Two of the most scintillating weeks in tennis are almost here, with the opening serve of this year's Wimbledon just days away.
Many fans in the United Kingdom will root for a repeat, as Andy Murray looks to successfully defend his title after becoming the first British man to win at Wimbledon during the Open Era. He'll face stiff competition from the usual suspects, who will enjoy their typical top seedings heading into the tournament.
A new winner will emerge on the women's side, as defending champion Marion Bartoli has retired since picking up her first Grand Slam title in England last year. Serena Williams will look to avenge her forgettable French Open performance, while Maria Sharapova will try to continue her winning ways.
Here's a look ahead to 2014 Wimbledon, which will begin on Monday, June 23.
When: Monday, June 23, until Sunday, July 6.
TV Info: ESPN (U.S.), BBC (UK).
|Men's 2014 Wimbledon Top Seeds|
The men's seeding factors in grass-court records, which propelled Novak Djokovic to the No. 1 spot despite witnessing Rafael Nadal capture his fifth straight French Open title.
While Djokovic particularly excels on the hard surface, he's lethal regardless of the court, making him a top contender in every major. He's made the semifinals in 15 of his last 16 Grand Slam tournaments, with the one hold-over being a quarterfinals exit in this year's Australian Open.
There's no reason to expect otherwise in England, where he'll look to claim his second Wimbledon title after failing to end Nadal's French Open monopoly.
The King of Clay will have to settle for the second seed in this much less comforting terrain. After losing to world No. 85-ranked Dustin Brown in a Wimbledon warm-up match in Germany, Nadal has now lost three consecutive grass-court matches.
"Difficult to talk about the match, I don’t know what to say. I didn’t play," Nadal said after falling to Brown, according to The Telegraph. "It can happen on this surface against such a opponent. This match has no value preparing for Wimbledon but the match was negative in all ways."
That gloomy streak includes a first-round exit to Steve Darcis in straight sets last year at Wimbledon.
His most recent defeat is a blessing in disguise, offering the champion some much-needed rest heading into his next major, but he must quickly transition to the different surface to avoid another swift elimination.
Also dropping in the Wimbledon seeding is Stan Wawrinka, who moved down two spots from his world rank to No 5. Per ATP World Tour, the Australian Open is a mere 17-19 on grass over his career, and he's struggling on all surfaces after enduring a first-round French Open defeat.
Reigning champion Andy Murray is positioned at No. 3. Although he hasn't made a Grand Slam final since winning last year's Wimbledon, the home-town favorite is still a top contender to appear in the tournament's championship bout for the third straight year.
Murray shines on the grass, where he is a career 74-15 with five titles. That success vaulted him up to the third spot, where he can now safely avoid Djokovic, Nadal and fourth-seeded Roger Federer until the semifinals.
Five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams maintains her No. 1 rank despite her shocking second-round loss to 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza.
Her biggest threat to the crown once again figures to be Maria Sharapova, who has won 19 of her last 20 matches after successfully running the table at Roland Garros. But she has not traditionally fared as well in England, making it no further than the fourth round in six of her last seven tries.
|2014 Wimbledon Women's Top Seeds|
The key to her scooping up another major is Williams suffering another early lapse. Even though they've split their two Wimbledon meetings, Sharapova has not defeated Williams since 2004. Assuming they both can make it far another, they'd clash in the semifinals.
The field will welcome a returning star in Victoria Azarenka, who missed three months with a foot injury before taking the court again on Tuesday in the Aegon International. Despite losing to Camila Giorgi in the tournament's opening round, she was pleased that her first match back was a grueling, hard-fought battle that lasted nearly three hours.
"That's exactly what I wanted," she said after the loss, per BBC Sport's Piers Newbery. "I wanted to have a competitive match. I wanted to test myself, to play for a long time, see how my body is going to react."
Her early ousting at Eastbourne represented her first competition on grass since last year's Wimbledon, from which the 24-year-old was forced to withdraw due to an injury sustained in her second-round match with Flavia Pennetta.
Li Na and Simona Halep are seeded No. 2 and 3, respectively. While Na was knocked out early at Roland Garros, Halep made a strong showing for herself as the runner-up to Sharapova's victory. Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, should also be taken seriously as a top contender.