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Winds of change at Wimbledon
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 01 - 07 - 2013

LONDON — Get ready for some unfamiliar names at Wimbledon.
With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal long gone, and Maria Sharapova out, too, after a havoc-filled Week 1 at the All England Club, Week 2 begins Monday with a schedule that includes participants such as Kenny de Schepper and Adrian Mannarino, Ivan Dodig and Jerzy Janowicz, Karin Knapp and Monica Puig.
None of that group has played in a fourth-round match at any Grand Slam tournament.
Members of the usual cast of characters are still around, of course, such as Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. None of that trio has dropped so much as a single set yet; all are expected to be around by next weekend.
Still, Djokovic likes the idea of some players getting a chance to introduce themselves to a wider audience.
“It's interesting ... to see new faces — for the crowd, for (the) tennis world, in general,” said Djokovic, who might not feel quite the same way if he were among the 11 men and women seeded in the top 10 who no longer are playing.
Truth is, there hasn't been much variety of late at Grand Slam tournaments, especially at the very end: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 31 of the past 33 titles.
“It's good (to have) change, in a way, because it's always expected, obviously, from top players to reach the final stages of major events. When it doesn't happen, it's a big surprise,” said the top-seeded Djokovic, whose six Grand Slam titles include Wimbledon in 2011.
Over a shorter stretch, it's also always been Djokovic, who meets 35-year-old Tommy Haas Monday. Djokovic has played in 16 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals — the longest active streak, now that Federer's 36-major run is done. At the past 10 Slams, Djokovic has reached the semifinals every time, picking up five trophies and three runnerup finishes.
Murray, meanwhile, has been a finalist at the last three major tournaments he entered and won the US Open in September, only increasing the expectation among the locals that he can deliver Britain's first male champion at Wimbledon in 77 years.
Nothing is guaranteed right now, though.
“Second week of a Grand Slam is a new start, especially here, where you have (time) off,” said 15th-seeded Marion Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up who faces the 104th-ranked Knapp, an Italian making her first appearance in a major's fourth round. “It's really a new tournament starting.”
So on the traditional middle Sunday's day of rest, there they were on the practice courts — six-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, but also Janowicz, who'd won a grand total of six matches at major tournaments until this one; 2011 French Open champion and two-time major runner-up Li Na, but also 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to get this far at the All England Club since 1998.
The No. 1-ranked Serena Williams, naturally, is an overwhelming favorite to win the women' title. She is a five-time Wimbledon champion, including last year. She owns 16 Grand Slam titles all told, while the other 15 women in the tournament own two among them: Li's at Roland Garros, and Petra Kvitova's at Wimbledon in 2011. — AP


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