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Dasha_
Jun 12th, 2006, 07:40 PM
from www.wimbledon.org

You have to wonder how these Wimbledon folk do it - and then you wonder if they could possibly come around and do it for you. As The Championships open up for business, little seems to have changed: courts are their usual immaculate selves, the hydrangeas are lined up in orderly rows and there is a heady whiff of new paint in the air. Despite most of the past year seeing major construction work on redevelopment of Centre Court, come the start of The Championships, everything is as it should be.

It is much the same with the tennis. As the 120th Championships ease into life, it is hard to imagine anyone betting against Roger Federer retaining his title. The majestic Swiss has dominated Wimbledon since 2003 and he has dominated tennis everywhere else since the start of 2004. Potential rivals have come and gone but Federer goes on regardless.

Andy Roddick briefly stole Federer's thunder at the end of 2003, winning the US Open and going on to take the world No. 1 ranking, but it was a short six months of success for the American. In the past two years he has come bounding into the Wimbledon final only to be stopped in his tracks by Federer. In those two finals Roddick has won just one set.

Then there is Rafael Nadal, the world No. 2 and a man who has only lost once out of five meetings with Switzerland's biggest export since chocolate. But Nadal is a clay court man and for all his dreams of winning in SW19, he knows that it is still just a dream. He can worry Federer on a hard court, he can wallop Federer on a clay court but no one seems able to touch Federer on a grass court - especially not the grass courts of south west London.

A certain sense of national pride and domestic desperation takes over at the time of year. All eyes fall on the British hopefuls as they make their way to the first round and, for the past decade, standing tall in the middle of Britain's little clutch of players has been one Timothy Henry Henman OBE, pride of SW19 and the man most likely. Not this year, though. Much has changed in the past 12 months and Henmania is on the wane.

In September, Henman will turn 32 while his old sparring partner, Greg Rusedski, will turn 33. Both men know their days are numbered and Rusedski, now the proud father of Scarlett, is now taking his career week by week. Henman has a chronic and degenerative back problem and, consequently, his ranking has plummeted. Although neither is prepared to make definite plans or set time limits on their playing days, both Henman and Rusedski know that this could be their last hurrah at the All England Club.

In their place will be Dunblane's finest, Andy Murray. This year he will return as the man to watch and the man in the headlines. Whether he likes it or not, Murray is now a bona fide celebrity and many column inches will be written about the Scottish teenager in the coming weeks.

Andre Agassi will not go unnoticed, either. The grand old sage of the game is now 36 years old and, held together with cortisone and sheer bloody-mindedness, he has pinned everything on the grass court season and a last run towards Wimbledon before the US Open. He, too, has a chronic back problem, which has limited his play to just a handful of tournaments so far this year and caused him to miss the clay court season entirely.

Agassi has defied the ageing process for the past seven years, winning five of his eight grand slam titles at an age when most players are pondering retirement. Now, though, his body is finally rebelling and he knows that the end of his playing career is fast approaching. Catch him while you can - the sport is unlikely to see anyone quite like him again.

Retirement is not all it is cracked up to be. Martina Hingis tried it for three years and didn't like it and so, this year, has been back at work, ruffling feathers and denting reputations. Now 25 years old and playing just because she wants to, her mixture of tactics, nous and imagination is a sight for sore eyes. She won the Wimbledon title in 1997 but that was in another life. Asking her to do it again this year is a bit much but, then again, you wouldn't put it past her.

Venus Williams, the defending champion, has not had an easy run since her moment of glory last summer. An elbow injury limited her to playing - and losing - just one match in the first four months of the season. But with Venus and Wimbledon, you just never know. Her ferocious power is aided and abetted by the slick grass courts, and with three Wimbledon trophies already on her mantelpiece, this is where she feels confident and at home.

Only Maria Sharapova has managed to release the Williams family's stranglehold on Wimbledon since the turn of the century. Older, wiser and a good deal better than she was back in 2004, she will fancy her chances as she looks through the draw, especially when she sees the state of the other contenders. Venus's sister, Serena, is nursing a sore knee; Lindsay Davenport, last year's runner up, is dealing with a bad back and Justine Henin-Hardenne has her sights set only on the French Open. In theory, there is a chance for someone to make their move and cause an upset.

But predictions and theories are all worthless once the first ball has been struck in earnest. The only sure fact we know is that when the gates open on the first day of The Championships, everything will be neat, tidy and ready for two weeks of enthralling tennis.

Wimbledon 2006 runs from Monday 26th June until Sunday 9th July

Written by Alix Ramsay

SAEKeithSerena
Jun 12th, 2006, 07:42 PM
best of luck to everyone during one of the best tournaments EVER.......so excited for this year's Championships:)

junlee_vee
Jun 12th, 2006, 08:23 PM
Two more weeks!!!!!!!! :woohoo:

purplerain
Jun 12th, 2006, 10:04 PM
and Justine Henin-Hardenne has her sights set only on the French Open. In theory, there is a chance for someone to make their move and cause an upset.

i don't think so :o

lindsayno1
Jun 13th, 2006, 08:43 AM
i think wimbledons gonna be crap this year for some reason!i hope all teh injured people aren't injured ahnymore!

shirgan
Jun 13th, 2006, 12:04 PM
8/10 of the article was about men's tennis :rolleyes:
only last three paragraphs about women's tennis...