Sharapova's chance to break out
With the Belgians out and Venus Williams losing early, it's not as strong a women's round of 16 at Wimbledon as it should be, but you've got some exciting stories.
Maria Sharapova possibly could have a major breakthrough. Serena Williams is trying to join an elite group of champions by winning three Championships in a row.
Will we see another quarterfinal between Serena and Jennifer Capriati? There are a lot of veteran players left whose dream it is to get to the quarterfinal of a major again, or even for the first time.
Serena's play doesn't have her looking like an automatic winner here. And you have to wonder whether Amelie Mauresmo will overcome her nerves to ever win a major. Or whether Lindsay Davenport will win another before thoughts of motherhood tug at her to retire.
There's plenty of drama as the second week begins.
Serena Williams (1), United States, vs. either Tatiana Golovin or Emmanuelle Gagliardi
This is a good round of 16 for Serena no matter whom she plays. Either player's most powerful shot compares to Serena's fifth most powerful shot.
Nadia Petrova (10), Russia, vs. Jennifer Capriati (7), United States
The most interesting round-of-16 match could be this one. Just over a year ago they played at the French in an entertaining match with Petrova winning. Both can use grass courts to their benefit. Capriati, who is working with Tom Gullikson, should have the good frame of mind to give her a slight edge. However, Petrova is one you watch for a breakout.
Amelie Mauresmo (4), France, vs. either Ruano Pascual or Farina Elia
Mauresmo can't mail this one in no matter whom she plays. They are both stubborn and get a lot of balls back. They play smart. Still, Mauresmo should have too much game for either. She plays better at Wimbledon than the French Open because of less pressure.
Mauresmo is the heavy to get through to the semifinals in that part of the draw. It's not uncharted territory; she's been this far at Wimbledon before. All four players in her part of the draw play the same kind of game. None has the power to force Mauresmo to play an off match, she'll have to beat herself.
Paola Suarez (9) Argentina, vs. Rita Grande, Italy
In this matchup, Suarez is the slight favorite on grass based on her singles results and success in doubles. Grande is one of the few players who can serve and volley. This is another match that could go the other way but the pick is Suarez.
Lindsay Davenport (5), United States, vs. Vera Zvonareva (12), Russia
This is a tough match for Davenport. If she's moving and her serve is working reasonably well, she should win. It's a danger match, though. Because of the success Anastasia Myskina had at the French Open, any Russian who is in the latter stages of a major will believe she can get through, too.
Davenport should be savvy enough to know and play accordingly. As the veteran, Davenport has to step up and be the leader of the pack in the bottom half of the draw. She's a past champion and understands the pressure of winning a major. This half of the draw is a good opportunity for Davenport, Sharapova or Karolina Sprem.
Maggie Maleeva (21), Bulgaria, vs. Karolina Sprem, Croatia
Sprem should win this match unless she's run out of emotional gas due to the drama out of the past four days with the defeat of Venus and the tiebreak controversy. I think Sprem knew sooner than most that she'd been given a point by the umpire -- judging by looking at her eyes and the way she looked up at the box. She just didn't say anything. I might have done the same, but I hope not.
Tamarine Tanasugarn, Thailand, vs. Ai Sugiyama (11), Japan
This is Tanasugarn's sixth time in the round of 16; that's pretty amazing for a player of her stature. She was playing when I was still playing. She has a good grass-court game where her shots stay low.
This match is about who can control her emotions. Neither has been through to the quarterfinals. I've seen both get extremely nervous on lesser occasions. Sugiyama has the slightest of edges, but it's another close one.
Maria Sharapova (13), Russia, vs. Amy Frazier (31), United States
Based on how she took apart Daniela Hantuchova, Sharapova is the heavy favorite. Sharapova probably feels she should have won in this round last year when she faced Svetlana Kuznetsova. It's a good draw when you're not a top-8 seed to play Kuznetsova and then Frazier in back-to-back years. Sharapova should meet Davenport in the quarterfinals. Frazier had a nice tournament with her victory against Myskina, but this is it for her.
ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.
MORE TENNIS HEADLINES
- Federer loses as France ties Davis Cup at 1
- Tsonga blasts French crowd for lack of support
- Nadal criticizes captain for 'false' debate
- Nadal says he'll return to action in January