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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Radwanska could be ready to finally end Grand Slam hurt

Pavlyuchenkova could shine for second year running

Agnieszka Radwanska could have her day in the sun
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Starts 11.30am Monday

Humphries’s top tip
Agnieszka Radwanska 50-1
Jelena Ostapenko's stunning triumph in the French Open last month could give hope to the younger players on the WTA Tour that Grand Slam success is not a pipe dream, but experience is often a big plus on grass and in the absence of Serena Williams it could be worth chancing a player who has knocked on the door before.

Agnieszka Radwanska, 28, has not yet tasted Slam glory since turning professional in 2005, but her best performance in a big-four tournament came when reaching the Wimbledon final in 2012 and this could be the Pole's best chance to ditch her maiden tag.

Radwanska is one of the fresher players travelling to London this year due to a right foot injury, but the fact that she had a quiet clay campaign could be an advantage at the All England Club.

She is drawn in the first quarter, along with top seed Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Timea Bacsinszky and Garbine Muguruza. But while Kuznetsova is enjoying a good season, she isn't the force on grass that she can be on hard and clay and Radwanska remains a classier performer than Swiss battler Bacsinszky.

Kerber and Muguruza are dangers, but Radwanska and Kerber stand at six wins apiece in their personal series, while Aga and Muguruza are level at 4-4. Muguruza is an obvious threat – she made the Wimbledon final in 2015 – but at the prices Radwanska is preferred to her section rivals.

Following her Eastbourne victory over Caroline Wozniacki yesterday, Karolina Pliskova shared 5-1 market leadership with two-time grass-court queen Petra Kvitova.

Third seed Pliskova could carve her way through the Wimbledon field to a first Slam crown, but the more successful of the Czech twins may be better on hard courts, where the ball bounce is more regular, than on grass.

As for Kvitova, she was a brilliant champion in 2011 and 2014, but so soon after returning from a stabbing incident in December Pliskova's Fed Cup teammate may have to settle for her victory in Edgbaston in this particular green-court campaign.

Next best
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 100-1
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova looked as if she might post a first Grand Slam as an adult at Wimbledon last year, but her plans were halted in a 6-4 6-4 defeat to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.

That was a hugely promising performance and with Serena, who is expecting her first child, an absentee this summer it could enhance the Russian's chance.

Pavlyuchenkova, who has made the last eight of all four Grand Slams without going any further, enjoyed a stellar career as a junior which yielded victories in the Australian and US Opens and it may only be a matter of time before she opens her account in a big-four event at senior level.

Other selections
Marketa Vondrousova 200-1
Ana Konjuh 100-1
If a youngster is to follow up in the wake of Ostapenko's Roland Garros victory, a couple of teenagers have decent credentials.

Marketa Vondrousova, an 18-year-old Czech, entered scores of notebooks when winning the Biel-Bienne Open in April.

Landing a tournament when you are just 17 is no great surprise in the women's ranks – Martina Hingis won Wimbledon when she was just 16 in 1997 while Maria Sharapova was 17 when she did the business seven years later.

But what was perhaps so remarkable about Vondrousova's triumph was that it came indoors, where it's usually the more experienced players who prosper.

On the way to that Swiss title Vondrousova, who had also survived three qualifying matches to reach the main draw, defeated Lina Gjorcheska, Annika Beck, Kristyna Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Anett Kontaveit, all in straight sets.

Of those victims only Strycova is a seasoned operator, but Vondrousova is a player with immense potential and made the semi-finals of the Wimbledon juniors in the year Ostapenko won the title – the Latvian defeated her in the semi-finals.

At 5ft 8in, Vondrousova does not have the height of her fellow Czechs Karolina Pliskova (6ft 1in) and Petra Kvitova (6ft), but there is enough power in her groundstrokes to win a high percentage of points.

Ana Konjuh may have earned a headline recommendation had she been in an easier section of the draw, but the 19-year-old Croat is such a decent performer on grass that she still is worth an interest despite sharing a quarter with Elina Svitolina, Dominika Cibulkova, Venus Williams, Ostapenko and Madison Keys.

Seventeenth seed Keys looks good enough to win Wimbledon one day but it may not be this year and Venus is the major concern for Konjuh backers.

Serena's older sister remains one of the finest match-players ever to grace a tennis court and she deserves huge punter respect in her bid to win a sixth grass-court championship.

But Venus looks short enough to go all the way and the fact she is being sued after being found to be at fault in a fatal car accident in Florida last month may affect her focus in London.

Konjuh won her first main-tour title on grass in Nottingham in 2015 and she again showed her love for the nippy green surface when losing a three-set thriller to Aga Radwanska at Wimbledon last year.

Recommendations
A Radwanska
1pt each-way 50-1 general
A Pavlyuchenkova
1pt each-way 100-1 bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes
M Vondrousova
0.5pt each-way 200-1 Sky Bet
A Konjuh
0.5pt each-way 100-1 Betfred, BoyleSports

Radwanska is one of the fresher players travelling to London this year, but the fact that she had a quiet clay campaign could be an advantage
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