Wimbledon 2012: 5 Underdogs Who Will Enter the Tennis Spotlight

Marc Weinreich@QuestionMarcsCorrespondent IJune 20, 2012

Wimbledon 2012: 5 Underdogs Who Will Enter the Tennis Spotlight

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    Djokovic. Nadal. Federer. It's the same old trio. Even names like Tsonga, Murray and Fish have a chance to win Wimbledon this year.

    But let's not forget: There are 32 men in the tournament, which starts June 25 in London, and a few of them are going to use the opportunity to make sure everyone knows who they are—perhaps even challenge for the title.

    Here are my five underdogs who, if you don't know, now you know.

Andreas Seppi

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    Andreas Seppi is playing the best tennis of his career since turning pro and joining the ATP in 2000. Less than two weeks ago, "Seppio" became the 24th-ranked player in the world—his highest ranking ever.

    He won the Serbia Open in May, which Djokovic has dominated two of the last three years. The tournament was actually founded by Djoko's family in 2009.

    Just a few weeks ago, Seppi advanced to the fourth round of the French Open—his deepest run in a Grand Slam ever—and took the first two sets against Djokovic before eventually losing in five.

    He's definitely capable of hanging with the big boys and even defeated Rafael Nadal in Rotterdam 2008. He's also taken down Richard Gasquet, Juan Monaco and Tomas Berdych in recent years.

    He's only won two ATP titles since cracking the top 100 in 2005, but both have come in the last two years: Eastborne in 2011 and in Serbia by defeating the notorious David Nalbandian. 

    It took him a while to get some attention, but people are starting to notice him now and he could be in for his best performance yet when Wimbledon kicks off next week.

Nicolas Almagro

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    Nicolas Almagro is a speed demon and should be considered a dangerous underdog on hard courts. His ground strokes are his bread and butter and he could potentially upset a top seed if he's firing on all cylinders—particularly with his backhand, not to mention an incredible first serve from one of the smaller guys in the tournament.

    Clay is the Spaniard's preferred surface, but he should figure to be one of the quickest guys at Wimbledon, so look for his speed to be something that slower, more methodical opponents who play more like Roger Federer find particularly bothersome. 

    Almagro's hit or miss and sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him. He could be his own worst enemy, but when he's on his A-game, he's got that spark that makes him prime for an upset.

Julien Benneteau

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    At 31 years old, Julien Benneteau is one of the older guys in a tournament filled with young guns.

    But the Frenchman is getting better with age. In April, he reached the highest seed of his career, earning a ranking of 26th on the ATP tour. He is one of the best players in recent years to never win a title.

    If he sounds familiar, it may be because he upset some guy named Roger in 2009. At the Paris Masters, Bennetau defeated Roger Federer in the second round 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.

    Most recently, Benneteau made the third round of Roland Garros and played No. 8 in the world, Janko Tipsarevic, in a tough match that he ended up eventually losing 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

    He is due for another run. And Wimbledon begins next week...

Radek Stepanek

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    Roger Stepanek is six years removed from being ranked No. 8 in the world and the Czech has seen his share of ups and downs since 2006.

    He's now No. 26 in the world, but has had some impressive wins as of late—most notably winning the Australian Open earlier this year.

    In 2011, he took down No. 16 Mardy Fish at Brisbane and can hold his own against some of the younger guys, defeating the brash Gael Monfils in the final and the Legg Mason Tennis Classic later that year. After the match, with his fresh legs, Stepanek did the worm in front of the crowd—or at least attempted it.

    He turns 34 in November and the elder statesman is getting some respect again.

Marin Cilic

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    Marin Cilic joined the ATP in 2004 and was ranked No. 9 in the world in 2010. He turns 24 years old this year and has already won seven career titles, most recently by defeating David Nalbandian in June at the Aegeon Championships in London after Nalbandian was disqualified for assaulting a line judge.

    In 2011, he advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open before losing to Rafael Nadal, but showed his toughness by defeating Juan Martin del Potro, currently ranked No. 9 in the world, in the second round of the Rogers Cup later in 2011.

    One of his more impressive wins as of late was a victory over world No. 8, Janko Tipsarevic, in the final at St. Petersburg to take home his sixth world title, defeating a pesky but talented Mikhail Youzhny along the way.

    Cilic still has some work to do before he makes a splash in the later rounds of a Grand Slam, but he will surely turn a few heads as someone who is relatively unknown heading into Wimbledon next week.