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The Fifth Day: the daily preview

Roger Federer eyes his toss during his second round match against Fabio Fognini.
by Ronald Atkin
Thursday 28 June 2012

He is not even the No.1 in his own homeland (that honour belongs to Santiago Giraldo) but you can bet that sombreros are being raised back in Colombia to Alejandro Falla, the Destroyer of Marathon Men at The Championships 2012. Falla, No.73 in the world rankings, had not won a singles match at Wimbledon since 2007, but has now seen off both John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, whose names adorn a plaque on the wall of Court 18 following their 11-hour heroics here two years ago.

The left-handed Falla needed a total of 10 sets to accomplish this, so he has become a bit of a marathoner himself as Wimbledon moves into its fifth day. But rest assured that any aches and pains will be set aside as the 28-year-old from Bogota sets off for, of all places, Court 18 today to see if he can pull off another personal Wimbledon best by defeating Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan to progress to the fourth round.

Falla has yet to win a tournament in his 12-year professional career but is unusual for a South American in that he prefers hard courts to clay. And maybe he is learning to love grass a little bit, too, after what has happened this week. Istomin, the man who stands between Falla and further fame, is much higher in the rankings at No.39, equalling his career-best. The Moscow-born Uzbek is a bit of a recovery specialist in his own right, having suffered leg injuries in a car crash as a junior which required 80 stitches and kept him out of tennis for two years. Istomin is looking for a personal best of his own by getting to the third round, something no Uzbek has ever achieved at Wimbledon.

This clash will mark the third meeting between the two this year on three different surfaces. Falla won in Miami's first round on a hard court when Istomin retired after losing the opening set 6-1, but on clay in Nice Istomin was the victor in a three-setter of swinging fortunes, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-1. Should Falla prevail he will be only one more win away from facing Roger Federer. This, many folk will be surprised to hear, may give Roger food for contemplation, since in the first round of the 2010 Championships Falla took the first two sets off him and then served for the match at 5-4.

In the meantime Federer, very much the sensible sort who is only prepared to contemplate one match at a time as he goes in pursuit of what would be his seventh Wimbledon singles title, has the 29th-seeded Frenchman Julien Benneteau to take care of on Centre Court. The third-seeded Swiss has been motoring along as smoothly as he has ever done here so far, dropping just nine games in the first two rounds, but Benneteau, who won their last meeting at the Paris Masters in 2009, will be hoping to push the Wimbledon great.

A sharp indication of the changing face of tennis is the statistic that three Serbians will figure in today's Gentlemen's Singles third round. The top one, it goes without saying, is the defending champion and world No.1, Novak Djokovic, whose opponent is the experienced Czech Radek Stepanek. These two had one memorable five-setter at the 2007 US Open but on the whole Stepanek has come out at the wrong end of their meetings, losing six out of seven.

Djokovic's compatriots, the eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic and Victor Troicki, are challenged by a Russian and Argentinian respectively. Tipsarevic, who has made giant strides in the rankings, will play Mikhail Youzhny while Troicki will have the prospect of very probably facing Djokovic in the fourth round if he can defeat Juan Monaco.

Britain's Heather Watson will be hoping to take her crusade into the fourth round, though she faces a massive hurdle in the third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska. However, the one to watch in the Ladies' Singles today is that between Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters. This will be their 11th clash, Kim having won seven of the previous ones but she is unseeded here while Zvonareva, runner-up at the 2010 Championships, holds the 12th seeding. Having retired from tennis to raise a family, Clijsters decided on a comeback after taking part in an exhibition to mark the opening of the Centre Court roof in 2009, so it would be fitting if she could go on to add a Wimbledon title to her already impressive total of three US Opens and one Australian Open.


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20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...

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