LONDON, June 20, 2012
Tennis legend and Laureus World Sports Academy Member Martina Navratilova believes that Serena Williams is still favourite for Wimbledon, despite the injuries which have badly affected her career and her early exit at Roland Garros.
Speaking in an interview with Laureus.com, just days before this year’s Wimbledon, Martina said: “There are health issues. Serena has been a part time player at best. I had big hopes for her at the French Open and she lost in the first round, but to me she is still a favourite for Wimbledon.
“Maria Sharapova, of course, will be confident after the French Open, but Serena has a winning record with everybody, so if she gets through the first week, and if she is healthy, I think she is the person to beat. She has got the biggest serve in the game - the biggest serve in the sport - so she will be hard to beat and her confidence will grow as she progresses.”
Although she picks Williams as favourite, Martina is full of praise for the recovery of Sharapova after a shoulder injury. She said: “Maria is 25. I won two Grand Slams at that age. She now has four, so she is ahead of my pace, but can she sustain it in the next five years? She has been through a lot, an amazing story, with her coming back after shoulder surgery. It is an amazing accomplishment physically, mentally and emotionally. If she stays hungry, she has got a bunch of Slams in her, I think.”
On Victoria Azarenka, she says: “She will be pretty upset about how things were in Paris; she was just in a bad mood the whole time. I do not know what happened to her. But she should like the grass and become more athletic in how she plays the game on the surface. It should suit her pretty nicely. For [defending champion] Petra Kvitova it is always a matter of missing or making the shots. If she makes them she could on a given day beat anybody.”
In the interview, Martina said that she felt women’s tennis, unlike the men’s game, is missing some of the great rivalries of the past. “We do not quite have that at the moment. It’s just the sporting cycle. When it was Chris [Evert] and me there was a flux in the men’s game. You had McEnroe, you had Becker, you had Borg, you had Connors, but it did not sustain itself. There were a lot of stars, but nobody really dominated for a long period.
“Now, of course, you have had Nadal v Federer for five or six years and now it has become Djokovic v Nadal. So now you have three of the greatest men’s players that ever played the sport playing at the same time. I think Djokovic, if he keeps going like he has been, will be up there and certainly Nadal. And Federer is considered the greatest with Rod Laver. Federer [at the moment] may be the greatest of all time, but Nadal may be the better player between the two of them! So it is just an astonishing time in men’s tennis.”
Martina also feels that No.4 ranked player Andy Murray is being left behind as Djokovic, Nadal and Federer set the pace. “I see it as a top three. Andy Murray is not in the mix, I mean he gets to the semi-finals. He’s been to a couple of finals, but Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are head and shoulders above everybody else. Those guys are just playing on another level.”
Asked whether Murray would ever win a Grand Slam, Martina said: “He was closer to it last year. At the Australian Open I thought Andy played very well, and I thought Ivan Lendl [his coach] has made a big difference in his game, and an even bigger one in his attitude. He was head and shoulders above where he was before, with his attitude and his composure on the court, so much better, and he played so much better because of it.
“Does he have a Grand Slam in him? Does he have enough time for it? Absolutely. But he is coming up against very good guys. I just do not know if it can happen now because Nadal and Djokovic are just playing better, no matter how good his attitude is, they are just playing better balls. It is a bigger gulf for him than it was for Tim Henman.”
Martina Navratilova is a passionate believer in the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation charity and has been an energetic supporter of its work. In the interview, she said: “The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, for which I was trying to raise money by failing to climb Mt Kilimanjaro a few years ago, has raised over €55 million since 2000 and now we are over 100 sports-based community projects, which is great.
“The US Laureus Foundation is really raising its profile and we have so many more projects happening. Over a million-and-a-half kids in this time have been helped in a positive way. So the numbers are just growing. That is something all my fellow Laureus Academy Members are really proud of.”