Bryan Armen Graham
Tuesday June 16th, 2009

Strawberries and cream, skirted lineswomen and soggy weather mean only one thing: It's time for the oldest and most prestigious tournament in tennis. With the 123rd edition of the Wimbledon Championships set to start Monday, here's a look at five of the most pressing questions at the All England Club.

1. How will Andy Murray handle the hype?

It's been 73 years since a Briton won Wimbledon (Fred Perry claimed the last of his three consecutive titles in 1936). But it's a drought many natives foresee Murray ending this year, with defending champion Rafael Nadal's fitness in question, Roger Federer's grass-court hegemony broken and the 22-year-old Scot close to peak form.

And just when you thought the British tabloids couldn't get more wound up about the hometown favorite's chances, Murray goes out Sunday and defeats James Blake in straight sets to win the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club in London. Murray ran through the draw without dropping a set. He won his first title on grass and collected the first victory by a British player in the traditional Wimbledon tune-up since Bunny Austin in 1938.

For his part, Murray is dialing down the hype.

"Wimbledon is a totally different animal," Murray told BBC Sport. "It's over two weeks, they are best of five-set matches -- and neither Federer nor Nadal were at Queens this year and I'll probably have to beat at least one of them if I'm to win Wimbledon."

"I do feel confident that if I play my best I have a chance," Murray said. "This is definitely the best I've felt going into Wimbledon."

2. Can Federer eclipse Pistol Pete?

Fifteen for Fed? That's the history at stake for the 27-year-old Federer, now unburdened by the title of defending champion for the first time since 2003. Should Federer follow up his French Open crown with another Wimbledon title, he would surprass Pete Sampras with a record 15th major championship. He'd also become the fourth player in the Open Era (after Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Nadal) to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.

3. Can anybody beat Venus ... besides Serena?

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, up to No. 3 in the rankings for the first time in nearly six years, enters this year's tournament as the trendy pick. She's won three of the past four Wimbledon titles, including last year's straight-sets victory against current No. 2 Serena.

No. 1 Dinara Safina has yet to advance past the third round at Wimbledon. Ana Ivanovic has shown no signs of awakening from her extended slump. Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva have a record of uneven results at the Championships, though Dementieva did break through to the semis last year. Jelena Jankovic has enjoyed some success at Wimbledon, including an upset of Venus in '06, but her inconsistency on grass makes her a long shot. It's probably too soon to expect Maria Sharapova, who still in the early stages of her return from shoulder surgery, to make much noise during the second week.

If Venus can navigate through the early rounds (where she's been prone to the occasional upset) don't be surprised to see the 28-year-old play for her sixth title on the Fourth of July.

4. Will Andy Roddick's ankle be up to the task?

The 26-year-old twisted his ankle shortly after attempting a between-the-legs shot during the third game of last week's semifinal against Blake. Roddick continued to play but ended up retiring at 4-4 in the first set. Tests revealed no major problems, and Roddick is expected to be ready for next week.

Twenty-two Grand Slams have come and gone since Roddick's triumph at the 2003 U.S. Open. No American player has won a major tournament since, though Roddick has twice advanced to the Wimbledon final.

5. What about Nadal's knee?

Nadal's knee issues have been shrouded in mystery since his unexpected French Open loss to Robin Soderling. Last week, Nadal said he'd do everything in his power to participate. And on Monday, Nadal said he may play Friday in an exhibition tournament in London.

"It would be a good test for me to play there to see how the knee is doing, and it would provide the perfect setting to get some practice before Wimbledon," Nadal said on his Web site. "If I feel the recuperation is going well, I will be more than happy to be there again. I hope that's the case."

"I wonder what the ATP does w/all of the $$ they accumulate from fines throughout the year? Could've thrown a sweet going away party for me." -- Jim Courier, four-time Grand Slam winner, poses an open-ended question, June 12, 12:48 p.m.

"what are your favorite inventions that u cant actually believe made money? i will start with chia pets.. seriously...." -- Andy Roddick, world No. 6, on the As Seen on TV craze, June 12, 5:27 p.m.

"lol at Wilbledon telling its players to cut the sex grunt noises or el$e!" -- Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, drummer for The Roots, on Sunday's ABC World News segment about grunting in tennis, June 14, 6:58 p.m.

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