Venus rising over Wimbledon

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! SportsJune 19, 2009

Venus Williams shuns comparisons with tennis' modern greats with as much velocity as she imparts upon her fiercest service or ground stroke.

The five-time Wimbledon champion doesn't want to be mentioned in the same breath as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graf, and won't humor interviewers by answering questions on the topic.

However, if Williams is once again hoisting aloft the appropriately named Venus Rosewater Dish in a fortnight, then the debate over where she stands among Wimbledon legends will be unavoidable, prolonged and heated.

A sixth title at the All England Club would put her level with King and one shy of Graf, with Navratilova leading the way on the awe-inspiring mark of nine victories.

"I don't really compare myself to anyone," Williams said as she prepared for another assault on the sport's most prestigious event. "If other people want to do that, it is up to them. But I want to win for just that reason, not to compare myself against someone else from a past era or this one."

It has been primarily on the stately lawns of SW19 that the elder Williams has built her standing as an enduring star of the game. Since the 2003 Australian Open, she hasn't reached the final of any other Slam but has cemented her status as the queen of west London.

The British capital has become like a second home, a haven for the 29-year-old to produce her A-game regardless of prior form.

Titles in 2000 and 2001 came when Williams was the standout player in women's tennis, but others since have perhaps been more satisfying. She won in 2005 after being written off by the critics and also prevailed in 2007 and 2008 when others, including her sister Serena, were more fancied to emerge as champion.

No opponent relishes facing her on grass, and with good reason. Williams' big serve and heavy forehand allow her to gain control of rallies quickly, so critical a factor on this surface.

The conditions make it mightily difficult for any foe to blunt her weapons with effective defense; one big shot is often enough to either win a rally outright or to set up an easy kill.

Williams will face Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland in the first round and should not be seriously troubled until the quarterfinal at the earliest.

A likely showdown with Jelena Jankovic awaits there, while Serena is on a collision course with Elena Dementieva or Vera Zvonareva in the other half.

Top seed and world No.1 Dinara Safina has rarely looked comfortable on grass and could face a rematch of the French Open final against Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters.

Yahoo! Sports predictions

Semifinals: Venus Williams beats Svetlana Kuznetsova; Serena Williams beats Vera Zvonareva

Final: Venus Williams beats Serena Williams