Serena Williams will look to continue her dominance with victory at Wimbledon, but if you are looking for a challenger you would be best ignoring Maria Sharapova and going with Victoria Azarenka.
Get £30 in free bets when you sign up at Ladbrokes using MAXIMUMBONUS
Williams casts an ominous shadow over the ladies’ draw and she’s 4/7 to successfully defend a title she has won in three of the last four tournaments. Behind her Azarenka and Sharapova are inseparable in the betting as 6/1 joint-second-favourites, but it’s the former who looks to have the better chance of the pair.
Azarenka and Sharapova rate as the second and third ranked women in the game and naturally both have been enjoying strong campaigns.
The former enjoyed a stellar hard-court segment, with victories at both tournaments in which her challenge wasn’t halted by injuries. The first came when she lifted her second consecutive Australian Open title and the second came in Doha when she dealt Williams one of just two defeats this season.
The latter’s hard-court season also saw her reach two finals, winning at Indian Wells, but she was defeated twice when running into the borderline-unstoppable younger Williams sister. It was the same old story on the clay, with the Russian winning the only injury-free tournament in which she didn’t come across Serena.
Her Belarusian runner-up rival also lost a final to Williams in Rome, but it was Sharapova who won their semi-final clash on the French Open clay. That victory enabled the Russian to peg back her rival’s lead in their career head-to-head to one match, with Azarenka currently 7-6 to the good on the ledger.
When it comes to past performances at the All England Club it’s Sharapova who boasts her name in the annals of past victors, yet it’s Azarenka who has been a more consistent performer in recent years.
The 2011 final was the only tournament since 2006 in which Sharapova plotted safe passage beyond the fourth round, whereas the world number two has reached at least the quarters in the last four renewals and the semis in the last two – both times she lost to the eventual winner.
There is very little to separate the pair – Sharapova has the greater experience, the younger Azarenka has the greater potential for improvement – and the yet-to-be-completed draw will ultimately play a huge part in who rates the better each-way proposition.
World number two Azarenka is the more likely second seed and as such has a greater chance of swerving the odds-on favourite until the final.
Unlike Sharapova – who has lost 13 straight matches against Williams – the Belarusian also showed her backers that she can beat the world number one this year, when she’s scarcely been in better form and this is another vote in her favour.