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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Thursday / February 21.
  • Five burning questions heading into Wimbledon’s second week

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    Beginning with “Manic Monday” in which the 16 remaining men and women all take the court, Wimbledon heads into the second week of the fortnight.

    As we head towards the business end of the year’s third Grand Slam tennis tournament, here are five burning questions:

    1-Will it be a failure if Serena Williams doesn’t win her eighth Wimbledon title on Saturday?

    Serena entered the fortnight as the No. 25 seed and having played just three events in 2018 after the birth of her daughter, Alexis, in September. She was forced to withdraw before her much anticipated fourth-round match with Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros with an arm injury.

    Yet as we head into the second week, Williams remains the odds-on favorite to win her eighth Wimbledon title and third in the last four years. She has been aided in large part because nine of the Top 10 seeds have already lost. Only No. 7 Karolina Pliskova remains. Serena caught another break when unseeded Evgeniya Rodina took out No. 10 Madison Keys in the third round, meaning Williams can get to the semifinals without playing having played a seed. If that happens, who would bet against Williams, at 36, winning her 24th Grand Slam title to tie Margaret Court for first all-time?

    2. Will there be another first-time Slam winner among the women?

    Of the 16 remaining women, only three have won a Grand Slam event: Williams has captured 23, No. 11 seed Angelique Kerber two and No. 12 seed Jelena Ostapenko one. The 13 other remaining women have combined to win zero Slams. Among them, Pliskova might be the best female player never to win a major. She reached the 2016 US Open final, losing to Kerber, who also won the Australian Open that year.

    Four of the last five Grand Slam winners captured their maiden Slams, beginning with Ostapenko at the 2017 French Open, and continuing with Sloane Stephens at the 2017 US Open, Caroline Wozniacki at the 2018 Australian Open and Simona Halep at the 2018 French. Stephens, Wozniacki and Halep are among the parade of women out of the tournament…but are we headed for another first-time winner?

    3. Will John Isner reach his first Grand Slam semifinal?

    Along with Mackenzie McDonald, the 6-foot-10 former Georgia Bulldog is one of two American men remaining in the draw. At 33, Isner is no longer a young pup and can’t be considered the “future of American tennis.” His time is now.

    Known for his booming first serve and massive forehand, Isner has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal in his career — at the 2011 US Open. He’s never advanced past the fourth round at the other three majors. Yet here he stands with a golden opportunity to reach the semis at Wimbledon. The No. 9 seed, he has to get past young Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Round of 16 and then potentially big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in the quarters. If he can navigate that field, he could potentially meet No. 1 seed and eight-time champ Roger Federer in the semis. Isner is 2-5 against Fed, so he has some wins to draw upon.

    4. Can Novak Djokovic recapture the magic and challenge for another major?

    After he won the 2016 French Open title, Djokovic held all four major crowns and seemed poised to threaten both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the all-time lead among men.

    Yet since then Djokovic has gone seven Grand Slam events without holding up the trophy, and has only advanced past the quarterfinals once, at the 2016 US Open where he lost to Stan Wawrinka. Elbow troubles and off-the-court issues have threatened to derail Djokovic’s once dominant career.

    Yet in recent weeks, the 31-year-old Serb has seemingly regained his mojo. He reached the semifinals in Rome (losing to Nadal), the quarters in Paris (falling to unheralded Marco Cecchinato) and the final at Queen’s Club (losing to Marin Cilic). Now he’s in the second week at Wimbledon, which he’s won three times (2011, ’14, ’15). He faces a tough road starting with young Russian sensation Karen Khachanov in the 16s and then potentially Kei Nishikori or Ernests Gulbis in the quarters before a potentially mouth-watering semifinal with Nadal on Friday. Djokovic could have to beat Nadal and Federer within the span of three days to win Wimbledon — a monumental ask for anyone. But if there’s anyone left in the draw capable of doing it, he’s the man for the job.

    5. Are we headed for the seemingly inevitable Federer-Nadal final on Sunday?

    Since the beginning of 2017, Federer, 36, and Nadal, 32, have alternated winning the last six Grand Slam tournaments and reminded the world that we are witnessing arguably the two greatest men ever to play the sport. During that span, Federer has increased his all-time Slam total to 20 by capturing the Australian Open in 2017 and ’18 and Wimbledon a year ago. Nadal is now up to 17 career majors after winning his 11th Roland Garros title last month.

    Although Nadal still dominates the head-to-head 23-15, Federer has won their last five encounters, the last three in straight sets in best-of-three encounters on outdoor hardcourts. Federer also has the knowledge that he came from 1-3 down in the fifth set to stun Nadal in the 2017 Australian Open final.

    This year alone, they have flip-flopped the world No. 1 ranking, currently possessed by Nadal even though Federer is the No. 1 seed in London.

    Jon Wertheim’s excellent documentary “Strokes of Genius” premiered on Tennis Channel on the eve of the fortnight and provided a historic perspective on their 2008 final at Wimbledon, considered now by many — including John McEnroe — “The Greatest Match Ever Played.”

    Wouldn’t it be a treat if 10 years after that historic match Federer and Nadal once again faced off for “Breakfast at Wimbledon” on Sunday morning, the same day as the World Cup final? If that were to happen, the day would end either with Federer leading Nadal 21-17 all-time in major or 20-18. What a delicious chapter of history that would be.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.