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Wimbledon five to watch

Times Staff Writer
Published June 20, 2004

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Despite a moderate amount of success and a No. 9 ranking, Kuznetsova hasn't gotten as much fanfare as the other top young Russians. That might be about to change. She's playing well and was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2003 before losing to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

ANASTASIA MYSKINA: The French Open champ has risen to a career-best No. 3 in the rankings. With more power than in the past she heads to Wimbledon armed not only with the skills to win, but the confidence. Myskina, in four trips, never has reached the quarters.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: One of the sport's rising stars is getting better with every tournament and her game is well-suited for grass. The 17-year-old Russian has improved her ranking (to No. 15) by almost 100 spots in the past 12 months. This could be her breakout event.

SERENA WILLIAMS: The two-time defending champ earned the top seed despite being ranked No. 10 because the All England Club takes into account previous records and prowess on grass. Williams has had mixed results since returning to the tour from a knee injury in March but probably is the player to beat.

VENUS WILLIAMS: All she has done at Wimbledon is claim two titles and reach two other finals. Venus appears to have regained her confidence, and on her big serve alone should reach the quarters. If everything else is working - and if she's 100 percent healthy - a championship is within her grasp.

ROGER FEDERER: The game's most complete player and defending champ breezed here last year in winning his first Grand Slam event. The top-ranked Federer has no glaring weakness and appears poised to make another run. He's 39-4 this year with one major title (the Australian Open) in the bank.

MARDY FISH: If his hip has healed, look for the Tampa resident to make his first big move at a major. Fish has a strong serve and soft touch at the net, just the right combination for grass. A year ago, he was the only player at Wimbledon to take a set from Federer.

TIM HENMAN: One could argue that no player wants this championship more than Henman. The 29-year-old Brit lives in London and seems to make a push here every summer. Henman has reached the quarters or beyond in seven of the past eight Wimbledons but never has appeared in a final. It might be now or never.

LLEYTON HEWITT: The feisty one is back. After a sluggish 2003, Hewitt, who won Wimbledon two years ago, has jumped seven spots in the rankings this year to No. 10. Hewitt's strength is his ability to wear down opponents and test their patience by keeping the ball in play.

ANDY RODDICK: Roddick, the No. 2 seed, has reached the final of only one major (2003 U.S. Open), but with the biggest serve in the game today - make that ever - he may pose the greatest threat to Federer, who beat him in last year's semifinals. Roddick is better-equipped to win in 2004 because his game has improved on almost every level.

- Compiled by Keith Niebuhr

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