No Angelique Kerber, no Caroline Wozniacki, no problem ... right?
LONDON -- Welcome to Wimbledon, the land of opportunity. Where through hard work, determination and the absence of a certain superstar, the Venus Rosewater Dish is any player's to win. And that is great for women's tennis.
At least, that's the storyline that has dominated the first four rounds of play here at All England, where players arrived fresh off a French Open won by first-time Grand Slam champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, and with a world No. 1, Angelique Kerber, who hadn't won a tournament since taking the top ranking from Serena Williams 34 weeks ago.
"A lot of people ask me if not having Serena is a big change," said Garbine Muguruza, who lost to Williams in the 2015 final and is one of only four Grand Slam winners still alive in this tournament. "Of course it's a big change. She's always in the final. A lot of players have more chances than before ... but everybody knows that. So we'll see who wants it more and who ends up earning the trophy."
More than parity, the first week at Wimbledon saw a top-to-bottom women's field play incredible tennis. "I think it's the best first week of tennis we've ever had," ESPN analyst Pam Shriver said. "Early matches like [Donna] Vekic-[Johanna] Konta in the first week, an unbelievable match, set the table for a ton of great matches."
It's a simple cause and effect: If a rising tide lifts all boats, and if one player's dominance has suppressed the tide's rise, then the entire tour should elevate in that force's absence. Right?
"The quality of tennis and the level of tennis has been incredibly high, probably higher than if Serena would have been here," three-time Wimbledon winner Chris Evert, an ESPN analyst at Wimbledon said. "Serena transcended tennis. She brought in fans from outside of tennis, and I don't think this field can do that. But the one that emerges is going to be better because of the depth that they emerged from. Serena's not going to be around, so somebody's got to get used to being No. 1."
There is no doubt the women's field is deep. But unlike the men's tour, it is suffering from a lack of star power and is virtually absent of rousing rivalries.
"Put it this way: I would rather see a great rivalry than a dominant player," Evert said. "And this is the only chance we're going to get new ones."
Shriver believes Victoria Azarenka-Simona Halep could emerge as the next great head-to-head, as could Kerber-Muguruza. "That should be a matchup that we say, 'Oh, I can remember a couple of great matches they've played in majors,'" Shriver said. "But going into today, they'd played once in the past five years."
That a Kerber-Muguruza matchup -- or Ostapenko versus fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, for that matter -- doesn't hold enough cachet to demand (or even suggest) a show-court scheduling on Manic Monday underlines the problem with parity in sports: Fans need to feel invested in a match. Equality is boring.
When Kerber lost to Muguruza on Monday, and with Azarenka's loss to Halep later in the day, only one top-five seed -- Halep -- remained in the draw. Heading into Tuesday's quarterfinals, it appears, as it has from the jump, to be anyone's game. Still, the initial question remains: Is all this parity good for tennis? Do sports fans really revel in believing it is possible to have equality at even the tippy top of a sport, or do they delight in marveling at outright dominance? Do they want to tune in for a quarterfinals match at Wimbledon believing it's anyone's to win -- or do they simply want to root for or against a dynasty?
"If you're a fan of the sport of tennis, you've had a great Wimbledon so far," Shriver said. "Because the tennis has been really good. When Serena dominates, I mean, we've seen that act a lot. But if you're a sports fan who only wants to tune in to watch the superstars, then you're missing Serena this week."