Wimbledon's top contenders

June 21, 1998|By Bill Glauber

Men

Pete Sampras, United States, 26: The world's No. 1 player and four-time Wimbledon champion is fighting tennis burnout and a prolonged slump, but the top seed remains the pre-tournament favorite because of his booming serve and superb all-around play on the slick grass.

Richard Krajicek, Netherlands, 26: Two years ago, the 6-foot-6 right-hander got on a roll and overwhelmed his opponents to win Wimbledon. Beset by inconsistency and injuries, he has done little since his one major triumph. Still, if the No. 9 seed catches another wave, he could win again.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Russia, 24: Waiting for Kafelnikov has become an annual rite of the Wimbledon summer. The No. 7 seed has the skills to take the title. But does he have the heart? The answer could come in the first round when he faces another big server, Mark Philippoussis of Australia. He's also grouped in the tough half of the draw with Sampras, Australian Open champion Petr Korda, 1997 U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter and 1992 Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi.

Tim Henman, Great Britain, 23: Great draw, consistent skills and home-country support combine to make Henman, seeded 12th, a dark-horse threat for the title. His countryman, Greg Rusedski, has the higher seed (No. 4) and the harder serve but is hobbled by a severely sprained ankle. Among the other dark horses are clay-court specialists Marcelo Rios, who is chasing Sampras for No. 1, and Carlos Moya, the French Open champion.

Goran Ivanisevic, Croatia, 26: It's now or never for Ivanisevic in his bid to claim Wimbledon. A two-time runner-up, he played dreadfully last year and was ousted in the second round. To win, the No. 14 seed will have to control his overwhelming serve and his fiery emotions.

Women

Martina Hingis, Switzerland, 17: Last year, Hingis was all ground strokes and smiles as she won Wimbledon and zoomed to No. 1. This year, she has fought relentlessly to remain No. 1, weathering defeats against other young pretenders. Still, the top seed is mentally strong on the key points and has the guile to win the big matches. She'll get a first-round test against American Lisa Raymond.

Anna Kournikova, Russia, 17: With a powerful forehand and wondrous court sense, Kournikova advanced to last year's semifinals in her Wimbledon debut. With more experience and ** pro matches, she has added polish to her game. The No. 12 seed yearns to show her foes that beneath the glamorous exterior lies a champion.

Venus Williams, United States, 17: With her hard serve and sizzling forehands, Williams was schooled to win Wimbledon. She was ousted in last year's first round, but the No. 7 seed is expected to go farther this year, and is in the same rugged part of the draw as her 16-year-old sister Serena, 16-year-old Croatian Mirjana Lucic and Kournikova.

Steffi Graf, Germany, 29: Back from injuries and knee surgery, Graf is angling to make one last stand at Wimbledon. The seven-time champion probably lacks the tournament toughness to win after such a long layoff, but she remains a formidable foe, gains a No. 4 seed and is in the same half of the draw as No. 6 Monica Seles.

Lindsay Davenport, United States, 22: Great serve, great ground strokes and isn't afraid to volley. So, what's holding the No. 2 seed back at Wimbledon? Speed and mobility. Along with 1994 champion Conchita Martinez and two-time runners-up Jana Novotna and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Davenport is a threat to defeat the teens at Wimbledon.

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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