As action gets underway during the 2013 Wimbledon fortnight, there will be many stories to tell as the sun sets each day.
Each player comes into this major with hopes, dreams and aspirations. It is a normal process.
But some players have more at stake than others as the action unfolds.
Following are the 10 players with the most to prove at Wimbledon in 2013.
WTA Ranked No. 6
After reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2010, Li Na exited during the second round the past two years. In 2011, she lost to German Sabine Lisicki, and in 2012 she was upset by Sorana Cirstea—neither player was ranked in the top 50 at the time.
Li started the year in stellar fashion, including reaching the finals of the 2013 Australian Open. Since then, Li has faded. Her clay court season lacked substance after she reached the finals at Stuttgart. She lost during the first round in Madrid and the second round in Rome.
Then at the French Open, Li was upset in the second round by Bethanie Mattek-Sands. She won this event 2011.
On grass so far, Li lost her quarterfinal match at Eastbourne to eventual champion, Elena Vesnina.
Her furthest advancement remains the quarterfinals at the All England Club, which Li has reached twice. At age 31, she needs to improve her showing at this major. Drawn into the same quarter with Agnieszka Radwanska, Li has a perfect opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals and beyond. Her draw is very favorable.
The lady from China would go a long way in reestablishing her plucky game by making a good showing at Wimbledon. She would, in all probability, stop the bleeding that began during the second quarter of her season.
With the growing popularity of Li in China, her fanbase would swell again, proving she deserves to be at the top of the women's game.
ATP Ranking No. 11
Just as Li Na provides inspiration for Chinese players currently battling on tour, Kei Nishikori does the same for his Japanese contemporaries. Doing well at Wimbledon will push the 23-year-old into the ATP top 10.
But he needs to reach deep into the second week in order to take that giant step for his nation. According to the ATP, the last man from Asia to reach the top 10 was Paradorn Srichaphan from Thailand 10 years ago.
Nishikori won the title in Memphis this year and has managed to advance to the fourth round of both the 2013 Australian Open and the French Open last month. There he lost to David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal, respectively.
His furthest reach into the Wimbledon fortnight came last year when he advanced to the third round, losing to Juan Martin del Potro. It was his fourth try at the All England Club.
This year Nishikori needs to reach the quarterfinals or better to arrive in the men’s top 10. It means giving great hope to all his countrymen, inspiring them to embrace tennis and commit to playing the game.
WTA Ranked No. 9
So far at this year’s majors, Caroline Wozniacki lost during the second round at the French Open and the fourth round at the Australian Open. Her best finish at the All England Club remains the fourth round.
At Eastbourne, the Dane went out in the semifinals to American Jamie Hampton.
Now, at age 22, with a horde of young players coming up from behind, it is time for Wozniacki to up the ante or risk falling even further down the ranking ladder.
It used to be that everybody talked about Caroline Wozniacki when she held the world No. 1 ranking without winning a Grand Slam title. Today, she manages to stay in the WTA top 10, which is no small feat in anybody’s book.
It wasn’t that Wozniacki’s skills lessened, it was that the top players passed her, moving up and at the same time, pushing her back.
Her task now is to improve and to develop some offensive weapons. This is something that she’s been working on throughout the past two years—turning her game from being an aggressive counter-puncher into an offensive threat.
Hopefully it will begin for Wozniacki at Wimbledon this year as she must continue to feel the need to prove herself at a major.
ATP Ranked No. 21
Formerly in the men’s top 10, John Isner has been in a bit of a slump. At one time leading the charge for U.S. men’s tennis, Isner has battled with injury this past year, watching his ranking slip.
He was forced to skip the Australian Open earlier this year because of a right knee injury but came back to win a title on clay at the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston.
The big guy, of course, has a tremendous serve aided by the fact he stands 6’9” tall. Grass has never been a surface he’s embraced, however, because the footing makes him overly cautious. That keeps him back instead of moving forward to cut off the ball. The excessively low bounces off the grass at Wimbledon are especially difficult for a man over 6’9” to handle.
At previous Wimbledon tournaments, Isner has never advanced past the second round, but this year he hopes to do much better than that.
After all, he reached the fourth round at the 2012 Summer Olympics held at Wimbledon. He did it on the same courts where he’ll be playing as action gets underway. He should be able to duplicate that result or take it a step or two further as play begins Monday.
At age 28, Isner needs to get back into the top 10. Playing well at the All England Club would be an excellent start.
WTA Ranking No. 25
One of the newest and hottest players in the WTA, Jamie Hampton needs to keep the fires burning to sustain her rise to the top of the game.
Recently, after qualifying, Hampton reached the finals at Eastbourne where she lost to Russian Elena Vesnina. Previously, Hampton advanced the fourth round of the 2013 French Open after upsetting No. 7 Petra Kvitova in round three. In the next round, however, Jelena Jankovic sent her packing.
Her season also includes reaching the third round in Melbourne before losing to the eventual champion, Victoria Azarenka. Overall, Hampton has climbed from No. 70 at the beginning of the year to No. 25 as she enters Wimbledon.
Drawn into Sharapova’s quarter of the draw, Hampton’s lot is not easy. Her first match on Monday is against countrywoman Sloane Stephens, the No. 17 seed—an unfortunate draw. But they have split their head-to-head contests, each winning one. So it could go either way.
But, at this point, Hampton needs to keep climbing as long as her hot streak continues. Wimbledon will definitely be her next test to prove she is the best American prospect at the moment in the women's game.
ATP Ranking No. 31
Many suspect the young Bulgarian, Grigor Dimitrov, now age 22, is set to break out at one of this year’s major tournaments. Because he won the Wimbledon Championship as a junior in 2008, it would stand to reason that this particular Grand Slam event would rank as one of his favorites.
He has advanced into the men’s top 30, reaching as high as world No. 26 earlier in May of this year. Dimitrov reached the third round at Roland Garros, losing to eventual finalist Novak Djokovic. It was his best French Open finish to date.
So far at the All England Club, Dimitrov has reached the second round and no further, after three tries. Extending his stay into the second week would be a real step forward.
Dimitrov has enjoyed an amazing year to date, standing with a 20-13 record so far. He ended 2012 ranked No. 48 and climbed as high as No. 26 in a few short months.
There is much left to accomplish on the tennis court. But extending his stay at Wimbledon would prove he deserves to be part of the conversation in the men’s game—a force to be reckoned with in the future as the top seeds start to fade.
WTA Ranking No. 8
After winning the Wimbledon title in 2011 going through both Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova’s results have been credible but not top-notch.
Last year she fell in the quarterfinals at the All England Club, losing to eventual champion Serena Williams.
This year she is drawn into the same quarter with Victoria Azarenka, which means Kvitova would once again have to defeat both Azarenka and then probably Maria Sharapova before reaching an opportunity to play Williams sitting on the other side of the draw.
The former Wimbledon champion, Kvitova needs to prove to herself and everyone else that her previous win at the All England Club was not a fluke—that she really possesses the game to win the Wimbledon title for a second time.
In order to do that, she must actually win the title in 2013—a tall order, indeed.
ATP Ranked No. 5
Despite the fact that Rafael Nadal, a former world No. 1, has won the Wimbledon title twice, he must still prove himself worthy at this year’s Championships.
His early round dismissal by Lukas Rosol during the second round in 2012 was most distasteful to the champion Nadal. Rosol, ranked No. 100, had to qualify to get into the main Wimbledon draw. Nadal will be looking to erase that memory from his mind as 2013 action begins on Monday on the green grass courts of Wimbledon.
Complicating matters, however, is the fact that even after winning the 2013 French Open, Nadal came into Wimbledon seeded No. 5—surpassed for the No. 4 spot by his countryman David Ferrer. Ironically, Nadal had defeated Ferrer during the finals of the French Open.
The consequence of the seeding has placed him in the same quarter with defending Wimbledon champion Roger Federer. The two potentially will face each other in the quarterfinals, which will be a disappointment to tennis fans everywhere to see one of the top contenders missing after that round concludes.
Once Nadal rids himself of the memory of Wimbledon in 2012, he can resume his place back in the top four because he has no more points to defend from 2012 nor nothing left to prove to himself.
WTA Ranking No. 2
Victoria Azarenka has enjoyed a great season so far.
She won the Australian Open and reached the semifinals of the 2013 French Open, representing her best finish yet at Roland Garros.
With a 27-3 record so far on the season, she’s also captured the title in Doha.
What she really wishes to accomplish involves taking that next step at this major which starts on Monday. For the past two seasons, Azarenka has reached the semifinals at Wimbledon.
She lost first to Petra Kvitova in 2011, then to Serena Williams in 2012. The next step would take her into the final and the championship.
She’d like to win this one to add to her collection of back-to-back Australian Open crowns—proving she can win on a surface other than the plexicushion in Melbourne.
This will help take her to the vaunted No. 1 spot which she lost to Williams.
ATP Ranking No. 2
No one wants or needs to win this tournament as much as Andy Murray. The great hope of the British faithful, Murray feels enormous pressure to win every time he steps on the court at Wimbledon.
As he prepares to battle during his eighth Wimbledon fortnight, Murray can take comfort in the knowledge that he won a final on Centre Court a year ago during the 2012 Summer Olympics, defeating Roger Federer in the final.
This came after losing to Federer on that same court during the finals of the official 2012 Wimbledon.
Murray reached the semifinals three times before finally taking that last step to play in the Wimbledon finals last year. This year, he wishes to take another big step and win it all to prove to himself and his country that he deserves their adoration and support.
He won his first major in 2012 (the U.S. Open), so that burden is gone. Perhaps 2013 will find another huge weight lifted from his shoulders when he hoists the Wimbledon trophy for the first time to thunderous applause at the All England Club.