Seven-time former champion Serena Williams will make her long-awaited return to Centre Court when she takes on Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova. The American former #1’s comeback at the French Open was cut short by a pectoral injury, but she has otherwise looked sharp in her matches since returning from maternity leave. Hoping to oust her from the Championships is the 23-year-old Wimbledon debutant Tomova. Who will come out on top?
This will be a first meeting between Williams and Tomova, but there is a huge gulf in experience between the two. Whilst Tomova claimed her first win in a Grand Slam main draw in the first round, Williams has an astonishing 320 to her name. That has led her to 23 Grand Slam titles, second on the all-time list behind Margaret Court. Williams has claimed 72 Tour-level titles overall, whilst Tomova has never before reached a final and whilst Williams has topped the world rankings, Tomova is yet to crack the top 100.
Path to the second round
Williams, who is seeded 25th at Wimbledon despite a ranking outside the top 100, began her tournament against Holland’s Arantxa Rus, who won the junior Australian Open a decade ago. But she has never really threatened to replicate that success on the main Tour and although Rus gave a good account of herself against Williams, the result never seriously looked in doubt. Williams was able to find her best tennis often enough to win through 7-5 6-3.
Tomova’s Wimbledon campaign began in the qualifying at Roehampton where she was seeded 19th. She had to battle all the way to reach the main draw, being taken the distance by Jaimee Fourlis, Ayano Shimizu and Anna Kalinskaya but ultimately overcoming all three. That left her facing the Czech Republic’s Tereza Smitkova. Tomova had to fight hard to take the first set, winning it in a tiebreak, but thereafter was in control and ran out a 7-6 6-1 winner.
How do they match up?
Williams established herself as one of the greatest of all time by being better than her rivals in almost every facet of the game. Not only is the American blessed with formidable power, particularly on her serve which is one of the best on the Tour, she is also an excellent mover. Indeed, her ability to defend out of the corners and switch the momentum in a rally rarely receives as much credit as her attacking prowess, but there are few who do it better than the 36-year-old.
Tomova defends reasonably effectively, with the Bulgarian often using high, looping shots to work her way back into a point when under pressure. But she may need to up the ante offensively against Williams, as she will be unlikely to be able to withstand the American’s attack, particularly on a grass court. Her serve, which is far from the most powerful in the game, is a weakness that may well be exploited by Williams on return.
Tomova deserves credit for claiming her first Grand Slam win and a match up with one of the greatest of all time on perhaps the sport’s most iconic court seems a fair reward for that. But her chances of pulling off the upset seem narrow at best. She doesn’t have the weapons to take the game to Williams or the defensive skills to stand up to Williams’ offence. The American hasn’t quite hit her stride yet, but she will win this one in straight sets.