Maria & Vika Eye Up Wimbledon SF Date

Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka have once again been drawn in the same half, while Serena Williams has a tricky start to her title defense.

Published June 21, 2013 12:00

Maria & Vika Eye Up Wimbledon SF Date
Centre Court

LONDON, England - Fresh from a near-flawless triumph at the French Open and riding high on a 31-match win-streak, Serena Williams arrives in south-west London to defend her Wimbledon crown in buoyant mood.

If she is to lift the famous Venus Rosewater Dish for a sixth time, though, she will have to do it the hard way, after Friday's draw placed a couple of potentially tricky hurdles in her path, in the shape of Zheng Jie and Sabine Lisicki.

Should Williams and Zheng negotiate their respective first round assignments, against Mandy Minella and Caroline Garcia, the pair will get the chance to reprise their classic from last year's tournament. On that occasion, after two and a half hours on court, Williams, with a little help from 23 aces, finally subdued an inspired Zheng, 9-7 in the third set.

Former semifinalist Lisicki could lie in wait after that in the fourth round. The German is one of the few players on tour with a serve to rival Williams' and her big forehand and attacking instincts make her a real danger on the grass.

Also in the top half are Angelique Kerber, Li Na and Williams' victim in last year's final, Agnieszka Radwanska. Like last year, Radwanska goes into the tournament short of match practice, having lost early in Eastbourne. The Pole opens up against Yvonne Meusburger and could meet Madison Keys, Heather Watson or Mona Barthel in the third round.

After her domination of the tennis headlines throughout the first few months of the year, No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka has crept under the radar somewhat coming into The Championships. With one of the most rounded games on tour, the Belarusian is comfortable on grass, and after making the semifinals on her past two visits will be eager to make it through to the second Saturday this time around.

Azarenka kicks off her campaign against Maria Joao Koehler and is seeded to meet Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round and 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in a mouthwatering potential quarterfinal.

The other bottom half bracket is headed by No.3 seed Maria Sharapova. Remarkably, it is now nine years since the Russian burst onto the scene as a precocious 17-year-old, stunning Williams - and the tennis world - to take home the title.

Sharapova starts against Kristina Mladenovic and should she avoid a first week slip up, she is scheduled to meet former finalist Marion Bartoli in the fourth round and Sara Errani in the last eight.

Away from the title favorites, first round matches to look out for include the battle of youth versus experience between Laura Robson and Maria Kirilenko, former semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and the all-American clash between Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton.

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