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Wide RightWimble-do's and Wimble-don't's

As the competitive fortnight at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club heads reluctantly into its final weekend, we would do well to catch our breath for a second and reflect on the whirlwind of tennis intrigue we have seen thus far.

On the women's side of the draw, we have seen Anna Kournikova publicly chastised by John McEnroe of all people after she lost her cool during the press conference after her habitual first-round exit. Beyond that we have seen groundless accusations of steroid abuse bandied about between players (usually directed by the losing player in the direction of the winner, it should be noted). And, as yet another Venus-Serena major final appears to be more and more of an inevitability, there has been the usual press ponderings of collusion between the Williams sisters in the event they should end up in the final together.

Meanwhile, on the men's side, we have seen something like 97% of the seeded players bow out by the quarterfinals, leaving tennis fans with a decimated field and leaving British tennis fans with the sense that they might actually bring home a winner this year.

So, in the interest of cooler heads prevailing, here then are a few Wimble-do's and Wimble-don't's for both the betting and non-betting man as the tournament goes through its final pairings.

DO bet on Anna Kournikova retaining her status as the women's tennis tour's reigning sexpot vixen, despite ongoing speculation as to whether she'll ever actually win a tourney and foolish talk about the impressive physical attributes of the batch of up-and-coming young tennis players from former Soviet-bloc countries. Slovak Daniela Hantuchova may have longer legs than Anna, but her face is definitely a stumbling point and besides, she's all but helpless against Serena as well. Even more importantly, last I checked Anna still had Daniela beat by a helluva lot more than a mile on the all-important internet download scale (overpowering the Slovak upstart by a score of something like 11,000 to 341 on Google Image Search hits alone).

DON'T bet on local favorite Tim Henman finally capturing a home-court title for the long-suffering British fans just because just about every other likely challenger has already lost under mysterious circumstances. By my reckoning, he's still going to have to get through the dreaded Lleyton Hewitt and a Richard Krajicek who's playing at or very near his 1996 championship form. Henman might get lucky and take one of those two, but there's no way in hell he'll get them both. Suffice it to say that Pat Cash has vowed to wear a dress on BBC television if Henman manages to pull it off, and as a former champion, he probably knows a thing or two about how things are likely to turn out.

DO bet on Venus going through her sister like a knife through butter in the inevitable Williams-on-Williams final. The elder sibling has lost something like 5 points in the past several weeks after all. Serena caught a bit of break in that she won't face Capriati in the semis, but she'll still not be in good enough form to top her over-achieving sister.

DON'T bet on the aging Sampras retiring just yet, notwithstanding statements to the contrary from the likes of former champions such as Boris Becker. Pete may in fact be finished in terms of competitive tennis at the very top level (indeed, some would point to his heart-breaking U.S. Open loss to Hewitt last year as the final straw that broke the champion's back), but a competitor of Sampras's caliber will not be willing to hang it up for good without giving it at least one more go.

DO, however, bet on Monica Seles finally hanging up her tennis dress with the thoroughly-stretched-out midriff section. She's finished and she knows it.

But whatever you do, DON'T come crying to me when you lose your nest-egg after placing some foolish bet based on the advice provided herein. Any wishy-washy nitwit who bets serious money on professional tennis deserves everything he gets.

Born and raised in Hamburg, James R. Miller is currently completing post-doctoral work at London School of Economics.

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