Saturday, June 30, 2018

Players to watch at Wimbledon

   Wimbledon begins Monday at 4 a.m. PDT on ESPN and continues through July 15. Here are six men and six women to watch (seeding in parentheses):
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Roger Federer (1) -- Favored to win record-extending ninth Wimbledon title before turning 37 on Aug. 8. Northern California connection: Made NorCal debut in March, beating Jack Sock in exhibition before sellout crowd of 17,496 at SAP Arena in San Jose.
   Rafael Nadal (2) -- Won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010 but hasn't survived fourth round there since 2011. NorCal connection: None.
   Marin Cilic (3) -- U.S. Open champion in 2014 has lost to Federer in two of past four Grand Slam finals, including 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 last year at Wimbledon while hobbled by foot blister. NorCal connection: None.
   Novak Djokovic (12) -- Three-time Wimbledon champion (2011, 2014, 2015) held match point in loss to Cilic in Queen's Club (London) final last Sunday as he rebounds from right elbow problems. NorCal connection: None.
   Milos Raonic (13) -- Runner-up to Andy Murray in 2016 lost to Federer 6-4, 7-6 (3) in Stuttgart final on grass two weeks ago, then withdrew from second-round match at Queen's Club with right pectoral strain. NorCal connection: Never lost a set in 13 career matches in SAP Open in San Jose, winning last three titles (2011-13) before tournament was discontinued.
   Borna Coric (17) -- Ended Federer's grass-court winning streak at 20 matches to win Halle (Germany) last Sunday, but Wimbledon is best-of-five sets. NorCal connection: None.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Simona Halep (1) -- After winning first Grand Slam title in French Open, withdrew from Eastbourne this week with Achilles' injury. NorCal connection: Lost in first round of 2011 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in only San Francisco Bay Area appearance.
   Garbine Muguruza (3) -- Wimbledon defending champion was upset by Barbora Strycova in second round on grass in Birmingham last week. NorCal connection: Reached singles semifinals last year and quarterfinals in 2014 and won doubles title in 2014 with fellow Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in only two Stanford appearances.
   Sloane Stephens (4) -- After never playing in Grand Slam final, 25-year-old has reached two of last three, winning U.S. Open. NorCal connection: Grew up in Fresno. Lost in first round at Stanford in 2012 in only Bay Area appearance as pro.
   Petra Kvitova (8) -- Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014 won Birmingham last week, then withdrew from Eastbourne with hamstring injury. NorCal connection: Lost 6-2, 6-0 to local favorite CiCi Bellis, then 18, in Stanford quarterfinals last year in Bay Area debut.
   Venus Williams (9) -- Five-time Wimbledon champion (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008) and four-time runner-up (2002, 2003, 2009, 2017) has lost in first round of last two Grand Slam tournaments. NorCal connection: Eight-time Bank of the West finalist, winning in 2000 and 2002 and losing in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2016. Made pro debut in tournament at 14 in 1994, when it was held indoors in Oakland.
   Serena Williams (25) -- New mother can tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. NorCal connection: Won Stanford in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Scheduled to play in inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, July 30-Aug. 5 at San Jose State.

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