Unseeded Benoit Paire on Friday defeated Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-3.
Not the most exciting news, until you consider the explosive French up-and-comer next faces world No. 1 Andy Murray, who hasn’t exactly been lighting-up the Wimbledon lawns with confidence this week.
Murray for his part needed to come back and win the final five games against No. 28 seed Fabio Fognini to avoid a fifth set, eventually prevailing 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.
“The end of the match was tense,” said Murray, who had lost to Fognini in the first round this year at Rome, speaking to the BBC. “It was an up and down match. I didn’t feel like it was the best tennis at times but I managed to get through. It was getting dark towards the end and I was probably thinking a bit about that. We would have had to go off for the roof to go on, so that would have meant a change in conditions. I’m pleased to get off in four.”
The world No. 1 and Paire have met only one time, last year on clay at Monte Carlo where Murray needed to come from a set down for victory. That was clay, you say. Well, take a close look at the Wimbledon grass courts these days and you’ll see not a whole hell of a lot of difference.
Also into the round of 16 among Top 10 seeds Friday were No. 4 Rafael Nadal holding off a late surge from young Russian No. 30 seed Karen Khachanov 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(3), and No. 7 Marin Cilic likewise holding down No. 26 Steve Johnson in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-4.
“For a set and a half I was playing fantastic, then a little bit worse,” said Nadal. “But in general terms, it went very well and I’m very happy. At the beginning of the third set, I had my chances. I should have got the break. It didn’t happen. Then, I had two tough games on my serve. That’s it. I think I played well in the important moments…It is always better when the sun is out there. The conditions become a little bit more drier, and the court is more firm…I hope the weather continues like this.”
It won’t. Rain is in the forecast for Sunday, and Monday when Rafa plays next.
Other seeded winners were No. 18 Roberto Bautista Agut upsetting No. 9 Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3, and No. 16 Gilles Muller dropping 19 aces on Brit Aljaz Bedene 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-4.
Muller will next meet Nadal, on the likely slicker, wetted lawns.
“He’s one of the toughest opponents possible on this surface, especially,” said Nadal. “Probably this is his best surface, without a doubt. He has a great serve and a great volley. He plays well from the baseline here. He’s a tough, tough opponent. At the same time we are in the round of 16. You cannot expect to have an easy opponent.”
Bautista Agut, who won a grasscourt title during the 2014 season, is in the round of 16 for the second time after taking out Nishikori.
“I couldn’t maintain my level high enough to beat Bautista today,” said Nishikori. “I think he served well in every set…I had many chance, but I think he played well on the important points.”
Big-serving unseeded South African Kevin Anderson was another winner, defeating Belgian Ruben Bemelmans 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(3).
Failing to finish before the darkness set in were Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Sam Querrey. When they resume, Tsonga will be serving in the fifth set at 2-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1, 5-6.
Matches to look for on Saturday at Wimbledon are (2) Novak Djokovic vs. Ernests Gulbis, (3) Roger Federer vs. (27) Mischa Zverev, (10) Alexander Zverev vs. the surprising Austrian Sebastian Ofner, (13) Grigor Dimitro vs. Dudi Sela, and (11) Tomas Berdych vs. Davis Ferrer.
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