Get in while the grass is good


LONDON -- The lawns are sparkling, the players jovial, and the feeling of optimism is permeating throughout the All England Club. It's eerily serene, actually, but it won't be for some in the coming days. So much to watch, so little time.

But, we're here to make life a little easier as you embark on your Wimbledon watching. Here are 50 things to know in 50 sentences.

You're welcome.

1. Unless you've been injecting Pimm's into your bloodstream for the past decade, you'd be wise to pick someone from the Big Four, winners of 35 of the past 37 Grand Slam titles, to hoist the Wimbledon trophy in two weeks.

2. And if the draw holds up, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have played an Open era-best 42 times, will meet in another final.

3. Yet the oddsmakers believe Andy Murray has a greater chance to win than Nadal, even though Rafa and Djokovic have won 13 of the past 17 Slam titles.

4. And it should be noted that Nadal really can't do worse than last year, when he lost to No. 135-ranked Steve Darcis in the opening round, the only time in 38 majors the Spaniard lost his first match.

5. And further proof, aside from common sense, that Nadal won't suffer the same ugly fate: He leads the ATP Tour with four titles and a 41-7 record this season.

6. But then again, Nadal hasn't won consecutive matches on grass in two years.

7. For his part, Nadal needs to win his opener Tuesday to become the 11th player in the Open era to have 700 wins.

8. Speaking of wins, Murray's Wimbledon title last year alleviated an enormous weight off his shoulders -- and brain -- but he hasn't won a title since.

9. Now Murray heads into this event under the tutelage of new coach Amelie Mauresmo, who like Murray struggled with nerves for a long time before winning a first major.

10. And speaking of nerves, Roger Federer says he comes into Wimbledon absolved of any pressure since he lost in the second round a year ago and has few points to defend.

11. The consensus is Federer, who last won a Slam title two years ago here in London, has one more shot to add to his record 17 majors, and that will come at these Wimbledon Championships.

12. On the flip side, the feeling is there won't be a repeat women's champ, considering Marion Bartoli retired last summer.

13. Seems reasonable enough, unlike, say, someone outside the top four on the men's side winning Wimbledon, a feat that hasn't happened since Goran Ivanisevic way back in the summer of 2001.

14. Though, Stan Wawrinka was an 8-seed when he snared the Aussie crown earlier this season.

15. But Stan's numbers -- three losses before the quarterfinals in his past four events -- suggest he is struggling.

16. One player who is not, though, is the ubertalented Grigor Dimitrov, who just won his first career grass-court title last week at the Queen's Club.

17. Dimitrov, the lucky dog he is, also happens to be Maria Sharapova's boyfriend.

18. This Wimbledon coincidentally happens to be the one-year anniversary of the Dimitrov black-heart saga between Sharapova and Serena Williams.

19. But no sense in dwelling on the past because Sharapova, fresh off her French Open title, will be focusing on becoming the first player since, you guessed it, Serena in 2002 to sweep the Euro Slam swing in the same season.

20. As for Serena, to the surprise of almost everyone, she hasn't even sniffed a Grand Slam title in 2014, losing in the quarters of the Aussie and the second round in Paris.

21. And yet 11 of our 12 experts picked Serena to win here.

22. Four of our experts picked Serena's sister Venus Williams as their dark horse, even though she hasn't played at the All England Club since 2012 and hasn't won a match here since 2011.

23. Sloane Stephens is another popular sleeper pick, and with good reason, given she is the only women's player to reach the fourth round or better in the past six Slams.

24. But Stephens has incredulously flopped in non-major events and still does not have a single title to her name.

25. One player who does own a title (or 17) is Victoria Azarenka, who has played only two matches since the Aussie Open.

26. But Vika has fallen to the No. 8 seed, which, as it turns out, might not be such a bad thing, considering the top three players all lost before the third round in Paris.

27. And one of those players, No. 2 Li Na, seeks to slither her way past the quarterfinals in London for the first time.

28. Li will join the a healthy Kei Nishikori, who has a win over Federer this season, as Asia's biggest hopes here.

29. And for you Fed fanatics, the numbers reveal that seven different players have beaten him in the past seven majors.

30. But the good news is that Sergiy Stakhovsky, who waylaid Federer's chances a year ago, is in the opposite half of the draw as the Swiss.

31. The first seeded player Fed is scheduled to meet would be No. 30 Marcel Granollers in the third round.

32. And if things materialize the way they should (because that always happens), Federer would face Tommy Robredo, who knocked the 17-time Grand Slam champ out of the US Open last year, in Round 4.

33. But Robredo isn't exactly a grass-court stud, having never wended his way to the fourth round, so don't expect any kind of re-enactment.

34. Nor will we see a re-enactment of towering 6-foot-6 Juan Martin del Potro's magnificent run to the semis last year, since he is out with yet another wrist injury.

35. Speaking of tall players, American John Isner and his 6-10 frame will try to ace his way past the second round for, amazingly, the first time in six tries at the All England Club.

36. And Isner's chances, bad as they are, is the U.S. men's highest hope when you consider he is the only one (out of 10) in the top 50.

37. But the U.S. women, led by world No. 1 Serena Williams, have six players in the top 50 -- including No. 47 Madison Keys.

38. Oh, and coincidentally (or not), Keys just won her first career title, beating Angelique Kerber 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to win the Aegon Championships.

39. And though the future looks bright for Keys, it could be even brighter for the Bryan brothers, who aim for their 99th career title.

40. A phenomenal sibling feat, matched only by the Williams sisters, who have 24 singles Slams championships -- 10 here at Wimbledon.

41. Serena, at 32, would tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 majors if she is successful this fortnight.

42. Thirty-two might be old in the tennis world, but it should be pointed out that 18 of the past 21 Slam winners from the WTA have been 25 or older.

43. As a matter of fact, the last teenage winner was 19-year-old Maria Sharapova at the 2006 US Open.

44. But on these prestigious lawns, Sharapova has lost before the quarterfinals in six of her past seven tries, so there's that.

45. And the woman whom Sharapova beat in the French Open final, Simona Halep, hasn't fared any better, having never swarmed her way into the third round.

46. Halep, though, still factors to be a threat, unlike, say, former world No. 1 and still-Slam-less Caroline Wozniacki, who comes into Wimbledon with only one match win here since 2011.

47. But Woz hopes to undo her woes after spending quality time with her new bestie.

48. Unlike Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard says she really isn't interested in making friends on tour because she wants to focus on ... wait for it ... winning.

49. A good mindset, one that her Canadian counterpart Milos Raonic could probably procure, given he (and his massive built-for-grass game) has lost in the second round all three times he's played here.

50. Not a good effort, almost as bad as the American men, who sent 11 players to Wimbledon a year ago and all returned home before the third round.