Nine things to know about Wimbledon

by Nick McCarvel – USA TODAY SPORTS

While the whole of Britain ponders what’s next (of course you’ve heard of Brexit), the sporting world turns its attention to the country’s most famous – and reliable – event: Wimbledon.

The Championships begin Monday at SW19, where world No. 1 players Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic are defending their titles. But are they the respective favorites? That question – and more – answered below.

Serena chases No. 22 – again

Williams is “stuck.” The 34-year-old hasn’t won a major title since hoisting trophy No. 21 at the All England Club here last year, which put her one shy of Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 Grand Slams. Are milestone majors the hardest for Serena to win? Maybe. It took her a year to go from her 17th major title to 18 (tying the number of majors won by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova). The women’s favorite opens against Swiss qualifier Amra Sadikovic, the world No. 148.

Djokovic and the calendar Slam

Last year the pressure was heaped on the shoulders of Williams to go four-for-four in majors in a calendar year, and this year that goal is within reach for men’s top seed Djokovic. The Serbian finally got his wish in Paris, champion there three weeks ago in his fourth appearance in the final. Djokovic is the first man to own all four majors at once since Rod Laver did so in 1969, and he’ll look to equal Laver’s other achievement from that year over the next 10 weeks: The calendar Grand Slam, winning all four majors in one single season. He’s halfway there.

Roger makes a return

Roger Federer makes his much-awaited return to Grand Slam tennis following a rare miss at the French Open. A back injury kept him out of Roland Garros, his first major missed since the 1999 U.S. Open, which broke a streak of 65 straight Grand Slam appearances – a record. He was a semifinalist at two warm-up events in the last three weeks, and – should their seeds hold – is slated to meet Djokovic in the semifinals.

No Nadal

Rafael Nadal is still suffering from the effects of a wrist injury suffered at the French Open, knocking him out at Wimbledon and putting him at risk to miss the Rio Olympics in August. Should he not be able to compete at the Games, it will mark the second straight Olympics that the Spaniard has missed.

Sharapova appeal looming

Maria Sharapova misses her second major in a row, but first since she was handed a two-year suspension by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium at this year’s Australian Open. Sharapova’s legal team has submitted an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has said it will hand down a decision by July 18, meaning it could come during the two weeks of Wimbledon.

Can Muguruza follow up?

How will Garbiñe Muguruza follow up first Grand Slam title? The 22-year-old Spaniard won her maiden major at the French Open, an impressive effort in the final over Williams. But she lost her first – and only – match on grass since. Women’s tennis has been no place for consistency recently as Angelique Kerber, the Australian Open champion, fell in the first round at the French Open last month.

Murray-Lendl rekindled

Andy Murray has brought Ivan Lendl back to his team, the former world No. 1 who helped him to two Grand Slam titles. Murray has been runner-up to Djokovic in both Melbourne and Paris so far this year, and he’s reveled in the home hope – and pressure. Milos Raonic has brought on John McEnroe temporarily, and Stan Wawrinka has paired with 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek.

Venus’ Wimbledon farewell?

Is this it for Venus Williams at Wimbledon? Now 36, the American is seeded in the top eight and has a draw that is favorable at the major she loves the most – and has won five times. But it’s been eight years since Williams has won a major title, and her Sjodgren’s syndrome can crop up on any day. She’s drawn to meet Muguruza in the quarterfinal should they both make it as far. It’s hard to say if this is her final outing at SW19, though she has made the Olympics a goal.

Lower British pound = smaller payout

That aforementioned Brexit? It’s hitting the tennis players, too. With the British pound sinking in value, prize money payout will subsequently be lower. That £2 million the winners will earn in two weeks’ time? That’s down some 10 percent versus the U.S. dollar. Hardest hit are the players who will lose earlier, however, as the round-by-round payout increases exponentially.

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