Last year’s defeated finalist Venus Williams continues her Wimbledon campaign against Romanian veteran Alexandra Dulgheru. Williams is not in the best form of her career and found wins on the clay courts hard to come by indeed, but back on her favoured grass she will hope her confidence and winning touch will return. But Dulgheru will be hoping to derail whatever ambitions the ninth seed has. Who will come out on top?
Williams and Dulgheru have never played before, but far more separates them than their nine-year age gap. Whilst Williams has 785 career wins to her name, and 49 titles, the second most of any active player, Dulgheru’s career statistics are rather more modest. The Romanian does have 363 career victories to her name, but few have come at the highest level and she has won only two titles. And whilst Williams has claimed eight Slams, Dulgheru has never gone beyond the third round at a Major.
Path to the second round
Williams came into Wimbledon with just one win since the Miami Open and the American’s confidence must have suffered alongside her form. But her first round opponent, Johanna Larsson, had failed to win a match at Wimbledon in seven previous attempts. Despite that, it was the Swede who made the better start, winning the first set in a tiebreak despite failing to serve it out up 6-5. That seemed to wake Williams up, however, and thereafter she was dominant, progressing a 6-7 6-2 6-1 winner.
Dulgheru, the world #141, began her Wimbledon in the qualifying with a dominant 6-0 6-1 win over Britain’s Holly Fischer. She was made to work rather harder by Lu Jingjing who she defeated in three sets 7-5 3-6 6-2 to set up a meeting with Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, the top seed in qualifying. It was a tight match, but Dulgheru rallied from a set down to finish strongly and win 5-7 7-6 6-0. She backed that up by upsetting Kristyna Pliskova 6-4 1-6 6-2 in the first round of the main draw.
How do they match up?
Not unlike her even more prolific younger sister, Venus Williams has virtually the complete game. The American’s serve is dominant and she still holds the record for the fastest serve struck at three of the four Slams including at Wimbledon. Her forehand and backhand are also dangerous weapons, and whilst Williams is not the defensive player she was at the very peak of her powers, she remains a good mover. A former #1 in doubles, she is also a fine volleyer, which has contributed to her grass court success.
Dulgheru doesn’t have the explosive power possessed by Williams. But she does spread the court well, particularly with her forehand, although her extensive takeback on that wing may cause her some problems on the grass, particularly with the courts playing so fast this year in the heat. That fairly stiff breeze will also not help her serving with the Romania’s ball toss unusually high. She does, however, return well and limited the big serving Pliskova to just six aces in their first round match.
Although Dulgheru is the player in form, even an out of form Williams is extremely dangerous on a fast grass court. The five-time Wimbledon champion has the power to hit through all but the very best defenders, and Dulgheru, for all her quality, does not rank amongst their number. Williams will likely be made to work again as she was in the first round, but when the chips are down her power off the ground should see her through in straight sets.
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