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American women are a major story line at Wimbledon

Serena Williams of the United States returns to

Serena Williams of the United States returns to Sabine Lisicki of Germany during a women's singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London on July 1, 2013. Photo Credit: AP / Alastair Grant

WIMBLEDON, England - The sun was shining Saturday, softening the gloom in the wake of that World Cup failure the Times of London called "England's Shame."

Wimbledon begins Monday, and with England's certain departure from the World Cup, tennis will take over the headlines. The switch will move from nationalism to individualism, featuring:

Andy Murray, who last year ended Britain's 77-year-wait for a home men's champion here.

Rafael Nadal, the top-ranked player, and Novak Djokovic, the top-seeded player.

Serena Williams, who hasn't won a Slam this calendar year.

Roger Federer a month and a half from his 33rd birthday, who hopes for one final fling.

Maria Sharapova, who will try to follow up a French Open title with a second Wimbledon crown.

Yet Wimbledon is so much more than the shots hit over the nets. It's curtsies from the women players when there's actual royalty in the Royal Box. It's the breathtaking sprints by the kids pulling on the tarps (Wimbledon uses the term "covers") when rain hits. It's the daily overnight queue by fans trying to get on Centre Court.

Tradition is the men's champ, Murray, playing the first match of the tournament, Monday on Centre Court. Murray could get expert advice on that honor from Federer, who has seven Wimbledon crowns among his record 17 grand slam titles, the last one, a surprise in 2012.

One recalls a headline in Britain about John McEnroe's success here, "Genius With a Touch of Grass" which certainly would apply to Federer.

Last year, Federer lost in the second round, his earliest exit from a grand slam event in 10 years, but a few days ago he did win a Wimbledon warm-up at Halle, Germany. "I have to prove myself," Federer said then.

Nadal has 14 grand slams, nine of those French Opens. He lost his opening match at Halle last week, but how much that means is hard to figure. He's won Wimbledon twice.

Sharapova has one Wimbledon title, in 2004 over Serena Williams, but she's won only two of 18 matches against Williams. They're in the same quarter of the draw this Wimbledon.

It will be interesting to see how some of the young American women -- Taylor Town- send, Sloane Stephens, Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Keys -- acquit themselves.

At the French Open, Townsend said, "I'm pretty darn good," but was beaten in the third round.

Murray thinks the 18-year-old Townsend, indeed, will be pretty darn good. She certainly knows how to get publicity, evidenced by the jog she went on at Lake Michigan with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel before flying here.

Saturday, Keys and Vande- weghe, playing Wimbledon tuneups, each won their first WTA tournaments. Keys, 19, defeated Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, at Eastbourne while Vandeweghe upset Jie Zheng, 6-2, 6-4, in the Topshelf Open at Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. It was the first time two U.S. women won titles the same week since 2002.

Neither may do much at Wimbledon but American women's tennis will get noticed.

Marian Bartoli was the women's winner in 2013 and then announced her retirement. Serena Williams is seeded first and Li Na, who won the Australian and then was defeated in the first round of the French, is second. Stephens is 18th.

John Isner, at ninth, is the only U.S. male seeded. It's been four years since Isner and Nicolas Mahut spent 11 hours, 5 minutes in a match Isner won, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (3), 70-68. Mahut was ruined for months. Isner at 6-9, is a great serve-and-volley player but never has gone further than the quarters of any slam.

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