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The Game of balls Watch out Five Wimbledon storylines to look out for

Wimbledon, one of the most priced jewels of the British sporting calendar, returns when the Championships begin on Monday.

following the recent game activities

Raducanu returns

Twelve months ago, Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon experience consisted of making hospitality appearances for her sponsors.

The 21-year-old Briton missed her home Grand Slam after surgeries on both wrists and an ankle, but returns this year with a smile on her face on the back of some encouraging form.

“It was really hard last year because you would walk through the player tunnel, see your peers going to practice, going to play their match,” said the 2021 US Open champion.

“Being on the other side just really stung. It wasn’t nice and I didn’t really watch any of the tennis either.

“For me to be on this side of it this year is just super special.”

Raducanu missed the clay-court French Open to focus on being fit and ready for the British grass season – and the move looks to have paid dividends.

Reaching the Nottingham semi-finals was followed by a run to the Eastbourne quarter-finals, including a win over American world number five Jessica Pegula.

“I think I’m in a really good place,” said Raducanu, who plays against Mexican lucky loser Renata Zarazua on Monday.

“I did a good chunk of work at the end of the year to get back and healthy. I’ve continued that work throughout this year.

“I feel good in my body. There are no doubts.”

Murray says goodbye

This is a perfect way to finish a professional tennis career – and Andy Murray was conscious  of that.

But it feels especially cruel that Murray – a British icon who ended the nation’s 77-year wait for a home men’s singles champion in 2013 – has seen his hopes of a Wimbledon farewell affected by injury.

Also in March he would not play much past this summer, the 37-year-old Scot has been riddled by fitness problems.

The latest is a back problem that required surgery on a spinal cyst, leaving two-time champion Murray doubtful of playing singles one final time.

If not fit to play in the first round on Tuesday, he still might be ready for a touching swansong with older brother Jamie in the men’s doubles later in the week.

“I’m just trying to do what I can, trying to keep progressing each day,” said Murray, who has been drawn against Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic.

“Whether there’s enough time or not, I don’t know, but I’m trying.”

Draper picking up the baton

At the start of his career, Murray emerged to pick up the baton from Tim Henman as Britain’s leading men’s player – and carry the nation’s hopes at Wimbledon.

There is a parallel to be drawn with Murray and Jack Draper.

Draper has long been seen as the heir to his idol. Now he is achieving results he has long been seen capable of.

The 22-year-old’s ascension to British number one came on the back of his first ATP title in Stuttgart, followed by an eye-catching victory over defending champion Carlos Alcaraz at Queen’s.

“Andy has been a huge inspiration to me. It started off with me watching him on TV, and on the bigger stages here,” said Draper, who is seeded 28th.

“If I can have an amazing career like Andy I will be extremely proud of that.”

Draper is the only British seed in the men’s singles, with Katie Boulter also seeded for the first time in the women’s singles (at 32) – one of several common threads between the nation’s two leading players.

The pair head a list of 19 home singles players at Wimbledon – the highest number this century.

Defying all expectations, and proving doubters wrong, is the fuel that fires Novak Djokovic.

 going by the huge deficit to takeover both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in terms of total Grand Slam victories is the greatest example.

Another is the way which the 24-time major champion has fought through physical issues to earn some of his biggest successes.

Winning a record-equalling eighth Wimbledon men’s title, after having surgery on a knee injury on 5 June, would arguably be his most confounding feat.

“I didn’t come here to play a few rounds,” said the 37-year-old Serb. “I really want to go for the title. I don’t see myself holding back.”

It goes without saying you can never rule out Djokovic, who has been described as “superhuman” by defending champion Alcaraz.

But, given Djokovic’s recent surgery, the 21-year-old Spaniard would have to be considered the title favourite.

Recently crowned world number one Jannik Sinner – a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year – is not far behind, adding further credence to his chances by warming up with a grass-court title in Halle.

‘Anybody’s game’ in the women’s draw

The void left by seven-time champion Serena Williams has led to a revolving cast of Wimbledon winners in recent years.

Each of the past six women’s singles champions has lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish for the first time.

It would not be a surprise if that trend continued this year.

Only two previous winners are seeded – defending champion Marketa Vondrousova, who has been an injury doubt, and 2022 winner Elena Rybakina – while there are questions marks over other leading players.

Belarusian third seed Aryna Sabalenka has been the slight favourite for many – with a game for grass and experience of winning major titles – but she cast doubt on her chances because of a “rare” shoulder injury.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek’s reign as the ‘Queen of Clay’ continued at the French Open last month. But the top seed has never gone past the quarter-finals and says she still has “to focus on being a better player” at Wimbledon.

American second seed Coco Gauff, who lost in the first round last year


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