Four days into Wimbledon and what have we learned? The best players are still the best! Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic both showed today that they are playing confident tennis while Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray did their part yesterday.
Between the foursome, only Murray has lost a set – a sloppy opener to Daniel Gimeno-Traver – and other than that blip, no one has been tested or even broken a true sweat at Wimbledon.
So far so good for the top four men, but will things change?
Earlier today, Federer destroyed an overmatched Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. The win followed a good straight set first round performance over Mikhail Kukushkin. And Federer sounds like he happy where he’s at.
“I think the French Open was just proof that I’m in good shape and physically and mentally in a good place,” Federer said. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t win it, but I didn’t get pulled down by losing in the finals. I hope I can make a run here.”
Next up for the six-time Wimbledon champ is David Nalbandian in the third round. Federer has won 10 of 18 meetings with the talented and occasionally overweight Argentine, but this will be their first showdown since 2008.
“I’m looking forward to that match,” Federer said. “I think it’s a wonderful third round. I wish I could have had an easier one maybe, but I know the danger against him. He can prove his point. If he’s weaker or stronger than three years ago or eight years ago, we’ll find out. But I’ll be as well prepared as I can be and hope I can beat him.”
Nalbandian, who reached the Wimbledon final in 2008, has presented problems for Federer in the past, but I just don’t think he’ll be able to hurt Federer come Saturday. David just hasn’t been playing enough tennis to be at the level he needs to be at to beat Federer in a best-of-5 set match on grass.
As for the rest of Federer’s draw, I still don’t see anyone who’ll really worry the Swiss until the semifinals where he’ll likely run into Djokovic.
Speaking of the Serb, Novak seems to be back on track after Federer busted his glorious win streak at the French Open. Djokovic was dominant in both his matches this week and today he crushed a decent player in Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
“I’m really happy with the opening two rounds in Wimbledon,” said Djokovic. “Two straight-set wins. I cannot ask for more, definitely. And I’m physically feeling great on the court. I’m returning really well, which is important. Using more an efficiency of the serve and precision rather than going for the speed.”
Djokovic now gets Marcos Baghdatis who he beat a five tough sets a few years ago on the lawn. This time it should be much easier. And Novak’s biggest threat in his quarter, fifth-seeded Robin Soderling, nearly crashed out this morning to Lleyton Hewitt.
Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon winner, had Soderling locked up 2-0 in sets, but the Swede came back to snatch the win. Credit to both guys. Somehow, despite his age and all his ailments, Hewitt showed again that on grass he still can leave a mark.
And for Soderling, maybe this will give him some extra juice to take his game to another level on the grass. We’ll see.
Both Novak and Soderling have favorable draws out to a quarterfinal clash.
Staying in the Federer-Djokovic half, I like the effort from the young guns Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov. In a tough four-set loss to JW Tsonga today, Dimitrov showed why he’s got the “Baby Federer” moniker. The 20-year-old Bulgarian not only plays like Federer but on occasion can hit some spectacular shots a la his Swiss idol.
Dimitrov’s got a good a good, all-around game that should pay off nicely into a lot of titles down the road.
The same can also be said for Harrison and Tomic who both had their second round matches suspended. A feisty and fiery Harrison was up 2-1 in sets but down 2-4 in the fourth set against David Ferrer when play was stopped. Ferrer is more noted for his clay and hard skills, but credit to the 19-year-old Harrison for playing well enough to lead. With the sleepover I give the more experienced Ferrer a slight edge tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Tomic is down 2-1 in sets to Igor Andreev. It’s a longshot, but I’d like to see Tomic pull that one out and go up against Soderling. I doubt it happens, though.
Looking at tomorrow, Rafael Nadal got a little bit of a breather not having to face Milos Raonic who unfortunately retired after injuring his right hip in a nasty first round spill. Still, Gilles Muller is no slouch. The veteran beat Nadal at Wimbledon in 2005 and with his huge lefty serve he has a knack for pulling off the upset in Slams.
That said, Nadal is still my pick to win the title. I know Juan Martin Del Potro, who won today, and Tomas Berdych are lurking in his section and Murray may get out to that semifinal, but I like Rafa. Nadal will be put to the test by Muller and that serve, so after two easy round the tournament really begins for Nadal tomorrow.
As for the Andys, Murray and Roddick, it’s looking likely they’ll meet in the quarters. Thus far against sub-par opposition, both have looked great.
Murray will now have to get through Ivan Ljubicic tomorrow and then he’ll have a danger match against Richard Gasquet.
Roddick, who has been serving incredibly well, has a tricky one tomorrow against Feliciano Lopez. Lopez had a break lead on Roddick at Queen’s two weeks ago, but in a best-of-5 format I don’t think F-Lo mentally can knock out Roddick. Still, it should be a tight match.
Roddick could then meet my man Gael Monfils whose defensive playing style doesn’t seem cut out for success on the green stuff.
Also tomorrow, in two of the better matches on the day, I think Gilles Simon has the game to surprise Del Potro and Robin Haase could carve up Mardy Fish.
Looking at the women’s draw, I didn’t make a pick initially but after two rounds I think Maria Sharapova is the clear favorite. Serena, who won today in three sets, just doesn’t seem to be anywhere near her best. And I’m not sure if she’ll even been in the tournament Tuesday.
Venus is playing a little bit better, but I don’t think she’s going to make the semifinals either.
Right now it’s a Sharapova vs. Petra Kvitova final as I see it. I think Maria beats Sabine Lisicki in the semifinals and Kvitova knocks out Hantuchova in the other. Liscki, who can really serve huge, just upset the French Open champion, Li Na, today.
And since the weather has been such a story, it’s worth mentioning that the forecast is much-improved the next few days.
ESPN2 continues their coverage Friday as NBC weaves its way in on Saturday.
FRIDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 13:00 Start Time
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) v. Andy Roddick (USA)
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v. Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Andy Murray (GBR) v. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)
No. 1 Court 13:00 Start Time
Laura Robson (GBR) v. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP) v. Venus Williams (USA)
Rafael Nadal (ESP) v. Gilles Muller (LUX)
No. 2 Court 12:00 Start Time
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v. Virginie Razzano (FRA)
David Ferrer (ESP) v. Ryan Harrison (USA) To Finish 6-7(6) 6-1 4-6 4-2
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) v. Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) v. Gilles Simon (FRA)
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