WIMBLEDON ‘17: From Roger and Rafa to Venus, what to watch


By HOWARD FENDRICH - AP Tennis Writer



FILE - In this June 4, 2017, file photo, Venus Williams serves against Timea Bacsinszky during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium, in Paris. The two past winners in the upcoming Wimbledon field are Venus Williams, a five-time champion, and Petra Kvitova, a two-time champ. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)


FILE - In this June 28, 2016, file photo, Serena Williams celebrates a point against Amara Safikovic during their women's singles match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Not only is seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams absent, but so is 2004 champ Maria Sharapova, who was forced to sit out last year's tournament during a 15-month doping ban and would have needed to qualify this time around but is now sidelined by a left thigh injury. Their absences lend the same sort of wide-open feel to the women's draw that the French Open had.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)


FILE - In this April 2, 2016, file photo, Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, keeps her eyes on the ball as she prepares to return to Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, during the women's singles final at the Miami Open tennis tournament, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Kvitova will get plenty of attention because of what she went through in late December: An intruder attacked her with a knife at her home in the Czech Republic. Kvitova wound up with cuts to her left hand _ the one she uses to swing a racket _ and needed surgery. Wimbledon will be the third tournament of her comeback; she won the second last week on grass. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)


WIMBLEDON ’17 at-a-glance

A glance at Wimbledon, the year’s third Grand Slam tennis tournament:

SURFACE: Grass courts.

SITE: The All England Lawn Tennis Club.

SCHEDULE: Main-draw play begins Monday. The 14-day tournament closes with the women’s singles final July 15, and the men’s singles final July 16. There are no matches scheduled for the two-week tournament’s middle Sunday, July 9.

2016 MEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION: Andy Murray of Britain.

2016 WOMEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION: Serena Williams of the United States.

LAST YEAR: Murray beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) for his second Wimbledon trophy and third Grand Slam title overall. Raonic, the first man from Canada to play in a major singles final, came in averaging 25½ aces per match but wound up with only eight against the terrific-returning Murray. Back in 2013, Murray’s first Wimbledon championship ended Britain’s 77-year wait for one of its own to win the men’s final. Williams defeated Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 for her seventh Wimbledon title and 22nd Grand Slam singles championship overall, pulling even with Steffi Graf for most in the Open era, which began in 1968. Williams then surpassed Graf at this year’s Australian Open with No. 23.

MISSING FROM THE FIELD: Williams is pregnant and taking the rest of this season off, so she will not defend her title. Also absent: 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, who is sitting out the tournament for the second year in a row. She missed the 2017 grass-court circuit with an injured left thigh; the Russian would have needed to try to qualify because her ranking was too low to get into the main draw after her return from a 15-month doping suspension that sidelined her during Wimbledon a year ago.

BACK IN THE FIELD: Rafael Nadal, fresh off his record 10th championship at the French Open, returns to Wimbledon after being out last year with an injured left wrist. Two of his 15 major titles came at Wimbledon. Former No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka sat out Wimbledon last year with an injured right knee and missed time more recently while pregnant. Now a mom to son Leo, Azarenka will be participating in her first Grand Slam tournament since the 2016 French Open.

KEY STATISTIC I: 14 — Consecutive Wimbledon men’s titles won by Roger Federer (7), Novak Djokovic (3), Nadal (2) or Andy Murray (2).

KEY STATISTIC II: 2 — Number of past Wimbledon champions in the women’s field, Venus Williams (5) and Petra Kvitova (2).

PRIZE MONEY: Total is 31.6 million pounds (about $40 million), with 2.2 million pounds (about $2.8 million) each to the men’s and women’s singles champions.

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Online: http://www.wimbledon.org

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More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

As tennis turns to Wimbledon, there’s been a bit of a throwback feel to this Grand Slam season so far.

At the year’s first major tournament, the Australian Open in January, Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal for the men’s title, and Serena Williams defeated her sister, Venus, for the women’s title.

Matchups from a decade ago or more, right?

Then, at the French Open in May and June, Nadal reached a second consecutive major final for the first time since 2014, and won one for the first time since that year.

And now, when play begins at the All England Club, so many of the key story lines will involve those same four players: Federer and Nadal because of their recent resurgence; Serena Williams because of her absence (she’s expecting a baby in September); Venus Williams because she is one of only two past champions in the women’s draw.

Here is what to watch on the grass courts of the year’s third Grand Slam tournament, which starts Monday:

FEDERER THE FAVORITE

Wasn’t all that long ago that folks were figuring Federer’s best days were long behind him. He hadn’t won a Grand Slam title since 2012, and as he entered his mid-30s, he was missing Grand Slam tournaments for the first time in more than 15 years because of injury. And now? He extended his record with an 18th major championship in Australia, opened the year 19-1, took some time off and then won a grass title at Halle, Germany. With defending champion Andy Murray off-form this season, Federer is a popular pick to win Wimbledon for what would be a record eighth time.

NADAL GOES FROM CLAY TO GRASS

There was a time that Nadal excelled on any surface, winning Wimbledon twice and reaching the final on three other occasions while marching his way toward 10 French Open titles and completing a career Grand Slam, too. But then his knees became a real problem on grass and he not only started losing early at the All England Club, he started losing to players ranked 100th or worse. “When Rafael is good with his knees,” said Nadal’s uncle and coach, Toni, “he can play well on the grass.”

WHO’S MISSING

Not only is seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams absent, but so is 2004 champ Maria Sharapova, who was forced to sit out last year’s tournament during a 15-month doping ban. She would have needed to qualify this time around but is now sidelined by a left thigh injury. Their absences lend the same sort of wide-open feel to the women’s draw that the French Open had.

KVITOVA, VENUS, AZARENKA

So the two past winners in the field are Venus Williams, a five-time champion, and Petra Kvitova, a two-time champ. Kvitova will get plenty of attention because of what she went through in late December: An intruder attacked her with a knife at her home in the Czech Republic. Kvitova wound up with cuts to her left hand — the one she uses to swing a racket — and needed surgery. Wimbledon will be the third tournament of her comeback; she won the second last week on grass. Another two-time major champion to keep an eye on: former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. This will be her first Grand Slam tournament in more than a year; she returned to the tour in June after giving birth to a son.

WHICH DJOKOVIC WILL BE THERE?

Novak Djokovic has won three Wimbledon titles and normally would be considered a real likely candidate for a fourth, but he has not played up to his usual standards over the past year. He went from winning four consecutive Grand Slam titles, something no man had done in nearly a half-century, to failing to defend any of those championships; he lost in the third round at Wimbledon in 2016. He tried to look on the bright side recently, saying: “It is liberating a bit. I was very fortunate and privileged to have so much success in the last eight, nine years, and kind of entered most of the tournaments as one of the biggest favorites. So for a change, it’s good to not be one of the top favorites. It releases a bit of the pressure.”

OSTAPENKO’S FOLLOW-UP

After coming out of nowhere to win the French Open, what will Jelena Ostapenko do for an encore? She arrived in Paris unseeded, ranked only 47th and without a title of any sort on tour, then used a fearless brand of high-risk tennis to win the championship. Now there are new expectations, and no opponent will overlook her, but consider this: Grass is her favorite surface; she was the junior champion at Wimbledon in 2014.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

FILE – In this June 4, 2017, file photo, Venus Williams serves against Timea Bacsinszky during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium, in Paris. The two past winners in the upcoming Wimbledon field are Venus Williams, a five-time champion, and Petra Kvitova, a two-time champ. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/06/web1_117324157-37d4d3e3dfa8401cbccf6a9e22a5bc0b.jpgFILE – In this June 4, 2017, file photo, Venus Williams serves against Timea Bacsinszky during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium, in Paris. The two past winners in the upcoming Wimbledon field are Venus Williams, a five-time champion, and Petra Kvitova, a two-time champ. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

FILE – In this June 28, 2016, file photo, Serena Williams celebrates a point against Amara Safikovic during their women’s singles match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Not only is seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams absent, but so is 2004 champ Maria Sharapova, who was forced to sit out last year’s tournament during a 15-month doping ban and would have needed to qualify this time around but is now sidelined by a left thigh injury. Their absences lend the same sort of wide-open feel to the women’s draw that the French Open had.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/06/web1_117324157-9f612c57459f4858a070d657f7cf600e.jpgFILE – In this June 28, 2016, file photo, Serena Williams celebrates a point against Amara Safikovic during their women’s singles match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Not only is seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams absent, but so is 2004 champ Maria Sharapova, who was forced to sit out last year’s tournament during a 15-month doping ban and would have needed to qualify this time around but is now sidelined by a left thigh injury. Their absences lend the same sort of wide-open feel to the women’s draw that the French Open had.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

FILE – In this April 2, 2016, file photo, Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, keeps her eyes on the ball as she prepares to return to Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, during the women’s singles final at the Miami Open tennis tournament, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Kvitova will get plenty of attention because of what she went through in late December: An intruder attacked her with a knife at her home in the Czech Republic. Kvitova wound up with cuts to her left hand _ the one she uses to swing a racket _ and needed surgery. Wimbledon will be the third tournament of her comeback; she won the second last week on grass. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/06/web1_117324157-61ea2c9fe4174b2dae07b2e4e00e7022.jpgFILE – In this April 2, 2016, file photo, Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, keeps her eyes on the ball as she prepares to return to Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, during the women’s singles final at the Miami Open tennis tournament, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Kvitova will get plenty of attention because of what she went through in late December: An intruder attacked her with a knife at her home in the Czech Republic. Kvitova wound up with cuts to her left hand _ the one she uses to swing a racket _ and needed surgery. Wimbledon will be the third tournament of her comeback; she won the second last week on grass. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

By HOWARD FENDRICH

AP Tennis Writer

WIMBLEDON ’17 at-a-glance

A glance at Wimbledon, the year’s third Grand Slam tennis tournament:

SURFACE: Grass courts.

SITE: The All England Lawn Tennis Club.

SCHEDULE: Main-draw play begins Monday. The 14-day tournament closes with the women’s singles final July 15, and the men’s singles final July 16. There are no matches scheduled for the two-week tournament’s middle Sunday, July 9.

2016 MEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION: Andy Murray of Britain.

2016 WOMEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION: Serena Williams of the United States.

LAST YEAR: Murray beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) for his second Wimbledon trophy and third Grand Slam title overall. Raonic, the first man from Canada to play in a major singles final, came in averaging 25½ aces per match but wound up with only eight against the terrific-returning Murray. Back in 2013, Murray’s first Wimbledon championship ended Britain’s 77-year wait for one of its own to win the men’s final. Williams defeated Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 for her seventh Wimbledon title and 22nd Grand Slam singles championship overall, pulling even with Steffi Graf for most in the Open era, which began in 1968. Williams then surpassed Graf at this year’s Australian Open with No. 23.

MISSING FROM THE FIELD: Williams is pregnant and taking the rest of this season off, so she will not defend her title. Also absent: 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, who is sitting out the tournament for the second year in a row. She missed the 2017 grass-court circuit with an injured left thigh; the Russian would have needed to try to qualify because her ranking was too low to get into the main draw after her return from a 15-month doping suspension that sidelined her during Wimbledon a year ago.

BACK IN THE FIELD: Rafael Nadal, fresh off his record 10th championship at the French Open, returns to Wimbledon after being out last year with an injured left wrist. Two of his 15 major titles came at Wimbledon. Former No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka sat out Wimbledon last year with an injured right knee and missed time more recently while pregnant. Now a mom to son Leo, Azarenka will be participating in her first Grand Slam tournament since the 2016 French Open.

KEY STATISTIC I: 14 — Consecutive Wimbledon men’s titles won by Roger Federer (7), Novak Djokovic (3), Nadal (2) or Andy Murray (2).

KEY STATISTIC II: 2 — Number of past Wimbledon champions in the women’s field, Venus Williams (5) and Petra Kvitova (2).

PRIZE MONEY: Total is 31.6 million pounds (about $40 million), with 2.2 million pounds (about $2.8 million) each to the men’s and women’s singles champions.

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Online: http://www.wimbledon.org

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More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis