Two weeks of tennis are on the horizon with Wimbledon ready to begin Monday at the prestigious All England Club.
Tennis' oldest Grand Slam tournament will dust itself off for yet another iteration in a tradition that spans well over a century. One thing is different now, with Andy Murray become the first Brit to defend his title in the Open Era.
As the champion, Murray holds the honor of kicking off at Centre Court. How will he perform as the man to beat? Are any stars prone to a cataclysmic upset to begin the tournament?
Here's a look at the full schedule for Day 1, along with a preview of some early bouts.
|Monday, June 23||7 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.||ESPN|
|11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.||ESPNEWS|
|2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
The opening day will serve as a congratulatory ceremony for Murray, but he can't afford to dwell in the past with this year's title at stake.
While he has competed in many majors before, this marks the first time Murray will enter All England Club as the defending champion. He admitted to the Associated Press' Howard Fendrich that he's anxious heading into Monday's match.
As the time gets nearer, and, you know, I get ready to play the first match on Monday, I'll definitely ... be excited about it. I will be nervous. It (is) an experience; something I have never experienced before. Players have talked about it in the past, that it's a great experience. But it can also be a nerve-racking one.
His first-round opponent is David Goffin, a 23-year-old who has won three of 11 career matches on grass. A career 33-49, he's ranked No. 104 in the world, with his most impressive recent victory coming against Dominic Thiem, who upset Stan Wawrinka earlier in April.
Will Andy Murray repeat as Wimbledon champion?
Beating a guy who once beat another guy isn't the most persuasive argument in favor of Goffin wrenching out a stunner. Murray's 83.1 grass-court winning percentage also works against the underdog.
Murray has made each of the last five Wimbledon semifinals. The 27-year-old has a manageable rout to extending that path to six, which would then lead him to face Novak Djokovic. While the Serbian star will seek revenge for his French Open final loss to Rafael Nadal, let's worry about that later.
Although Serena Williams is not the reigning title holder, the five-time Wimbledon champion and No. 1 seed is still considered the favorite despite her second-round French Open loss. In a press conference on Saturday, per Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline, she confessed that her defeat to Garbine Muguruza still bothers her.
Q: “How long did it take you to get over the French Open loss?” Serena Williams: [long pause] “Who says I’m over it?” #wimbledon— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 21, 2014
One of the reporters at the press conference, The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg noted some boiling frustration.
To say Serena Williams is in a mood would be an understatement. Never seen her so shut down in press, ever. #Wimbledon— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 21, 2014
Look for Williams to make quick work of Anna Tatishvili, who hasn't advanced past the first round of a major since the 2012 U.S. Open. An angry Williams will make a statement in straight sets; Tatishvili will be lucky to snag a few points.
A top star to watch in the opening round is Victoria Azarenka, who skipped the French Open due to a foot injury. She returned to lose a warm-up match against Camila Giorgi in Eastbourne, an outcome she didn't harp on afterword, per The Guardian.
That’s exactly what I wanted. 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. I’m pretty pleased with what happened. Obviously the result is the result but that’s a beginning. It’s a starting point. There are a lot of positive things that I can take from today.
Seeded No. 8, Azarenka should be considered an early upset candidate due to her rust. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is 13-16 this year, but the 32-year-old holds a career 10-7 Wimbledon record, by far her best Grand Slam mark.
Azarenka's track record can't be forgotten, and her three-hour battle with Giorgi served its purpose in dusting off the cobwebs. She will likely escape past the opening round, but don't expect an easy victory.