LONDON (Reuters) - Serena Williams was considered a ‘dangerous floater’ a week ago, but halfway through Wimbledon the American now looks favourite to win an eighth, and perhaps most special, title.
The exodus of seeded players has been so spectacular that only one of the top 10 remains — number seven Karolina Pliskova.
World number one Simona Halep, defending champion Garbine Muguruza, Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki and U.S. Open title holder Sloane Stephens have all bitten the dust.
Add double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Serena’s older sister Venus to that list, and there is a strong case to say the title is now Serena’s to lose — so impressive has the 36-year-old American been despite playing only a handful of matches this year after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September.
At 181 she is the lowest-ranked player left in the draw but that will fool nobody.
She was sensibly bumped up to 25th seed and has fully vindicated that decision, winning all six sets she has played.
It is unlikely that 29-year-old Russian qualifier Evgeniya Rodina will stop her in Monday’s last 16, but the path ahead is not without hazards.
Former world number one Pliskova, Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens - who did for Venus in the last round, and Germany’s Julia Goerges, the 13th seed, are all in her half of the draw.
On the other side Dominika Cibulkova, who was bumped out of the seedings to accommodate Serena, is playing as if she has a point to prove, while Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, who won last year’s French Open, and Russian Daria Kasatkina, both 21, have proved they are no respecters of reputation.
After a week of shocks, the women’s tournament has reached the halfway point tantalisingly poised.
Look only as far as Halep, who was knocked out by Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei, as evidence that this year’s tournament has been the wildest in terms of seeds falling for decades.
“(Serena) I feel has a chance to win it, definitely,” the Romanian said. “But also I see many other players that they have the chance to win it. Depends on the day. Depends on the power, the feelings. Everyone can do it.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson