The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Baseliners too have a chance
- Serena Williams will be determined to reverse the Roland Garros result
Chip ín Charge / Leander Paes
Leander Paes

It is a very special feeling to be back at The Championships in Wimbledon. I am sure most of the readers would be interested in knowing who I am going to pick as champions. All I can say at this point of time is that itís better to wait, since hazarding a guess could be dangerous!

There has always been a lot of talk on how the serve-and-volley specialists have a huge advantage at Wimbledon. After years of experience, I can say there are very few who have a pure grasscourt game and the baseliners now have an even chance.

Having seen Lleyton Hewitt triumph last year at The Championships, I am convinced he will have to work harder to retain the title. There will be huge pressure on him as there are quite a few players who can cause serious damage.

[As it turned out, the top seed did tumble out in the first round.]

I am sure all of you remember Wimbledon 2002, where one of my favourite players, Pete Sampras, lost early.

There was a large exodus of seeded players with an almost unknown Argentine, David Nalbandian, making it to the final.

There is so much of tennis being played on the circuit these days that even before we are midway through the season, a number of players are pulling out. There have been a lot of late withdrawals at this yearís Wimbledon as well and I think a lot of this has to do with change in conditions.

I have been on the road for 14 years and believe me, it is not easy to compete day in and day out. The people running the sport, who have made these changes, need to analyse whether it has served the purpose.

Increasing the ball compression may have worked in slowing down the game and making it better to watch, but the beating which the players take is no joke.

Heavier balls with more fluff means one has to hit even harder. In the process, the damage it causes the players should also be considered.

I honestly feel it is because of the change in balls and the attempt to slow down the game that three of the four menís singles semi-finalists at last yearís Wimbledon happened to be baseliners. And it can happen again this time.

The trend among the women is no different, and it does make it even more difficult for those at the receiving end against the Williams sisters. Both Serena and Venus have such a strong game that even with the heavier balls being used, they are at an advantage because of their physique.

Serena has done very well, especially in the last 12 months, and she must be even hungrier when she steps out on court.

Having lost to Justin Henin-Hardenne in the semis and then being booed off the court at Roland Garros, Serena will be striving to show she is ready for the challenge ahead.

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