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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 5 Preview

Photo Titled Federer thanks the crowd
The French Open Champion Roger Federer acknowledges the crowd following his victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Centre Court.

We are down to the last 32 of the singles competitions at the 2009 Championships and the progress of the marquee names continues to be as serene as the weather. A changeable offering from the British climate is apparently on its way, so perhaps there will be a matching rumble or two of thunder, figuratively at least, before much longer out on court.

But for now the bottom half of the men's draw has lost just three of its 16 seeds, and although the equivalent women's section can count seven seeded casualties the only big name to be sent packing is Maria Sharapova, who, sadly, showed she has a long way to travel yet on the recovery road from her shoulder operation.

Let's look first, for a change, at the ladies. Here the two biggest howitzers, the Williams sisters, are so confident of making it through all the way to the end of the second week that they have opted to play doubles together as a method of avoiding losing their edge, and perhaps to counter a risk of nodding off, between singles outings.

It is Serena who parades for our delectation today, opening proceedings on No.2 Court, Wimbledon's new showpiece setting down among the hospitality tents towards the bottom edge of the All England Club's acreage.

Here the second-seeded Serena, having conceded just nine games in two rounds, will not be expecting that total to be upped significantly against Roberta Vinci, unless she is unnerved by the stuffed orange dinosaur, a gift from her brother, that the 26-year-old Italian makes a habit of taking on court with her.

These two have not met before, so there is no form guide available, Vinci's ranking of 53 indicates she might face a rough time out there. But, since she describes herself in the player guide as "nice, clever, polite", the expected dismissal from this tournament, where she is competing for only the fourth time, will probably be accepted with a smile by both Roberta and the dinosaur.

It has been six years now since Serena won the second of her Wimbledon titles, during which time sister Venus has nipped in to help herself to the honours on three occasions, so any extra edge and venom to Serena's play is readily explained. Further, she considers that this will be her year, and keeps saying so. We shall see about that in due course, but in the meantime she is a walking warning to the opposition, always provided the many taped areas of her body continue to operate on demand.

Sharapova's conqueror, Gisela Dulko of Argentina, must now show another Russian, the 10th-seeded Nadia Petrova, how she sent Sharapova to the exit. This pair have shared the results in their four previous matches, with Petrova having come out top in the last two.

Nadia Petrova is in pretty mean form, having dropped seven games only in her first two matches

So it seems that to progress further than she has done before at Wimbledon, Gisela must ignore the title of what she says is her favourite movie, Good Will Hunting, and go for some mean-spirited hitting. But she will need no telling that Petrova is in pretty mean form, too, having dropped seven games only in her first two matches.

Roger Federer is back on Centre Court, the stretch of turf that rates as his cathedral, with the opposition being provided on this occasion by Germany, in the shape of Philipp Eberhard Hermann Kohlschreiber to give him his full name.

This 25-year-old's steadiness (he is seeded here at 27) has helped to underpin the upswing in his country's fortunes following the inevitable dip in the wake of Boris Becker's departure from the scene. There seems no way, however, that he can induce a stumble in Federer's sure progress towards the end of the second week. Roger has already seen him off three times without dropping a set, and two of those wins came on the grass of Halle in Kohlschreiber's homeland.

Next up in the event of the expected Federer victory could be Robin Soderling, the man who lost conclusively to him in the French Open final earlier this month after terminating Rafael Nadal's four-year run of success at Roland Garros.

Soderling is the Andy Murray of Sweden, the only really decent player in a land that not so long ago was rolling out brilliance in the men's game as a matter of course. Another tilt at Federer could be on the cards for him provided he can put away one of Spain's multiple clay court specialists, Nicolas Almagro. After that French final, it is a prospect Federer will welcome.

Two Croatians are in action. Ivo Karlovic, the man mountain whose tennis centres on aces and tiebreaks, will need to ensure smooth functioning of that service delivery to fight off the eager ninth seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, with the victor guaranteed a fourth round against a Spaniard, either the seventh seed, Fernando Verdasco, or, less likely, Albert Montanes.

As a result of the spectacular collision with a ball girl and the umpire's chair that ended Michael Llodra's Wimbledon on Wednesday, Tommy Haas got this far having hardly broken sweat. So he will have watched with thinly-disguised glee as this afternoon's opponent, Croatia's Marin Cilic, laboured through five draining sets in his own second round match.

If there is such a word as bouncebackability the sprightly Cilic has it, but the odds are that he will be a little sore. If he is also a little slower than usual, it could be curtains.

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