An already crowded sports landscape gets another jolt of adrenaline with this year's Wimbledon starting from the All England Club. For the first time in years, the ladies' and gentlemen's brackets feel wide open thanks to injuries and declining stars showing their age.
Even if there were overwhelming favorites to walk away victorious from tennis' biggest event, the drama would still be overflowing because of how important Wimbledon is to everyone involved. This is the one major everyone wants to win, and heartbreak is felt when you lose; legacies get rewritten and defined on these grass courts.
For the next two weeks, England will be at the center of the sports world until a champion is crowned. The action starts early and keeps coming, so we have all the television and live stream information you need to follow it on Day 1.
|2014 Wimbledon Schedule Day 1|
|Location||Network, Start Time (ET)||Live Stream|
|All England Club in London, England||ESPN, 7 a.m.||Wimbledon.com|
Live Stream Link: Wimbledon.com
Storylines to Watch
Andy Murray's Quest to Repeat
In 2013, Andy Murray became the first gentleman from Great Britain to win Wimbledon since 1936. Now he faces the difficult task of trying to repeat as champion, which hasn't been done at the All England Club since Roger Federer in 2006-07.
The 27-year-old does face a difficult draw on his side of the bracket with No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, who Murray knocked off in last year's final, waiting to take revenge and capture his second Wimbledon title.
Tom Fordyce of BBC.com highlighted Murray's quest to repeat and noted that first-time champions at this event rarely duplicate the feat one year later. According to the article, in the Open Era (since 1968), only four of 20 first-time Wimbledon winners retained their crown.
There is also this issue that Fordyce brings up, putting Murray in an even more arduous spot before the event begins:
Then there is Murray's form, as uncertain this year as it was solid 12 months ago.
Since his season began he has lost 11 times, more than he did in the whole of an injury-truncated 2013.
In that time he is yet to beat a single player in the world's top 10, and has beaten only one in the top 20. At the same stage in 2013, he had beaten nine players in that 20-strong top bracket; in 2012, six.
The hometown crowd will be firmly in Murray's corner, but his performance this year and history suggest there will be a different champion in 2014.
The one consolation is that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, both in the opposite side of the bracket, have struggled at various points this season. If Murray meets Djokovic and gets past him, the path to a title will be much smoother.
Serena Williams' Focus
Even though there is no proof that the Wimbledon draw has an agenda against a certain player, Serena Williams can be forgiven if she were to assume a conspiracy was in the works.
The five-time Wimbledon champion was put in the same quarter bracket as French Open champion Maria Sharapova, Alize Cornet, Andrea Petkovic and Eugenie Bouchard.
This hasn't been a banner year for Williams, even though she does have three singles titles to boast about. She was knocked out of the Australian Open in the fourth round by Ana Ivanovic and fared even worse at the French Open by losing to Garbine Muguruza in the second round.
It seems that every couple of years, the question of whether Williams still has what it takes to win majors comes up, then she dominates an event to remind us why she's the top-ranked player in the world.
Williams certainly seems to be focused on her mission, providing short, intense quotes to the media during a pre-tournament press conference, via SI.com's Beyond the Baseline.
It's one thing to give cryptic answers in a press conference. Williams has to bring that intensity to the court. She's the most talented player on the court, regardless of who's on the other side, but staying focused on the task at hand tends to be an issue.
This is Williams' moment to shine, even though the draw doesn't do her any favors. She's got to at least make a deep run at Wimbledon to prove we aren't seeing the start of a decline for the 32-year-old.
One Last Gasp For Aging Stars?
Roger Federer and Venus Williams are two legendary figures in the sport of tennis. They have combined to win 124 events and 26 Grand Slam tournaments in their careers, yet neither has won at Wimbledon since Federer in 2012.
Williams hasn't even played in a final at the All England Club since losing to her sister in 2009. At 34 years old, her career is much closer to the end than the beginning, a fact that is compounded due to suffering from Sjogren's Syndrome, which makes maintaining stamina difficult.
The expectations for both Federer and Williams entering this event are muted, though the former is still in the mix for the title as the No. 4 seed. Williams is the No. 30 seed on the ladies' side.
Jane McManus of ESPNW.com wrote about the importance of this event for Williams and why, when she does decide to call it a career, this could be the appropriate place.
When she does decide to retire, Williams might do it here. Wimbledon embraced her as she grew into a champion, where her reserved demeanor could be fully appreciated. It would be a fitting spot for her final curtsy -- but not a moment before she's ready.
It's not going to happen this year, but one more deep run, either in singles or doubles with her sister, would make for a great feel-good story.
For Federer, this event made him a superstar. He won his first career Grand Slam event at the All England Club in 2003. He would go on to win it every year until 2007 and seven times from 2003 through 2012.
That 2012 title was Federer's last major title, but if there was ever an event that could end his drought, it is Wimbledon.
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