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Tennis legends back in-form Barty, but don't write off Serena
WITH her convincing triumph at the recent French Open, Australian Ashleigh Barty has thrown her name into the pot of a clutch of women who could walk away with the Wimbledon tennis title.
And although her 2018 grasscourt experience has been sweet and sour with just one WTA title at Nottingham, the bubbly Barty is the name on everybody's lips, especially so after her 6-3, 7-5 win over Julia Gorges at the Birmingham Classic final last week.
"There's no doubt that Barty can win Wimbledon. Grass allows her to make use of all the shots and options that she has in her game. Whatever Barty did on clay, she can do even better on grass. She has all the shots," wrote nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova a fortnight ago on the WTA website.
lt was at Wimbledon that Barty, 23, now ranked world No. 1 and the top seed for the 2019 Wimbledon women's singles, won her first and only Grand Slam title at junior level. Strangely, she quit tennis for two years for a cricket career, and is back where she belongs.
Former doubles specialist Rennae Stubbs and current coach of Karolina Pliskova said: "Ash has a very good chance at Wimbledon. She can play on every surface and always says she is strongest on grass. She is only going to get better and better and I think she will peak at 25, 26, maybe 27."
Two former greats Evonne Goolagong-Cawley (winner in 1971 and 1980) and Margaret Court (champion in 1963, 1965, 1970) joined the chorus of praises for Barty while tipping her to win her second Grand Slam at Wimbledon.
Goolagong-Cawley, 67, said after Barty's Roland Garros victory: "What a wonderful result for Australia and how exciting that another Aboriginal won at the French. She is good for Wimbledon and we will be delighted by the natural skills and flair Ash possesses."
Court, 76, who holds the women's record of 24 Grand Slam singles victories, added: "Barty is good for our nation. I think she is refreshing and will go on to do our country proud."
But when it comes to Wimbledon, the name that springs to everyone's mind is that of Serena Williams, winner of 23 Grand Slam titles.
Already 37, one might feel that she is a spent force, but the seven-time Wimbledon champion is as resolute and determined now as she was when she first won at the All-England courts in 2003.
No doubt, injuries and motherhood may have come in her way, but Serena always puts up a great fight at every tournament with her strong serve and intelligent court play.
The odds from most bookmakers have her as the favourite, but close behind are a slate of women who have the experience and courtcraft to stand up to her.
Unlike the men's version, the women's game is getting younger. The average age of players who have won at least one WTA title this year is 23.6 years old. That's the lowest age since 2008.
The amount of young talent is enormous now. Since Serena won her last Major at the Australian Open in 2017, only one Slam winner has been at least 30 years old (Rolex Testimonee Angelique Kerber was 30 when she won Wimbledon last year).
The winners of the other seven Majors were Naomi Osaka (US Open last year at 20, and this year's Australian Open), Rolex Testimonees Jelena Ostapenko (20 at 2017 French Open) and Garbine Muguruza (23 at 2017 Wimbledon), Sloane Stephens, also a Rolex Testimonee (24 at 2017 US Open), Simona Halep (26 at last year's French Open) and another Rolex Testimonee Caroline Wozniacki (27 at 2018 Australian Open).
And Barty's victim in this year's French Open final was Marketa Vondrousova, a Czech precocious talent who is only 19 years old. So it's time for the changing of the guard at Wimbledon, it seems.