Olympics Day 2 Preview
Published July 28, 2012 11:59
LONDON, England - The first round of the Olympic Tennis Event concludes on Sunday, with a number of leading names kicking off the quest for medals, including No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and former gold medalist Venus Williams.
Sunday, First Round
Julia Goerges (GER #24) vs.  Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #2)
Head-to-head: Radwanska leads 2-0
Twenty-two days after a tearful Agnieszka Radwanska left Centre Court a gallant loser in the Wimbledon final, she returns renewed, refreshed and determined to go one better. An icon back in Poland - she was the nation's flag-bearer at Friday's opening ceremony - Radwanska will have 38 million willing her on back home, although before she can let thoughts of hearing the national anthem next Saturday cloud her mind, a tricky first round must be negotiated.
Julia Goerges only narrowly missed out on being seeded at the Games, and her big groundstrokes and even bigger serve make her highly dangerous on grass. However, Radwanska is one of the game's best returners and retrievers, and her ability to make the German play that extra ball has paid dividends in the past. Particularly impressive was her win in this year's Dubai final, where she diffused an in-form Goerges to triumph in straight sets.
 Sara Errani (ITA #9) vs. Venus Williams (USA #69)
Head-to-head: Williams leads 1-0
Sara Errani and Venus Williams have played only once. On that occasion, at last year's Australian Open, No.5 seed Williams ran out a comfortable straight set winner. Eighteen months is a long time in tennis, though. And when they meet for round two on Sunday, Errani will be the seed, while Williams languishes outside the Top 50.
Yet despite this reversal of fortunes, Williams is likely to start as most people's favorite, and understandably so. The American is one of the most decorated players of her generation and, with five Wimbledon titles to her name, in the draw only sister Serena can rival her in terms of grass court know-how. Errani's record on the grass is less stellar, but, as 43 wins for the year testifies, her speed, fitness and continually improving court craft makes her tough to beat on any surface.
Zheng Jie (CHN #25) vs.  Nadia Petrova (RUS #19)
Head-to-head: Petrova leads 7-1
After Li Na's surprise exit on Saturday, the tennis spotlight of the world's most populous nation now shines on Zheng Jie. As a doubles bronze medalist from her home Games in Beijing four years ago, Zheng is familiar with the taste of Olympic success and, should she negotiate the first round, she has the grass court nous to go deep in the singles this time around.
Zheng's potential to do damage on the grass first came to light with a semifinal run at Wimbledon back in 2008, but was also seen more recently, when she pushed eventual champion Serena Williams all the way at this year's tournament. Facing her first up will be Russia's Nadia Petrova. Back in the Top 20 after a promising past few months, like Zheng, Petrova has a game suited to grass; when firing, her serve has few rivals in modern tennis and she also possesses point-ending power on either wing. She also brings a rather handy head-to-head record with Zheng to the table, although, with the last of these coming nearly three years ago, it is unlikely to have too much bearing on the outcome.
Around the grounds…
Maria Sharapova begins her attempt to win one of the few prizes in tennis to have eluded her, an Olympic medal, against Shahar Peer, while other big names on court include Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Sabine Lisicki and Maria Kirilenko.