Wimbledon: British hope, historic twists and more

Yahoo Sports

The last glimpse we got of Wimbledon, 11-and-a-half months ago, was etched in the most spine-tingling form of unscripted drama.

That epic final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer can not be repeated this time around, with the Spaniard having been ruled out with a debilitating knee injury.

However, there are still plenty of fascinating storylines to pore over as the most iconic fortnight of the tennis calendar gets under way on Monday.

Here we take a glance, in no particular order, at what to look out for as the search for Wimbledon glory begins.

1. The home hero

The British wait for a home-grown winner of the men’s singles is into its eighth decade, a history of failure that is an ongoing source of embarrassment to the host nation.

Finally there is a genuine contender, in the form of Andy Murray, the snarling, pugnacious 22-year-old Scot.

Murray has avoided Federer’s half of the draw and hopes are high that he can go all the way.

Already the London newspapers have him plastered all over their front and back pages and the patriotic fervor will only increase with every match his wins.

2. The three-peat

More than any other tournament, Wimbledon feels like a spiritual home for Venus Williams.

The five-time champion’s performances on grass are second to none in the modern era and having emerged victorious for the past two years she must be favored again, with sister Serena close behind.

Not only does the elder Williams have the perfect game for grass, she also has the belief that can only be built by repeated success at this venue, and it will take an extraordinary effort to wrest the trophy away from her.

3. The history-maker

Roger Federer’s bid to match Pete Sampras on 14 Grand Slam titles appeared to be stalling as Nadal cut a swathe through the men’s game last year.

However, the French Open crown has restored the Swiss star’s faith in his ability and with Nadal gone, he is an overwhelming favorite to claim a sixth Wimbledon victory.

Will the pressure of trying to go past Sampras be too much of a burden, or will he sweep to yet another triumph on his favorite surface?

4. The grunter

The sleepy denizens of the All England Club will have their post-luncheon snooze rudely interrupted if Portugal’s Michele Larcher de Brito winds up on Centre Court.

Larcher de Brito’s 100-decibel shriek has been measured at close to the velocity of a roaring lion and is the ultimate assault on the eardrums.

With Martina Navratilova and several other high-profile former players heading the groundswell of complaint against noisy players, tournament referee Andrew Jarrett is under pressure to make a stand against the ghastly grunters.

5. The fairytale

Marat Safin is a fully fledged member of the “grass-is-for-cows” brigade but in 2008 he put his lawn-phobia behind him to reach the semifinal.

The two-time Grand Slam champion has just one more shot at Wimbledon glory as he is retiring at the end of the season. Think fairytales can’t happen? Remember Goran Ivanisevic?

6. The crowd-pleaser

Wimbledon could have a new darling if Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki embarks on a deep run into the women’s singles.

Wozniacki has maintained steady progress up the rankings over the past year to reach No. 9, won the warm-up event at Eastbourne, and is guaranteed to gain a legion of male admirers thanks to her stunning looks.

7. The roof

Those rain delays are gone forever on Centre Court, with a brand new translucent roof having been erected since last year’s event.

No longer will weather predictions be such an integral part of the entertainment, although players on the outside courts will still need to take their chances with the often gloomy London skies.

8. The American hope

No tournament suits Andy Roddick better than this one and the American will like his chances of going deep.

A finalist in 2004 and 2005, Roddick has been on the receiving end of some upsets in recent years but will hope to shake off a knee concern to put together a big run.

Nadal’s withdrawal should help him – he is now scheduled to meet Juan Martin Del Potro in a quarterfinal instead of the world No.1.

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