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Wimbledon: Top players to watch

By DARRELL FRY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001


Men

PETE SAMPRAS

RESIDENCE: Los Angeles.

CHAMPIONS RACE: 20. AGE: 29.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Champion 1993-95, 1997-00.

THE BETTING LINE: Sweet Pete isn't as sweet as he used to be. He hasn't won a title since this tournament a year ago. But Wimbledon always seems to bring out the best in him. If he gets into the second week with little trouble, he might be untouchable the rest of the way.

* * *

GREG RUSEDSKI

RESIDENCE: England.

CHAMPIONS RACE: 24. AGE: 27.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Quarterfinals, 1997.

THE BETTING LINE: Don't laugh. Yes, he has been bounced from the first round here three times, including last year. But you just can't ignore a guy who is 6-foot-4 and has a cannon for a serve. Plus, he played well last week at a grass-court event in England. With the home crowd behind him, he could ride their cheers to the title.

* * *

ANDY RODDICK

RESIDENCE: Boca Raton.

CHAMPIONS RACE: 29. AGE: 18.

BEST WIMBLEDON: First appearance.

THE BETTING LINE: Sure, he's a long shot, but this kid is hot. Not only did he tear up the spring hard-court season, he has looked impressive on grass so far. He probably won't win, but he'll be fun to watch.

* * *

PATRICK RAFTER

RESIDENCE: Australia.

CHAMPIONS RACE: 9. AGE: 28.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Final, 2000.

THE BETTING LINE: He's one of the top serve-and-volley players on tour when he's healthy. He has had a solid year even though he has no titles. He'll get far at Wimbledon but needs a win over a big-name opponent to gain the confidence to go all the way.

* * *

ANDRE AGASSI

RESIDENCE: Las Vegas.

CHAMPIONS RACE: 2. AGE: 31.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Champion, 1992.

THE BETTING LINE: Except for his quarterfinal loss at the French, he has had a sizzling season, winning just about every big tournament. He skipped the usual grass-court tuneup events, but the way he has played all season is enough to make him a serious contender.

Women

JENNIFER CAPRIATI

RESIDENCE: Wesley Chapel.

RANK: 4. AGE: 25.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Semifinals, 1991.

THE BETTING LINE: She's the hottest thing going on the tour. Going for a rare Grand Slam gives her extra motivation. Not playing a tuneup event might leave her a little out of synch initially, but look for her to make a run at the title.

* * *

VENUS WILLIAMS

RESIDENCE: Palm Beach Gardens.

RANK: 2. AGE: 21.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Champion, 2000.

THE BETTING LINE: After a stirring start to the season, she has cooled slightly. Her first-round exit at the French Open was ugly, but that won't happen this time. Her game is perfectly suited for grass. With a little confidence, she could easily win back-to-back titles.

* * *

SERENA WILLIAMS

RESIDENCE: Palm Beach Gardens.

RANK: 5. AGE: 19.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Semifinals, 2000.

THE BETTING LINE: She could lose in the first week or win the title. It all depends on her focus. Like her sister, she has a game tailor-made for grass. If she can get past a possible quarterfinal showdown with Capriati, she could run the table.

* * *

KIM CLIJSTERS

RESIDENCE: Belgium.

RANK: 7. AGE: 18.

BEST WIMBLEDON: Fourth round, 1999.

THE BETTING LINE: She is noticeably lacking in experience at major events, but she grew up quite a bit in reaching the French final this month. Her steadiness and court coverage will serve her well on grass. Once she gets rid of any initial jitters, she'll be hard to send home.

* * *

JUSTINE HENIN

RESIDENCE: Belgium.

RANK: 9. AGE: 19.

BEST WIMBLEDON: First round, 2000.

THE BETTING LINE: Like Clijsters, this Belgian teen has made huge strides this season. While not a big fan of grass, she has an all-court game and plenty of consistency. She probably isn't ready to win it or even get to the final, but she'll make some big names wish they hadn't faced her. -- Compiled by Darrell Fry.

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