It’s show time. There is a treat in store in the women’s draw, a couple of real-life crackers to keep you on the edge of your seats and they will show up plenty that is good about the women’s game.
We have four very different players on show for you. Eugenie Bouchard, the young Canadian, one of a crop of girls who are threatening the established order, taking on Andrea Petkovic, the steady-eddy from Germany, and then it’s wham-bam Sabine Lisicki against Ana Ivanovic, the ice-cool Serb. Wow.
The women’s game is going through an interesting time. At the top is still Serena Williams and on her day there is still nobody to match her sheer power. Below her, Maria Sharapova can still go toe-to-toe with anybody and then there are the likes of Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska, the consistent types who have earned their places up the rankings and are good across a range of surfaces.
Now here come Bouchard and the new breed. I think Madison Keys is the pick of these guys (holy mackerel, if I could pick one woman and one man to coach right now then it would be Keys and Grigor Dimitrov) but Bouchard has real talent, and the ability to become a force on all surfaces.
She and Petkovic both made it through to the semi-finals at the French Open so have form on their side but they are contrasting players. Petkovic, who is six years older than Bouchard, is a baseliner. At 26 her game is established, she stands back and plays, plays a little safe actually, and this is not a tournament that favours safety first – look how well Lisicki does here and that is one girl whose idea of a safety shot is to swing and fire at will.
Bouchard, a former junior champion here, is a remarkably cool, calm and collected tennis player for a 20-year-old. I like the look of her and she is certainly fun to watch. She has the game, so what she needs is to have the mental strength to go out there and play on the big stage. She did that in Paris and took Maria Sharapova to three sets so it does look as if she has all the tools, mental and physical. Petkovic lost to Simona Halep in Paris but clay is her preferred surface and I think Bouchard will have enough to beat her on grass.
The contrast between Lisicki and Ivanovic will be even greater. The key here is for Ivanovic to try and keep Lisicki on the court. The longer the rallies the more likely it is that Lisicki will make a mistake and one of those smashing forehands will go long or wide. It is crucial for Sabine that her serve holds up, she gets that first serve firing and so wins points quickly – bang, bang, move on. Sometimes Lisicki’s game can disintegrate and if that happens, there go her chances. But boy, oh boy, does she love this place, the surface, the crowds, just everything about it – and I am absolutely on her side there, this is one special place.
She is comfortable on the grass and it suits her style, but if I had one wish for Sabine, who we know so well at the academy, it is just for her to learn to be at times a little more defensive with her offensive shots. Sure, go for it, but play the game, play the situation, play the point. You can’t hit a home run every shot, Sabine.
Having said that, she is darn good to watch on the tennis court and we are in for a shoot-out of an afternoon. Enjoy it, guys.
Before I finish, I just want to say a word about a women who is no longer out there. I’ve spent some time this week up in the BBC commentary box with Marion Bartoli: what a fighter she was out on that court, and she is one hell of a nice guy.
It’s a tricky time making the switch from being a player to an ex-player and she is making a good go of it. It’s been a pleasure to spend time with her.
Saturday’s big game: Petkovic v Bouchard
Andrea Petkovic/Eugenie Bouchard
German Nationality Canadian
26 Age 20
Darmstadt Residence Montreal
5ft 11in Height 5ft 10in
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
20 World ranking 13
3 Career titles 1
$3.74m Prize-money $1.74m
6-5 Wimbledon record 4-1
Third round (2011) Wimbledon best Third round (2013)
Won 3 Lost 0 Head-to-head Won 0 Lost 3
Bolly’s prediction Bouchard in three
Coaching report: The slippery slope here is a real snake in the grass
Listen guys, grass is a dangerous surface. Bang, down went Lleyton Hewitt on Court Two. Kapow, down went Novak Djokovic on Centre. Two of the best movers in the game with fantastic balance and they both hit the dirt. This is a tough surface, one slip can mean the end of your Wimbledon.
Both guys were OK but this is what adds an extra dimension on grass, one wrong turn and it’s on to the slippery slope. That’s why you don’t count your chickens at Wimbledon, not until the last ball is hit.
Djokovic played well today because that was a decent test for the guy. Gilles Simon is a better player, and better server, than many give him credit for and he stretched Djokovic over those first two sets. But you don’t beat Djokovic from the baseline. Nobody beats him from the baseline. He is so damn good from there and he has legs made of rubber – he gets back to everything.
There are some pretty good young players emerging in the women’s game and young is exactly what Ana Konjuh is. The Croatian gave Caroline Wozniacki a darn good run-out. But she is only 16 and once Wozniacki had got to grips with her – and it took her getting all her weapons out and using all of her experience as well – there was only going to be one winner.
I like Konjuh, like her one hell of a lot. What she needs now is time. Just leave her be for a couple of years and then come back and have a look. She needs to mature physically and mentally and if she does then she has the game to be one hell of a player, a real force on the women’s tour and at the Slams as well.