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Saturday, June 22, 2013
Top 10 Wimbledon storylines

By Matt Wilansky
ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- It's time, well almost. The sun might be out of sight, but the lawn, at least for the next few days, is perfectly manicured and ready for some action. That means it's Wimbledon time. As with every Slam, there's no shortage of questions, but for you, our fans on the go, we've narrowed it down to a mere 10. Here goes:

10. Who will be the last Yank standing?

At first glance, you'd like to think Sam Querrey, who's playing relatively well this year. On second glance, you might think twice. Querrey's first-round opponent is Bernard Tomic, still a whippersnapper but, let's just say, a bit of a hot head. Tomic's troubles began with a bizarre police standoff in early 2012, but more recently his father created a stir when he was barred from the French Open after being accused of assaulting Bernard's former training partner. So there's that. But that doesn't mean Tomic's diverse game won't slow down Querrey. The reality is that if it's not Querrey, John Isner is the only other American man who could wend his way through a few rounds. His draw, despite being in the loaded third quarter, is favorable for a few rounds until a potential fourth-rounder with some guy from Spain, one Rafael Nadal.

Tomas Berdych
Tomas Berdych is a massive talent, but that doesn't necessary mean he'll win matches.
9. Which star is in the most danger early?

Based on recent performance, Tomas Berdych is your man. He flopped in the French Open opener and, after a couple of wins at the Queen's Club, succumbed to Marin Cilic in straight sets. Berdych faces Martin Klizan in the first round at Wimbledon. And although that name might not mean much to you right now, he's a stud, jumping from 117th to 30th in the world last year. Plus, Berdych is, well, Berdych, so you never quite no what's going on in his head.

8. Can Andy Murray shed tears of joy?

Last year, Murray broke down after losing to Roger Federer in the final at the All England Club. He desperately wanted to win for a nation begging for one of its own to win the Wimbledon title. Murray went on to win Olympic gold on the same lawn and then the US Open. Some of the weight was lifted, but how much? Playing Wimbledon is a completely different beast. Even though Murray is already downplaying the pressure, it's going to hit at some point. The good news: He has a somewhat cushy draw for a while. Most likely, he'll need to go through Nadal or Federer and then Novak Djokovic, but there aren't too many threats before then.

7. What is holding Maria Sharapova back?

Well, obviously, it's Serena. Duh. But let's dig a little deeper. Sharapova famously broke through here as a 17-year-old neophyte and went on to win each Slam one time. But shoulder ailments and subsequent serving woes have prevented her from winning at a rapid rate. In the past five years, she has snared just one Slam (last year's French) and has wilted under the weight of expectation more times than she'd like to remember. Will any of that change here? Not with Serena in the way.

6. Can Victoria Azarenka reach her first Wimbledon final?

Of course. And aside from a potential matchup against one of the Serbs, Ana Ivanovic or Jelena Jankovic, there aren't many dangerous floaters in her draw until a potential quarterfinal showing with 2011 champ Petra Kvitova, who has a four-match winning streak against Azarenka. But the Belarusian has evolved into an elite player in the past two years, a stretch that includes two Aussie titles. Her biggest rival, Sharapova, likely will be waiting for her in the semifinals.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands
We don't know whether Bethanie Mattek-Sands will win her opener, but we do know she'll be sporting some nifty glasses.
5. Outside Serena Williams, which American woman is the most dangerous?

If you want to use the French Open as a gauge, the choices are Sloane Stephens, Jamie Hampton and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, all of whom won three matches. Here's the problem: Stephens and Hampton are playing each other in the opener here at Wimbledon, and, after careful deductive reasoning, we're going to say that means one of them won't be around for the second round. For Mattek-Sands, she might have a huge advantage by donning Google Glass, the latest chapter in her whimsical fashion sense. She'll need any advantage she can get, considering her opening opponent is the seventh seed, Angelique Kerber.

4. What's Djokovic's state of mind?

Djokovic was dealing with the loss of his childhood coach during the French Open, which clearly weighed on his mind. But he reached the semifinals, only to lose a heartbreaker to Nadal. Winning the French was Djokovic's No. 1 goal of 2013. That one had to hurt. Djokovic said he took a few days off to "recharge his batteries physically, mentally and emotionally." That said, he looked loose Saturday, even interrupting Sharapova's news conference.

3. Can Nadal complete the Euro Slam again?

Is it too hyperbolic to call it the best tennis comeback ever? Let the numbers tell the story: After missing seven-plus months, Nadal has made the final of all nine tournaments since then with seven titles -- six more than Federer has this year. This includes, of course, his eighth French Open title, which is more titles by one male human being at one event than anyone else in the history of the game. Nadal accomplished this double in 2008 and 2010. So why not the trifecta for the hottest player in the game?

2. Can anyone possibly slow the Serena train?

The short answer is no. The long answer is … no. Since losing to Virginie Razzano at last year's French Open, she is 74-3, including 31 straight wins, the longest win streak on tour in 13 years. If her powerful game is too much for anyone to handle on clay, who's going to stop her on the slicker, faster grass? She has spent a year rebuilding her game, and no one is playing even close to her level.

1. Will we get the Federer-Nadal quarterfinal blockbuster?

That is the $64,000 question. Like the French Open, this matchup will spawn more interest than any final matchup, even if Djokovic emerges from the top half to face Nadal, Federer or Andy Murray. The Federer-Nadal quarter has plenty of narratives even before they would meet. The lords of the draw put ball-bashers Isner, Benoit Paire, Jerzy Janowicz and Lukas Rosol in that section. And scoff if you will, but you might remember that the aforementioned Rosol stunned a certain 12-time Slam winner a year ago at Wimbledon. So a Federer-Nadal showdown isn't a guarantee, but if it happens, good for us.