Serena Williams Hopes to Make Some Noise at Wimbledon

Tennis: Wimbledon S. Williams vs Scheepers
Susan Mullane/USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2014; London, United Kingdom; Serena Williams (USA) celebrates recording match point in her match against Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) on day four of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Serena Williams’ vocal cords may be as dangerous as her serve. “When you hear her screaming, ‘Come on! you know she wants it and, if you’re her opponent, you’d better watch out,” ESPN tennis analyst Chris Evert says. “Then her game goes up a notch or two. She has been down so many times in her career where it’s almost like she wills herself to get out of the hole.”

Heading into Wimbledon (which begins Monday at 7am/ET on ESPN and runs through July 12), Williams, 33, is making more noise than usual this year. She’s halfway to her first career Grand Slam—winning all four majors in the same calendar year—and one major shy of her second Serena Slam, capturing four in a row like she did in 2002-03.

It hasn’t been easy. Williams lost the first set in four of her seven matches at this spring’s French Open and won the final while fighting the flu. “That has to give her some confidence going into Wimbledon knowing that she doesn’t have to be 100 percent to win a Grand Slam,” Evert says.

But she’d better not lose her voice—or her serve.

Evert considers Petra Kvitova, the defending Wimbledon champion who also has a big serve, and Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep as potential threats. “Somebody’s got to hold serve all the time if they want to beat Serena Williams,” Evert says, “because she’s going to hold hers.”

Williams has an astounding 32-1 record this season and she has won 20 Grand Slams tournaments in her career, two shy of the record 22 won by Steffi Graf in the “open” era. Margaret Court has the all-time record of 24. “Serena’s highly motivated because she’s very aware of her place in history now,” Evert says. “She’s a competitor, so she wants to break all these records,” but, “She knows that she doesn’t have a lot of time on her side.”

While Williams has been dominating the women’s game, the men’s game has more depth at the top. “There’s five big names right now,” says Evert, who places newly minted French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the group once limited to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. “He’s a big hitter and his type of game will translate over to the grass pretty well,” she says.

However, Evert acknowledges that not many players have won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back. Andy Murray, who recently captured his fourth Queen’s Club title on grass, may have even greater momentum. Murray has not lost to any player this year except Djokovic, the French Open runner-up. “The last few months he’s got his game going,” Evert says of Murray, “and he’s going to be all fired up.”

She counts Federer among the favorites “if his serve and his big forehand are working” because the points will be kept short on grass. However, Nadal is still “trying to search for his game” and Evert says “it’s got to take away some confidence not winning the French,” a tournament he had won nine of the previous 10 years.

Alas, Wawrinka, whose red and white plaid shorts garnered almost as much attention as he did in Paris, will have to adhere to Wimbledon’s white-only clothing policy.

Says Evert: “I’m not going to miss them.”

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