Simon Reed

Only Serena can beat Serena

Serena WilliamsDespite what happened at Roland Garros, you have to look to Serena Williams as the clear favourite for Wimbledon.

Serena is still the best female tennis player in the world by some distance, provided she is fully focused and on top of her game.

What happened in Paris was extraordinary. A set to the good in her first-round clash with Virginie Razzano, Serena was 5-1 up in the second-set tie-break but she contrived to lose six points in a row. And in the third set she broke down, close to tears as she fell 5-1 down before losing it 6-3.

It was the first time she exited a Grand Slam in the opening round, and I'm sure something like that will not happen again.

But, even if she is the best, her occasional tendency to self-destruct means I wouldn't put all my money on her winning Wimbledon.

If Serena does manage to implode in SW19, I would favour Maria Sharapova to continue her fine comeback.

I can see her being in the hunt anyway as, somehow after those injuries, she is moving better than ever. That is partly down to her incredible mental strength and resolve, her will to re-learn how to serve and to work on her movement, which was always a weak spot.

In training they would throw American footballs at her feet, which due to their shape have an unpredictable bounce: she would have to somehow catch the bouncing oval ball each time or it would be chalked off as a lost point. The sight of a 6'2" Maria crouching down, frantically clawing at the ball with total intensity, was something to behold.

Her determination to persist with such practices has reaped dividends and — even on the clay she semi-jokingly said left her 'like a cow on ice' — she is now a fine mover, as we saw in the French Open final.

In my view only two women can beat her — Serena, who will be the favourite in a shoot-out with Maria, and Petra Kvitova, although she would need to have a perfect day.

Victoria Azarenka is an ever-reliable dark horse and I can see her in the latter stages of the draw but she lacks to weapons to win at Wimbledon — for me, the other three will have to slip up for her to have a chance.

There are some others that, in a perfect storm, could end up in the final, could possibly win it. The likes of Samantha Stosur, Venus Williams (provided her illness does not derail her career), Angelique Kerber, or Li Na. But they are clear outsiders and, with Sharapova's resurgence, the odds of them getting past both the Russian and Serena have lengthened somewhat.

You just never know with Serena though — if she plays well, no-one can stop her. But that is a big 'if'.