Tennis titans Serena and Venus Williams clash in the Wimbledon last 16 on Monday, while Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki will fancy their title chances as two of the four top 10 players still standing.
The 26th clash between the Williams sisters, who have won the Wimbledon title five times each over the last 15 years, will be the first at the All England Club since the 2009 final.
And with either world number one Serena or 16th-seeded Venus certain to fall, the second week atWimbledon is looking appetising for the other silverware contenders in southwest London.
Serena, Sharapova, Wozniacki and Lucie Safarova are the only top 10 seeds remaining in the draw after defending champion Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Carla Suarez Navarro and Angelique Kerber all failed to get past the first week.
While one of the Williams sisters could face Sharapova or Safarova in the semi-finals — both face unseeded opposition on Monday — Wozniacki cannot meet any of them before the final and only has lower-ranked players in her way.
Venus said she and her 33-year-old sister knew each other’s game inside out.
“There’s no easy points against Serena,” the 35-year-old said.
“Competing with each other has nothing to do with whether we’re close or not.
“Just knowing what the other one goes through. If I see her in a match in a tight spot, I know exactly what that feels like. I think that’s a unique relationship, that is pretty rare in sport, that she and I share.”
– Serena backing Venus –
Serena holds the US, Australian and French Opentitles but reckons Venus is in better form.
“It will be a really good match. I’m practicing next to her every day and I’m in awe of how she’s doing,” she said.
Fourth seed Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, faces Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan for a spot in the quarter-finals.
The Russian won Wimbledon in 2004 but since has only made it past the fourth round once since 2006.
“I’ll definitely go out there and try to change that result around,” the world’s highest-earning sportswoman said.
Danish fifth seed Wozniacki is the biggest name remaining in her half of the draw and the former world number one faces Spanish 20th seed Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round.
With the men’s and women’s last 16 all taking place Monday, Wozniacki, chasing a maiden Grand Slam title, is looking forward to a bumper day of tennis.
“It’s unique because you get the top players playing tough matches,” she said.
“For sure, some of them are going to be on outside courts. Also people who come here and watch it live will have a field day. It’s going to be great.”
– Azarenka, Safarova sneaking up –
The dearth of remaining top 10 players means sixth seed Lucie Safarova, who ghosted through the first week, is now also looking like a serious contender.
Last month’s French Open runner-up, the Czech reached the Wimbledon semi-finals last year and faces Coco Vandeweghe, the US world number 47.
Another former world number one, Jelena Jankovic, is hungry for more after knocking out Kvitova.
“I want to get to where I think I belong,” the Serbian 28th seed said.
She faces Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2012 beatenWimbledon finalist.
“Right now, tennis is very on a high level. Every match is really tight,” said the Polish 13th seed.
Victoria Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion, has made the Wimbledon semi-finals twice but the Belarusian 24th seed could face a rough ride against in-form Belinda Bencic.
Bencic, the 2013 girls’ champion, reckons she is “still so long away” from winning a Grand Slam, but the Swiss is on a career-high ranking of 22 after winning the Wimbledon warm-up tournament at Eastbourne.
Fellow Swiss Timea Bacsinszky reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open last month and the 15th seed is favourite to beat world number 48 Monica Niculescu of Romania.
Olga Govortsova is the only qualifier to reach the last 16. The Belarusian faces US 21st seed Madison Keys. – Agence France-Presse