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The Seventh Day: the daily preview

The sun sets on Centre Court.
by Ronald Atkin
Saturday 30 June 2012

This is the day reckoned by many to be the best of The Championships, when the fourth round of both the Gentlemen's and Ladies' Singles are played, ensuring 16 matches of high quality spread around the courts of the All England Club. And what names to conjure with! Djokovic and Federer, Sharapova and Serena, and our own Andy Murray after his late, late victory on Saturday under the Centre Court roof.

There will be lesser names, too, names like Camila Giorgi, the qualifier from Italy, Yaroslava Shvedova, the wild card from Kazakhstan, and Brian Baker, the American whose tale of spectacular recovery from a dispiriting series of operations is one of the most heart-warming in tennis.

Let's start with the ladies. Of the six leading seeds only the fifth, Sam Stosur, has departed, so the prospect is of rousing stuff a little further down the road. In the meantime, there is the unusual sight of three Italians, Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci and the qualifier Giorgi, providing the biggest number in the last 16, followed by Russia and Germany with two each.

One of the Russians, albeit someone who has been based in the United States from the age of seven, is the top seed and world No.1, Maria Sharapova. She takes on one of the Germans, Sabine Lisicki, who is also American-based, with the comforting statistic that all three previous meetings between the two have gone Sharapova's way, including the Wimbledon semi-final of last year and the fourth round of this year's Australian Open.

Germany's other survivor, Angelique Kerber, has just as forbidding an assignment. The fact that she faces an unseeded opponent is of little consolation since the face across the net will be that of Kim Clijsters, winner of four Grand Slam singles titles and restored to the tour after a comeback from retirement which has been hampered by injuries. It should be a fascinating match.

Serena Williams, the lone American survivor in the Ladies' event, should march with confidence into her match with Shvedova providing she can keep down the unforced errors, while the defending champion, Petra Kvitova, running into top form at the right time, faces Schiavone. The battle between Victoria Azarenka and Ana Ivanovic will be nicely posed if the records are anything to go by. Both have won one Grand Slam and they stand at 2-2 in head to heads. Azarenka is the form girl here, though, having won Australia in January and embarked on a run of 26 straight wins which lifted her to the top of the rankings for 19 weeks.

In the Gentlemen's fourth round there is a "home" touch for the champion, Novak Djokovic, who faces a fellow Serb, Victor Troicki, for a place in the quarter-finals. As might be expected, these two are not only old friends but long-standing rivals, a rivalry in which Troicki won their first professional contest five years ago but lost the next 11. There is a similarly one-sided story when it comes to the third-seeded Roger Federer's match against Xavier Malisse of Belgium. Malisse won their first encounter (Davis Cup 1999) but has not had much of a look-in since, losing nine straight.

Perhaps the two most intriguing of the fourth round matches involves Americans who have overcome medical problems. Mardy Fish, the tenth seed, is playing his first tournament here since treatment for an irregular heartbeat in May after having enjoyed his best-ever professional year in 2011. Fish is into the round of 16 for only the second time in ten Wimbledon appearances but has a decent grass court record elsewhere, having won the Newport event and finishing runner-up at Nottingham three times.

Just how much that sort of experience will count today will be severely tested against the fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the bounding Frenchman who was a semi-finalist here last summer and who is confident of carrying his exuberant game as far as next Sunday's final since he has yet to drop his serve in three rounds.

After five operations for hip, elbow and hernia injuries, Brian Baker, a former junior world No.2, returned unranked in July last year. So wonderfully has he progressed that he will leave Wimbledon certain of being well inside the top 100, perhaps even towards the top 50 if he can add Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber to his growing list of victims.

As for Murray, his opponent is Marin Cilic, who won the second-longest gentlemen’s singles’ match in Wimbledon history to reach the round of 16, defeating Sam Querrey 17-15 in the fifth set.

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