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Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Friday, 24 June 2011 18:51 UK

Davenport on Williams v Kirilenko

Serena Williams
Serena Williams is battling to regain form after her long spell out of the game

Reigning Wimbledon ladies' singles champion Serena Williams faces a third-round match against 27th seed Maria Kirilenko on Saturday.

Four-time winner Williams is battling to find her best form again after being out of the game for a year following foot surgery and suffering life-threatening blood clots.

Kirilenko has five WTA titles to her name, but the Russian has failed to build on the potential she showed as a junior and has had a poor 2011 so far.

Lindsay Davenport, who faced both players during her career, analyses where the match could be won or lost and the respective strengths and weaknesses of both players.

Lindsay Davenport
By Lindsay Davenport
1999 Wimbledon champion

WHO IS MARIA KIRILENKO?

Maria Kirilenko is a real enigma. It's so funny, she is one of those players that I scratch my head about and don't know why she has not done better than she has.

The Russian enjoyed her best performance at a grand slam at the Australian Open in 2010, when she reached the quarter-finals.

MARIA KIRILENKO
Maria Kirilenko
Age: 24
Nationality: Russian
Turned pro: 2002
World ranking: 27
Highest ranking: 18 (July 2008)
ATP singles titles: 5 (9 in doubles)
Career prize money won: $3,800,414
Boyfriend is world number 79 Igor Andreev

Her Wimbledon record, though, is derisory and in seven visits to Wimbledon she has made it past the first round just three times.

It's puzzling, she has a great all-round game and if you see her on the practice courts she absolutely rips the ball.

The problem for her is when she gets on the match court she tends to be much more passive, she gets really tentative and then she doesn't have a weapon to hurt the big players with.

CURRENT FORM AND WIMBLEDON PEDIGREE?

WILLIAMS
I don't actually think she has been playing that badly. She has lost a couple of sets but the strokes are there and the timing is there. It is just a case of getting on the court more and returning more, and starting to move a little bit more like she used to before injury.

As for her pedigree, she has won four Wimbledon titles and is the defending champion.

KIRILENKO
After a terrible start to the year, she has defied that form to have two routine straight sets victories thus far, but in seven visits to Wimbledon she has gone out in the first round four times.

She grew up and moves well on clay so she has done well at the French Open but she should be better on grass than she is. She has the game but she starts not going for her shots despite being able to volley well. Watch on Saturday to see what I mean, it's crazy I don't get it.

WHAT IS THE KEY SHOT FOR BOTH PLAYERS?

WILLIAMS
Serena's serve is the best serve in the history of women's tennis. Simple as that.

KIRILENKO
Because of the monster serve Serena possesses it has to be how good her return is.

WHAT WEAKNESSES DO THEY HAVE IN THEIR GAMES?

WILLIAMS
Right now, Serena is a little short of that first step. To expect her to come back and play at the same level that she did when she won here last year, though, would be putting unfair expectations on her.

She [Kirilenko] is going to be really hard pressed to try and create anything due to that lack of power to her game

LINDSAY DAVENPORT

KIRILENKO
She has a lack of power against the big hitters in pretty much every aspect of her game. She just starts massaging balls around the court and you can't do that against players that can step in.

Her all around game is very good, she has a good serve, good looking strokes, but she is going to be really hard pressed to try and create anything due to that lack of power to her game.

HOW IS THEIR FITNESS AND MOVEMENT?

WILLIAMS
Unsurprisingly, Serena's reactions seem a split second slower than what we are used to seeing from her - but that will come back with more matches.

S WILLIAMS v KIRILENKO HEAD-TO-HEAD
Three meetings (Two clay, one hard)
Williams 3 wins, Kirilenko 0 wins

KIRILENKO
Kirilenko is one of the fittest players out there. She moves so well but she needs to try and move forward a bit better. She likes to move around the baseline yet she is a good volleyer so she should be coming forward.

HOW MENTALITY STRONG ARE THEY ON COURT?

WILLIAMS
Serena has fought through such a lot his year and she is a different person now than that she was 12 months ago when she won here. She is one of the best competitors, along with Steffi Graf, that women's tennis has ever seen.

KIRILENKO
Kirilenko's struggle is believing that she can close it out against the top players. I don't think she believes she can do it against the very best.

She beat Maria Sharapova in the first round of the Australian Open last year but she hasn't built on that result. She just sometimes seems too satisfied when she gets to play those types of players.

WHAT IS YOUR VERDICT?

Serena has lost a set in both her opening matches and has lost her way a bit in both games. Despite that, you get the sense the more she is around, the more she practises, the more she plays, her game is going to click pretty soon.

I'm going for Serena in straight sets.


Lindsay was talking to BBC Sport's Paul Birch



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see also
Upset Serena backed by WTA chief
24 Jun 11 |  Tennis
Serena battles to three-set win
24 Jun 11 |  Tennis
Davenport on the Williams sisters
21 Jun 11 |  Tennis


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