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Major Scalps Claimed at 2011 Wimbledon; Who’s Left to Hoist Trophies?

Serena Williams shakes hands with Marion Bartoli after being defeated at Wimbledon.

This year’s Wimbledon finals will be without some of the usual suspects, 31-year-old Venus Williams, 29-year-old defending champion Serena Williams and 29-year-old Roger Federer, all previously undisputed dominating forces at the tournament.  In fact, over the last 11 years, there hasn’t been a final without one or more of those names on the scoreboard.  A changing of the guard as their ages suggest?  Hope not.

The Williams sisters unceremoniously went out Monday in the fourth round — granted, after just returning from more than seven months out of the game due to injuries — and Federer lost today, June 29, in the quarterfinals in a third-set stumble on his way to the finish line.  To add to the disappointment of those losses, others expected to place or show were sent home packing early, including world and seed no. 1 Dane Caroline Wozniacki, who’s been criticized for being unable to win a slam title, 2011 French Open winner and third-seeded Li Na of China and no. 2 seed Russian,Vera Zvonerava.

The shocking exits leave the championship on both sides of the fence, in the men’s and women’s fields, up for grabs for first-timers and long shots, sans 2004 Russian champion Maria Sharapova.  Here’s the breakdown:

On the women’s side, along with favorite Maria Sharapova, the semifinalists are Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Sabine Lisicki of Germany, all hungry for their chance at their first and the most prestigious Grand Slam title.  The common thread that runs through the remaining four is hard-hitting and big-serving, which further solidifies that this is the era of big guns on women, versus elegant finesse.

Now that I’m able to see through my tears of sorrow after watching Venus and Serena go down in a disheartening doubleheader,  I must admit that the hope and hunger that will be on full display during the upcoming women’s semis and the final will make the matches thrilling nail-biters worthy of watching.

Jo-Wilifred Tsonga of France

On the men’s side, world and seed no. 2 Novak Djokovic of Serbia had a near miss today, ultimately edging out 18-year-old Aussie newcomer, Bernard Tomic, who played brilliantly to claim a few high-profile scalps, including fifth-seeded Robin Soderling.  So, that leaves, along with the “Joker,” Raphael Nadal, who has a potential foot injury, fourth-seeded Andy Murray and 12th-seeded Jo-Wilifred Tsonga of France, the culprit who claimed the scalp of favorite Roger Federer today after coming back from two sets down.  Semis and a final with world nos. 1, 2 and 4, along with a very capable dark  horse, Tsonga, will make for thrilling, down-to-the-wire tennis, as it will with the women.

If I were a wishing man, I’d wish for hard-hitting Petra Kvitova and never-say-die, all-court hustler  Jo-Wilifred Tsonga  — both with immense talent, but no Slam titles — to pull off upsets and hoist trophies once the dust settles.  But, if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Raphael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, both with the experience and the goods to get the job done.  –gerald radford