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Tennis: Wimbledon Promises to be Wide Open - 2002-06-23


It's Wimbledon tennis time again, and while last year's tournament will be a hard act to follow, injuries and retirements mean that Wimbledon 2002 will be one of the most wide-open competitions in recent history.

Who could forget the drama of last year when, for the first time ever, a wild card here in the form of the unpredictable Goran Ivanisevic captured the title at center court.

But because of a lingering shoulder injury, the crowd pleasing Croat will not be defending his title this year. And as for Australian Pat Rafter, last year's runner-up, he also is a no-show, having gone into semi-retirement.

And that leaves the field wide open. It could be a year when youth is served. Will reigning U.S. Open champ and top seed Leyton Hewitt from Australia live up to his potential on the hallowed Wimbledon turf? Or will veterans like seven-time Wimbledon title-holder Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi prove they still have what it takes?

The bookies' favorite here is none other than Englishman Tim Henman, who the partial British public believes can finally break through this time.

Others with a good shot include Marat Safin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick.

On the women's side, defending champion Venus Williams should be hard to beat. The two time defending title holder loves the grass, and a repeat at the All England Club would cement her dominance on the surface.

But her toughest competition may well come from her younger sister, Serena, who is seeded number two. Given they are on opposite ends of the draw, they could meet in the finals just as they did in the French Open.

But others, such as last year's semi-finalist Jennifer Capriati, as well as Jelena Dokic and Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters are all expected to do well.

However, just as on the men's side, some famous faces will not be appearing this year. Past champions Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport are both injured. With this wide-open field, expect surprises and unexpected results as the tennis drama unfolds over the next two weeks.

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