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joyful rogger fedder

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 3 Preview

Photo Titled Federer backhand
Federer backhand

Perhaps it is something to do with the weather, which obstinately appears set to remain fair for the moment, but the shock factor at the 123rd Championships has hardly registered on the Richter scale so far.

Here we are, about to embark on the second round of the singles, with the fields already cut by half to 64, and hardly a seed of any repute has been ground underfoot.

In Wednesday's programme, the lower half of the draw, just two men whose seeding merits bold type in this very programme's pages of detailed scores have been required to pack their bags: James Blake the US Davis Cup star and the 17th seed, and Feliciano Lopez, the Spanish left-hander, who will be teaming up on a social basis with his good pal Rafael Nadal a bit earlier than he had thought.

For the rest, the seeds march on. Roger Federer, who gave his game a workout and his new wardrobe an airing on Monday, hopes a repeat on both fronts will prove adequate as he takes on another Spanish Lopez, this one by the name of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, or Willi to his mates.

Willi won his first tour title on the clay of Kitzbuhel last month, in his seventh year as a pro and showed he is no slouch on grass either by going past a couple of rounds at Queen's Club a couple of weeks ago before colliding with Andy Murray.

All very commendable, to be sure, but he is now required to stare down the gun barrel of a five-time Wimbledon champion hell bent on boosting that total to six.

The last two times that has happened Willi did not come out of it too impressively, being granted just two games by Federer in their first match (Basle 2006) and five in the second (Indian Wells 2008).

But this 26-year-old from La Roda Alacete stands at 42 in the world rankings, and will therefore not be taken lightly, even by Federer. But it would still be a big shock if there was an upset.

Those who will fancy their chances of an upset remain a little further down the road at the moment, and have survival concerns of their own before they can start thinking about toppling the Grand Slam king.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the ninth seed, was stretched by Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan, in his first match and will be hoping for a less stressful time against Simone Bolelli, one of a small group of Italians who are working hard at restoring that nation's tennis fortunes to something approaching respectability.

Those fortunes should not prove enough of a hurdle to keep Tsonga away from a place in the last 32, and it is Andreas Seppi, the top-ranked Italian, who appears set on an easier path into the third round.

Having been the one who brought down Blake, he now tackles Marc Gicquel of France with every prospect of further progress.

Anyone who doubts that tennis players are growing taller, apparently by the minute, should take in this afternoon's Centre Court clash between Sam Querrey and Marin Cilic immediately following Federer's match. Querrey, a 6ft 6in Californian, will at least be able to look Croatia's Marin Cilic in the eye since they are the same height, though he may have to bow the knee in this one to a 20-year-old who is top seed in his homeland and is bidding to dwell in the same rarified air as his compatriots, Goran Ivanisevic and Mario Ancic.
Nobody, but nobody, looks that other Croatian, Ivo Karlovic, in the eye. Not unless they bring along a step ladder when being introduced to this 6ft 10in fellow.

Karlovic, who hits aces the way the rest of us swat flies, will doubtless bang down a bagful more against Belgian Steve Darcis, who might consider renting body armour for their match on Court 4.

Germany appears to be enjoying a post-Boris Becker revival, with four men from that country in action today, though it could be curtains for the lowest-ranked of them, Simon Greul, a qualifier, who has to match himself against the fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic in the opener on No. 1 Court. A happier outcome should surely await Tommy Haas, also on No.1 Court. The 24th seed, who learned his tennis skills at the Bollettieri academy in Florida, should see off Michael Llodra, thus helping to reduce the army of French hopes to more manageable proportions.

It is shriek time on Centre Court, where Maria Sharapova, a high decibel operator who had a lot of other folk shouting out loud when she won here in 2004 at the age of 17, takes on Gisela Dulko, Argentina's numero uno and lone hope in the women's event.

Sharapova, coming back warily after 10 months out because of an operation on her serving shoulder, says she has no expectations of doing particularly well this fortnight but today, surely, should have enough about her to do away with Dulko.

Serena Williams, who will tell anybody prepared to listen that she fancies her chances of a third Wimbledon title (and that if she doesn't manage it, sister Venus will) takes her thunderball style out to No.1 Court, with the opposition being provided by an Austrian, Jarmila Groth. At least, Serena will be pleased to note, she is not playing an "ova", of whom she says, she is fast losing track in the women's game. Join the club, Serena.

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