Open draw boosts women's appeal

A lack of firm favourites is producing the most fascinating Wimbledon Ladies' singles in recent history

The lack of any clear favourites for the women's Wimbledon title, far from diminishing the competition, has given it an unexpected boost. This tournament, the most open in years, is the most competitive too.

The three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters withdrew with injury before the tournament began and the 2004 Wimbledon champion, Maria Sharapova, is in uneven form. Venus and Serena Williams – former and reigning champions respectively – have returned after long injury lay-offs, but where once one of the Williams sisters, the winners in nine of the past 11 years, would have been a shoo-in for the title, there are now a number of contenders ready to take them on.

Chris Evert, a winner at Wimbledon in 1974, 1976 and 1981, speaking before the tournament, said: "Any one of 10 or 15 could win a slam right now. It's an exciting time, with a lot of good youngsters coming through, but we're waiting to see someone really step up to the plate."

Only a few years ago a major criticism of the women's game was that it was dominated by the top 10, and that there was fall-off in talent in the rest of the top 100. It is interesting to note, then, that the men's game now has a "fab four" at the top – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – who consistently make the last four at the slams, meaning that the rest of the top 20 rarely get a look in.

The women's game has a much more open field; a new name has been on the silverware at this year's two previous slams. Clijsters won the Australian Open and at Roland Garros Li Na became the first Chinese player to win a slam title. Twenty-one players have won the 31 WTA titles available in 2011.

It is possible that a new name will go on the Venus Rosewater Dish on Saturday, as others – whether experienced players like the 26-year-old Marion Bartoli, who reached the final in 2007, or young talents such as Victoria Azarenka (21), Petra Kvitova (21) and Ksenia Pervak (20) – seize the moment.

In most grand slams the top players waltz through the early rounds, but even Sharapova, ranked No 6 in the world and seeded No 5 here, faced a tough second-round battle against Britain's Laura Robson, a 17-year-old who is 248 places below her in world rankings. Several seeds have gone out, including Li, who was beaten by Germany's Sabine Lisicki.

Fans are seeing longer and more keenly fought matches. In the first two rounds last year, 27 matches went to three sets; this year that figure was 34. The average length of matches increased from 87 to 91.7 minutes.

Lindsay Davenport, the 1999 champion, says: "Certainly it is [more competitive], because it's more open and lots more players feel they are in with a chance. Look at who has won the last few slams – you couldn't pick a favourite. And for sure you couldn'tsay who you think would win this year as you would in years past.

"I think it makes it more interesting for the fans, although they may miss some of the bigger names because they're used to the superstars. Not having Clijsters here and Justine Henin retiring has hurt the game, but players like Caroline Wozniacki or Victoria Azarenka are establishing themselves.

"The level at the very top has come down a little bit. But the rest of the women have raised theirs, so the difference between the top 10 and the rest isn't so wide as it once was. It's not like the men's game, where those top four have so separated themselves from the pack. I think that's a bonus for fans."

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable