fourth round, but was forced to withdraw ahead of her match against Maria Sharapova due to a pectoral injury. Prior to that she had entered two tournaments since the birth of her first child; in Indian Wells she lost to her sister Venus in the third round and in Miami she was knocked out in the first round.

Rus has had a couple of decent results this year, but for the most part has spent her time below Tour-level. At Roland Garros, she did well to earn herself a spot in the final 128 but was easily beaten in the first round by Sloane Stephens, 6-2 6-0. In Den Bosch in the Netherlands soon after, she had a thrilling three set win in the first round but was then dismissed by Coco Vandeweghe in the round of 16. Since then, she has lost in the first round in Ilkley, and failed to qualify for the main draw in Eastbourne.

How do they match up?

Williams is a dominant all-court player. She boasts an extremely powerful serve, and tends to have some of the best serving statistics in the game, with few opponents able to break her. She plays predominantly from the baseline, from where she is able to generate plenty of speed with both her forehand and backhand. Match that up with some serious precision, and the result is one of the best players in the history of the sport.

Rus, who was a prodigy at the junior level and won the junior Australian Open in 2008, has failed to ever wholly translate that dominance into sustained success on the WTA tour. A left-hander, Rus will likely try to match Williams from the baseline but will no doubt be spending a lot of time well behind it defending. She moves reasonably well, and she will need to rely heavily on this agility to stay in this match.

Prediction

Williams shouldn’t have any problems advancing through to the second round. Five or six years ago Rus might have presented a challenge for Williams, but she appears to be past her best. Indeed, this is only the second time she has competed in the main draw of a Slam since 2013. Expect Williams to be able to wrap this one up relatively quickly, and advance through to the second round with a straight sets victory.