It doesn't matter if she hasn't come within a mile of even making a final this year: When it gets around Wimbledon time, you'd have to be hard-pressed to go against Venus Williams winning. Everything's all good when she gets on the grass, and that's why I'm going with her to win her fifth title. And I'm expecting her to play a pretty familiar foe in the finals. Here's how I see the draw breaking down, from the quarterfinals on:
Ana Ivanovic (1) vs. Anna Chakvetadze (8): Ivanovic, heading into her first tournament as the number-one player in the world, should have no trouble getting to the quarters, even though she hasn't played since the French. I had a lot of trouble looking at the other section of this quarter because the high seeds in it, Chakvetadze and Nicole Vaidisova, haven't been exactly lighting the world on fire. I'm going with Chakvetadze because her route to the round of 16 isn't as perilous as who could emerge from Patty Schnyder's section: Watch out for Samantha Stosur, Casey Dellacqua and a player that while she hasn't done much on grass at all could still be dangerous: Akgul Amanmuradova. But it doesn't matter if Ivanovic had been off for months: With this draw she shouldn't break a sweat to this point. And I'm expecting her to get through this one pretty easily.
Agnieska Radwanska (14) vs. Serena Williams (5): Radwanska, this past weekend's champ in Eastbourne, has been one of the most consistent performers on tour this year. I'm expecting her to emerge from Svetlana Kuznetsova's portion of the draw, as I'm tapping one of the Bondarenko sisters to knock out the number-four seed in the second or third round. Williams has an intriguing possible third-rounder against Amelie Mauresmo, like her, another former champ, but she should be OK getting to the quarters. Serena could be forced by Radwanska, but her experience at this stage of a major will definitely get her through.
Dinara Safina (9) vs. Maria Sharapova (2): OK, I've admitted time and again that maybe I was wrong about Safina and she does have the goods. Her section of the draw is kind of tricky because anyone could emerge from it as the only grasser there is Lindsay Davenport. But Ma Davenport hasn't played since I can't even begin to remember when and could get knocked out by Elena Dementieva, the five seed, in the third round. In a Safina-Dementieva fourth-rounder, I think Dinara will just have too much firepower. There's not too much to say about Sharapova's section: She should coast, unless Ordina Open finalist Nadia Petrova could give her some trouble in the fourth round. Sharapova gets her revenge for that French meltdown here.
Venus Williams (7) vs. Jelena Jankovic (2): Well, it's obvious what I think about Venus getting this far as I'm picking her to win the whole shebang! If Sania Mirza can make it to the third round, with that big forehand of hers, she could give Venus a little bit of a match. There's a couple of players that can give Jankovic a match early, like Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva or veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn, but she'll come through. Venus makes her first big statement of the tournament by taking this one.
For the semis: Ivanovic vs. Serena Williams: She's definitely cooled off from her hot streak a few months ago, but I just think Serena is a better grasser than Ivanovic. If her head's in it, she can take her in three. Ivanovic won't go down without a fight, but down she will go.
Sharapova vs. Venus Williams: I don't know what happens to Sharapova when she faces a Williams late in a Major, but things generally don't work out for her. I'm not expecting them to this time either. Venus in straights.
For the final: Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams: Most people think Serena's the better player of the two, but on grass, I just don't see it, even though Venus lost their previous two final matchups. Third time's the charm for her as she nabs her fifth Venus Rosewater dish. (or "Williams" dish!)
An old friend of mine and I used to talk tennis for hours, whether it was our own games or what was happening in the pros. I've started Tennis Talk, Anyone? to, well, talk tennis with an even broader crowd! My name is Van Sias and I've been playing for 20 years now, and not only am I player, I'm a huge fan of the game as well: pro, amateur, you name it. I'll post links to news items related to the sport, and offer my own personal opinion, predictions and hopefully get some of yours as well.