In what promises to be an engaging clash, seven-time Wimbledon champion and 25th seed Serena Williams takes on former world #10 and two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Kristina Mladenovic for a place in the second week. Williams is playing just her fourth tournament since returning from maternity leave, but has looked impressive so far. Mladenovic, meanwhile, looks to finally be exiting one of the longest slumps in recent WTA history. But who will come out on top?
Surprisingly, despite both competing at the top of the game in recent years Williams and Mladenovic have met just once previously on Tour. That match came two years ago at the French Open in the third round. It proved a close affair, as Mladenovic played some excellent tennis, backed by the ever-vocal Parisian crowd. Ultimately though, Williams came out on top, winning through to the fourth round 6-4 7-6 and going on to reach the final (lost to Muguruza).
Path to the third round
Williams was forced to withdraw from the French Open ahead of a fourth round clash with Sharapova with a pectoral injury, throwing her Wimbledon participation into doubt. Fortunately, those fears ultimately proved unfounded and she began her campaign at the All-England Club with a gritty 6-3 7-5 win over Arantxa Rus. Williams wasn’t at her best in that match, but improved in her 6-1 6-4 victory over Viktoriya Tomova on her return to Centre Court.
Mladenovic has picked up some much-needed wins of late after a poor run of form saw her fall from her career high ranking of world #10 to her current position of 62nd in the world. She began her tournament against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, dropping the first set to the Slovakian. But Mladenovic managed to turn the match around, winning 5-7 6-2 6-2. She carried that momentum into her second round clash with Svitolina’s conqueror Tatjana Maria, winning 6-2 6-2.
How do they match up?
Williams will look to dominate this match from the outset with heavy hitting from the back of the court. Both her forehand and backhand are powerful and dangerous weapons. Her serve is also excellent, although the American has only struck nine aces so far this tournament, a number below the high mark she usually sets. But she has been playing well behind her first serve, winning 78% of the points behind it against Rus and upping that number to 84% against Tomova.
Mladenovic has also been serving well, winning over 75% of the points behind her first delivery against both Schmiedlova and Maria, although she was broken three times by Schmiedlova. Both players are excellent volleyers, particularly Mladenovic who, partnered with Hungary’s Timea Babos, is the top seed in the women’s doubles. Thus both will surely look to move into the forecourt as often as possible, which will be especially important for Mladenovic due to Williams’ impressive athleticism.
It’s been a tournament of progress for Mladenovic, who had won just one Grand Slam match in singles in the last twelve months before her victories over Schmiedlova and Maria. But Williams marks a significant step up in quality and it does not seem like one that the Frenchwoman is ready to make. Williams’ power has fired her to seven Wimbledon titles for a reason, and with the draw opening up she will feel in with a chance of claiming number eight. Expect her to advance in straight sets.