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Big 4 men and wide-open women’s field get ready for Manic Monday and second week of Wimbledon

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Angelique Kerber, the No. 1-ranked woman in the world and the runner-up at Wimbledon last year, faces a tough test Monday against Garbine Muguruza.
(Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty Images)

Heading into the second week of Wimbledon, the tournament has rounded into a tale of mastery versus mystery.

The remaining men include the familiar foursome of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray. Someone from that group has won this storied tournament every year since 2003, and those four have lost just one set (by Murray) at Wimbledon this year.

The women’s field is far less predictable, especially with the two brightest stars reduced to spectator status. Seven-time Wimbledon winner Serena Williams is on pregnancy hiatus, and Russia’s Maria Sharapova pulled out of qualifying with a thigh injury, the latest hiccup in her sputtering return from a 15-month drug suspension.

Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova, both of the Czech Republic and would-be favorites this year, have already been eliminated. That makes the round of 16 for the women as muddled as the shifting skies over the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

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On tap is “Manic Monday,” arguably the most action-packed day on the tennis calendar, because every remaining player in the men’s and women’s bracket has a match.

Top-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany is the women’s favorite on paper, seeing as she’s ranked No. 1 in the world and made the Wimbledon finals last year (along with winning the Australian and U.S. Open). But she has yet to win a tournament this year, and faces stiff competition Monday from Garbine Muguruza of Spain. Muguruza was runner-up at Wimbledon in 2015, and won the French Open last year.

Venus Williams, 37, won Wimbledon five times between 2001-08 and advanced to the semifinals a year ago. She plays Croatia’s Ana Konjuh, who at 19 is the youngest player remaining in the draw.

“I guess when you walk on the court, I don’t think either of us is thinking about the age,” Williams said. “You’re thinking about, ‘How do I win?’”

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Some observers might wonder how Victoria Azarenka of Belarus has gotten this far this fast, considering she just had a baby six months ago. She plays second-seeded Simona Halep of Romania.

Azarenka was a top-10 player before going on maternity leave and dropping all the way to No. 683. She got into Wimbledon on a “special ranking,” which refers to her previous No. 6 standing.

“I don’t like to call it a comeback, because I feel like it’s just a new chapter in my life,” she said. “It’s kind of like a second career a little bit, and that’s how it feels to me. I feel like whatever happened in the past is really in the past, and I have those achievements and, you know, all those titles and stuff, but now it’s kind of I feel like a new me, in a way.”

Another match to watch is Coco Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe vs. Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki. Vandeweghe, niece of former UCLA and NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe, is an offensive powerhouse facing a defensive specialist who can get to virtually any shot. Wozniacki is the girlfriend of San Antonio Spurs forward David Lee, who is expected to be in attendance.

On the men’s side, the local hero is Murray, who won here last year and is looking to become the first British player to defend a Grand Slam event title since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray lost in the quarterfinals in his two previous attempts to defend a major, at the U.S. Open in 2013 and Wimbledon in 2014.

A complicating factor for Murray, who will play France’s Benoit Paire, is a hip injury that at times has left him hobbling. Murray’s health saga has so captivated Britain that The Sun, a London tabloid, recently published a shot of him and implored readers to rub the picture to send their good vibes.

Spain’s Nadal, who missed Wimbledon last year because of a wrist injury, is coming off his record 10th French Open title. He will face Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, a left-hander who has won two tournaments but would be a longshot to get past this round.

A more glaring mismatch is second-seeded Djokovic of Serbia against Adrian Mannarino of France. Mannarino is playing Wimbledon for the seventh time and is making his second appearance in the round of 16, with exits in the first or second rounds of the other five.

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Djokovic, who was upset in the third round last year by Californian Sam Querrey, a Thousand Oaks High graduate, isn’t taking the Frenchman lightly.

“He’s lefty, has a good slice serve,” Djokovic said of Mannarino. “Just very tricky game.”

Querrey, incidentally, is still standing and will play South Africa’s Kevin Anderson. Those two will be easy to spot, as Anderson is 6 feet 8 and Querrey is 6-6.

Canadian Milos Raonic, a finalist last year, will play German up-and-comer Alexander Zverev, 20, who has improved his finish in each of this three Wimbledon appearances. In May, Zverev stunned Djokovic in the Italian Open final.

“Hopefully I can take a little bit out of that match,” Zverev said, “but obviously this is a completely different surface and different circumstances.”

Switzerland’s Federer, who turns 36 next month, is the sentimental favorite and looking to become the oldest men’s champion in the modern era of Wimbledon. The late Arthur Ashe holds that distinction, winning in 1975 at age 31.

Federer plays Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, 26, a flashy shotmaker who has drawn favorable comparisons to the Swiss star. Clearly, Dimitrov has more work to do, as he’s 0-5 against Federer.

“Every time I play against him he’s stronger than the time before,” Federer said. “He’s in the perfect age right now where he starts to understand his game best.”

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer


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