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June 30, 2013

New names alongside Djokovic, Murray at Wimbledon

LONDON — Get ready for some unfamiliar names at Wimbledon.

With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal long gone, and Maria Sharapova out, too, after a havoc-filled Week 1 at the All England Club, Week 2 begins Monday with a schedule that includes participants such as Kenny de Schepper and Adrian Mannarino, Ivan Dodig and Jerzy Janowicz, Karin Knapp and Monica Puig.

None of that group has played in a fourth-round match at any Grand Slam tournament.

Members of the usual cast of characters are still around, of course, such as Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. None of that trio has dropped so much as a single set yet; all are expected to be around by next weekend.

Still, Djokovic likes the idea of some players getting a chance to introduce themselves to a wider audience.

"It's interesting ... to see new faces — for the crowd, for (the) tennis world, in general," said Djokovic, who might not feel quite the same way if he were among the 11 men and women seeded in the top 10 who no longer are playing.

Truth is, there hasn't been much variety of late at Grand Slam tournaments, especially at the very end: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 31 of the past 33 titles.

"It's good (to have) change, in a way, because it's always expected, obviously, from top players to reach the final stages of major events. When it doesn't happen, it's a big surprise," said the top-seeded Djokovic, whose six Grand Slam titles include Wimbledon in 2011. "It's a bit (of a) strange feeling not to have Federer or Nadal at the second week of a major. In the last 10 years, it was always one of them."

Over a shorter stretch, it's also always been Djokovic, who meets 35-year-old Tommy Haas on Monday. Djokovic has played in 16 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals — the longest active streak, now that Federer's 36-major run is done. At the past 10 Slams, Djokovic has reached the semifinals every time, picking up five trophies and three runner-up finishes.

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