In tennis, every round is a knock-out round. But after a week of tennis at the vuvuzela-free All England Club, most of the contenders remain. Here five plotlines to follow over the next seven days at Wimbledon.
• Are Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal slowing down or battling through tougher competition? Federer came to Wimbledon having won 48 of his last 49 matches here. Nadal has won 19 of 21. It's hard to talk seriously of other contenders. Or was. Both looked something less than indomitable, Federer very nearly lost on the first Monday and Nadal was twice pushed to five sets, albeit on knees less than 100 percent. The cynics have been quick to pronounce them as fading stars. The optimist would be inclined to note that both found escape routes and remain in the tournament, all, ultimately that really matters. We'll now whether their shaky early play was omen or aberration.
• Can anyone stop the Williams juggernaut? Thanks to the first week chaos, Venus and Serena have gotten surprisingly little fanfare so far. (It didn't help that Serena was relegated to an outer court on the day the Queen arrived.) They did nothing extraordinary either, winning their matches in typically ruthless form. It's been four years since a non-Williams won the women's title. It's been three years since a non-Williams even made the final. Can any player (Maria Sharapova?) stop the juggernaut?
• Can Sam Querrey meet the moment? For the better part of a decade, American tennis has searched for a wingman for Andy Roddick. The leading candidate right now is Querrey, a hard serving Californian, now in the top 20 with a bullet. Problem is that Querrey has yet to solidify his bona fides with big win at a major. An opportunity presents itself on Monday when he takes on Britain's Andy Murray (who himself knows something about representing a country's tennis hopes.) Murray will be both the favorite and the fan favorite. But, serve willing, Querrey has a real chance to win and, in turn, consecrate his arrival.
• Can Week Two possibly keep pace with Week One? Typically, the first few days of Grand Slams are "formful." Top seeds cruise; there are a few overblown controversies that then blow over; the wheat is separated from the chaff. But this year at Wimbledon, the first 96 hours featured a rare visit by the Queen, a near upset of Federer, a near upset of Nadal and, of course, a match that ended, preposterously, 70-68 in the fifth set. Hard to imagine the final seven days topping this. Week Two is pregnant with possibility, though, as all the major major contenders remain.
• Who will win the Battle of Belgium?Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin have been conveniently depicted as polar opposites. They shared a country but little else. It was nice, functional Kim versus intense, conflicted Justine. A decade later, they are more similar than different. They've both lost parents, had romances fall apart and leave tennis only to think better of it and return. On Monday, they play a fourth round match -- a final under other circumstances -- and it will not only mark another moment in their rivalry but enable them both to take inventory of their comebacks.
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