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Why Venus Williams and the U.S. women could rule Wimbledon

We might see John Isner hit 50 or more aces in a match at Wimbledon this year. We could see Donald Young slash and carve his way to one of the periodic upsets he pulls. Even Steve Johnson might ride into the second week of the tournament on a wave of emotion.

But the chances of an American man winning the tournament, or even surviving deep into the second week of play? Slim to none. The furthest any current U.S. player has gone into a Wimbledon draw was Johnson's fourth-round appearance last year.

It's a different story when you're talking about the women. There will be about a dozen U.S. players who are direct entries into the singles tournament -- and perhaps a few qualifiers.

Here's a look at five American women who have the best chance to survive and succeed deep into the Wimbledon draw:

No. 11 Venus Williams
Best result: five-time champion
Career at Wimbledon: 81-14

"I'll just say this," ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert said in a recent conference call. "Venus has won matches wearing more tape than I've ever seen on a player."

It was a jest, but it contained a powerful truth.

Williams is 37 years old and oft-injured. And she deals daily with Sjogren's syndrome, a condition that robs people of stamina and causes joint pain. But in a world without sister Serena, Venus still towers as a top contender at Wimbledon. It's underscored by her record this year.

Williams is 20-7 since Jan. 1, with one Grand Slam final under her belt; she lost to Serena in the Australian Open finale. The most encouraging sign is that she's been consistent and has won multiple matches at all but one tournament that she's entered since the beginning of the U.S. winter hard-court swing. Venus even won three matches on the slow red clay of Roland Garros before losing to eventual semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky.

If her blazing serve is up to the job and she can avoid having an inexplicable bad day (always a hazard for any player over 30), Venus could add to the lore and legend of the Williams family by winning her sixth singles title at the All England Club.

No. 18 Madison Keys
Best result: 2015 quarterfinalist
Career at Wimbledon: 12-5

Keys has been on the short list of young players destined to win a Grand Slam event for some years now. She's just 22 years old, but if you consider 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko's impressive win at the French Open, it's a warning sign for Keys: Time waits for no man, woman or WTA pro.

It isn't like Keys lost her way. She finished last year ranked No. 8, a 10-place jump from the end of 2015. She's been a Grand Slam semifinalist (Australian Open), but she's also prone to falling out of sync and taking puzzling losses.

She's also had injury problems. Keys missed the Australian Open this year because of surgery on her right wrist, an injury that appeared to bother her during a second-round loss at the French Open. She hasn't played since, but her serve and jackhammer groundstrokes are major weapons on grass.

"I still think she's definitely going to win a Grand Slam," ESPN analyst and three-time Wimbledon champion Chris Evert said before the French Open began. "Whether it's this year or next year. I think it's in the cards for her, and we all know the potential is there."

No. 25 Coco Vandeweghe
Best result: 2015 quarterfinalist
Career at Wimbledon: 11-6

A late bloomer at 25, Vandeweghe stands 6-foot-1, and her brash personality is even larger. She has a big game to match, starting with her serve. Vandeweghe has a tendency to come out flat or lose focus and play sloppy, slam-bang tennis. But her talent was obvious when she upset No. 6 seed Lucie Safarova in the fourth round in 2015 and played Maria Sharapova close in the quarters.

Vandeweghe parted with her coach Craig Kardon shortly after she lost in the first round of the French Open, declaring the split a "huge surprise." Vandeweghe is a very talented but highly volatile player.

Pat Cash signed on recently as Vandeweghe's coach. A former Wimbledon champion with a similar personality, he could be a great asset in the coming weeks -- if the ankle Vandeweghe rolled in Birmingham heals well.

No. 328 Sloane Stephens
Best result: 2013 quarterfinals
Career at Wimbledon: 11-6

This is Stephens' first tournament after foot surgery that sidelined her starting in August 2016. Her last match win was at Wimbledon last year, and she'll be in the main draw with a protected ranking of No. 26. It's hard to know what to expect, because even at the best of times, Stephens has been a baffling player who would look like a potential Grand Slam champion one day and a journeywoman the next.

Presumably, the long hiatus has given her time to reflect on why she's been so prone to zoning out. All other things aside, Stephens is a gifted player who has a silken game. Her hands are soft, and she can move like a cat. The stress of match play on grass, which can't be duplicated in practice, will ask a lot of her repaired foot as well as the rest of her body.

No. 40 Catherine Bellis
Career at Wimbledon: 0-0

Just 18 years old, Bellis is already the fifth-highest-ranked American woman. Making her Wimbledon debut this year, Bellis has won at least one match at every tournament she's played since April.

She is just 5-foot-7, and in this age of WTA power servers and muscular baseline tennis, she almost qualifies as frail. It's unlikely that grass will be her best surface, but she is quick and has something that can't be taught: an innate desire for winning -- and an instinct for how to get it done.