Wimbledon 2012: Martina Navratilova tips Kvitova and Sharapova

• 'Serena Williams is the best grass-court player out there'
• Victoria Azarenka also expected to mount serious challenge

No one knows Wimbledon like Martina Navratilova and no one knows more about winning the title than the Czech-born American, who lifted the trophy a record nine times with her trademark serve-volley game. So when the former champion speaks about Wimbledon, the world listens.

Bookmakers would have you believe that this year's women's singles is more open than ever, that any one of 10 players could win the title. Navratilova, born in what was then Czechoslovakia but now firmly based in the US, rarely goes with the flow. "I think it'll be the same old, same old," she said, taking a break from her schedule as a TV commentator. "That's Serena Williams, [Maria] Sharapova, Petra [Kvitova] and [Victoria] Azarenka.

Having won the French Open to complete a career set of all four grand slam titles, Sharapova is the favourite to win her second Wimbledon crown, eight years after she burst on to the scene as a 17-year-old champion at the All England Club. Then comes Williams, who has won the title four times, then Kvitova (the defending champion) and the world No2 Azarenka.

Having been born in the same country, Navratilova has an obvious connection with Kvitova. The two women returned to Wimbledon in February as part of a special CNN feature for this year's championships, touring the grounds, the museum and Centre Court, where the 22-year-old Kvitova beat Sharapova in the final 12 months ago.

Kvitova says it was a few words of wisdom from Navratilova right before the final which helped calm her nerves. "She told me I have to not think it's the Wimbledon final, that it's a normal match, and that I can do it," Kvitova said. [I was so nervous] I wasn't able to speak with anyone before the final but when I came on court it was a normal match and I felt it was like a first round, or something. It helped."

As a fellow left-hander, Kvitova shares plenty of similarities with the woman who was her hero growing up; her father used to show her videos of Navratilova in her pomp.

Having won one Wimbledon title, she still has eight more to go to catch Navratilova. "She got started the same time I did with the first one," Navratilova said. "These days it's hard to stay healthy long enough because the game is so much more physical. But the way she plays, if anybody could do it, it could be her because she plays such a powerful game, points are short, she doesn't really have to exert herself that much. Let's let her win the second one, then we can talk about more. It was a great effort last year and she wants it badly."

Kvitova's biggest problem could be that she is seeded to meet Serena Williams in the quarter-finals. The American arrived in London still smarting from a first-round defeat at the French Open and having been knocked out in the last 16 here last year, may feel she has a point to prove.

Having won four of her 13 grand slam titles at Wimbledon, the surface suits her game and Navratilova said she remains the one to beat.

"Serena Williams is the best grass-court player out there," Navratilova said. "Her game is perfect for the surface. She doesn't have to move that much and her serve is huge. She's a great competitor. She has a winning record against everybody."

When Azarenka won the Australian Open at the start of the year, it looked as if the Belarussian was set to stay at the top. But a relatively poor clay-court season, compounded by an early defeat in Paris, means she arrives with question marks over her confidence. "She had a three-setter against Kvitova in the semis last year, so that's kind of a toss-up," Navratilova said.

But the former champion is well aware that Sharapova goes into the championships on top form and high on confidence after her triumph at Roland Garros. Back on a surface on which she has long excelled, the Russian is likely to be a massive threat once more.

"After Paris, I think Sharapova's going to be hot and heavy," Navratilova said. "I'd say she's moving better [than ever] and her serve is better than last year. She's less predictable, now she mixes it up better and the double faults are not an issue, so she's a better player."

Simon Cambers

The GuardianTramp

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