Thursday, December 25
Serena's sitting in strong half of draw

Special to ESPN.com

The Wimbledon draw is top heavy with Serena Williams, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Jennifer Capriati, making the top a good bit stronger than the bottom half. That side also has some players who have been to the semifinals of Wimbledon before, such as Alexandra Stevenson, Jelena Dokic and Conchita Martinez.

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Pam Shriver
Shriver
Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing ESPN.com with in-depth analysis throughout Wimbledon. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.

For two tournaments in a row the Williams sisters have been on opposite halves -- although if Venus keeps playing the way she has been it won't matter anyway. Serena will be relieved to get on a surface more suitable to her game. As well as she's done on clay, it's her least favorite surface whether she'll admit it or not.

Big question as to how Justine Henin-Hardenne will adjust after winning a major. She's struggled before after strong results. It's time for her to realize her place at the top and not back down.

Continuing question marks about Venus: If she struggles on grass, then she's in a real slump. As she showed by winning it two years in a row, she can dominate when she's playing well on this surface. The bottom half of the draw can become a lot stronger if Venus and Lindsay Davenport are playing like past champions and feel they can win.

In the second round Serena could play Els Callens, who gave Serena her toughest match last year at Wimbledon. So in the second round, we should see how well Serena is playing; however I don't see anyone until Capriati in the quarters stopping Serena. It was in that same round two years ago at Wimbledon that Capriati beat Serena for the last time. Capriati would like things to come full circle.

Henin-Hardenne is favored to reach the quarterfinals, but there are some talented grass-court players in that section: Lisa Raymond, Elena Danilidou -- whose game is perfect for grass -- Dokic and Stevenson.

Probably the most interesting first-round matchup for the women is Ashley Harkleroad against Maria Sharapova. That's a fun young, teen-age battle. USA vs. Russia.

In the bottom half of the draw, Venus will have to be playing well early. She could play Katarina Srebotnik in the second round and if Venus lacks confidence she could lose that one. Venus has a really difficult round of 32 against French Open semifinalist Nadia Petrova. If Petrova continues to play well like she did at the French that will be the best match in that round. If she gets through Petrova, Venus is due to play Vera Zvonareva, who upset her at the French Open. Venus is as vulnerable as any of the top eight seeds. It will be interesting to see if she clicks in on grass -- it might be the best time for her to rebound.

It'll also be interesting to see if Daniela Hantuchova is playing better again. If she's putting on weight and if she's stronger, she should like playing on grass.

Chanda Rubin is seeded eighth and faces Iva Majoli who is a winner of a major (French) although most people seem to forget that. Rubin has become a steady top-eight player who loves playing on grass. She won Eastbourne last year. She likes grass and anyone who's not intimataded by the surface has a huge advantage.

Finally, No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters faces Ai Sugiyama in the round of 16. This matchup with her doubles partner is not an easy one. Sugiyama beat Clijsters in Scotsdale.

Last year, Clijsters was real down after losing at the French, and so we'll see how she responds this year. She sometimes forgets how to control her forehand and as good an athlete as she is, she doesn't come to net the way she should. She'll still likely get through to the quarters.

During the first week of Wimbledon, it will be important to watch who is looking most comfortable moving forward. That's what they need to do to put themselves in a position to win on grass.

Also, at Wimbledon, more than any of the other majors, the weather comes into play. The players' frame of mind -- whether they're able to withstand long delays, scheduling changes, days with back-to-back delays because of rainouts -- can be a real challenge.