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Upsets leave Wimbledon fans in need of a program

Thursday - 6/27/2013, 6:44pm  ET

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada serves to Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in a Women's second round singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

LONDON (AP) -- There's a 42-year-old who played Steffi Graf in the semifinals in the '90s. Name: Kimiko Date-Krumm.

There's the reigning Wimbledon champion -- in juniors -- who was supposed to be playing in a far corner of the All England Club and ended up on Centre Court. Name: Eugenie Bouchard.

There's the man who didn't get the memo: That serve-and-volley players, even on the grass at Wimbledon, can't post significant victories anymore in pro tennis. Name: Sergiy Stakhovsky.

There's an unassuming Spaniard who was actually ranked higher than Rafael Nadal but comes and goes with barely a whiff of notice. Name: David Ferrer.

Haven't heard of them? No worries. They'll be hard to avoid over the next week at Wimbledon, where so many of the players who show up at Centre Court and on the TV in your living room -- Rafa, Roger, Maria -- have already packed up and gone home.

"I have to say it's worst for Wimbledon, for history, because many big stars are out of the tournament," said sixth-seeded Li Na of China, whose 2011 French Open title makes her as good a candidate as anyone left at Wimbledon to push Serena Williams next week.

Wednesday was a wild one at the All England Club. Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova got booted. No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Marin Cilic and four others either quit during their match or didn't even take the court because of injuries.

Those departures, combined with Rafael Nadal's ouster on the first day, cleared so many big names out of the All England Club that a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic feels inevitable. On the women's side, Williams was the prohibitive favorite before the tournament began. By Thursday morning, her odds at the London sports books dropped from 4-11 to 1-4.

But there were four rounds to play and around 100 players to eliminate between the start of Thursday's play and the finals next weekend, meaning there were plenty of new faces to take note of between the present and what seems like the inevitable.

A good thing? Depends on who's asked.

"For this to happen once in a while, it brings a little different flavor," said the famed tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, who certainly sees no harm in an underdog having his day now and then. "But if it happened all the time, then TVs and sponsors would not pay for it."

Thursday's Centre Court schedule illustrated the problem. Without Nadal available, and with Williams taking her turn on Court 1, the featured players in the first two matches on the show court were fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radawanska and eighth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. Radawanska's is a name known only in tennis circles; she did, however, make the final at Wimbledon last year. Del Potro's claim to fame? He's the only player left in the men's draw to win a Grand Slam trophy who isn't named Djokovic or Murray. "Del Po," as they call him, won the U.S. Open in 2009.

"In this surface, all the players are difficult," said del Potro, who won his second-round match on the grass in straight sets Thursday. "If you have a good serve, you are focused in the special moments of the match, you can beat all the players."

Federer would second that. On Wednesday, with light fading on Centre Court, he took a time machine back to the '80s, facing an unabashed serve-and-volleyer in Stakhovsky, the 116th-ranked Ukrainian. It's the kind of tennis that used to win championships here -- see, "McEnroe, John" -- but as the game has changed, the effectiveness of the quick rush to the net has waned.

Before his upset against Federer, Stakhovsky was best known as the guy who brought his cellphone onto the court at the French Open and snapped a picture of a ball mark to protest a bad line call. Now, he has an even better defining moment.

"You're playing the guy and then you're playing his legend, which is following him because he won it seven times," Stakhovsky said. "When you're beating one, you still have the other one who is pressing you. You're saying, Am I about to beat him? Is it possible?"

Next, the question is: Can he beat Jurgen Melzer? That's the third-round matchup set for Friday in a now-Federerless section of the draw.

"We see some new faces and it's good for the sport," said Djokovic, who won his match Thursday in straight sets.

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