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The Fourth day: The daily preview

by Clive White
Thursday 27 June 2013

It's very doubtful that these Championships will come down to the survival of the fittest despite yesterday's withdrawals. Make no mistake, quality will ultimately be the deciding factor, just as it always has been. Grand Slam tennis, by its very nature, has always been more of a marathon than a sprint and ideally a potential champion needs to be both supremely fit and supremely talented. Someone like the world No.1 Novak Djokovic for example.

The Serbian spent the best part of two weeks on the beach, probably as much to get over the disappointment of his painful defeat in a classic semi-final in Paris against Rafael Nadal as to recharge his batteries. He certainly looked in the pink of health upon his return at the Boodles Invitation at Stoke Park last week, a view that was duly underlined by a ruthlessly efficient performance on his return to competitive action against Florian Mayer, of Germany, in the first round here on Monday.

On paper, the 2011 Wimbledon champion should make even shorter work of 30-year-old Bobby Reynolds (ranked 122 places below Mayer, never mind Djokovic) in the last match on Centre Court today. It could be that Djokovic has to wait until the fourth round and a potential match-up against the rejuvenated Tommy Haas - who surprisingly beat him in Miami in March - before he is properly tested. Reynolds's best-ever Grand Slam effort is likely to remain the third round of the 2008 Championships.

Serena Williams, the top seed in the ladies' singles, may still not need to move up a gear after her comfortable straight sets first-round defeat of the sunny Luxembourger Mandy Minella. However, her second-round opponent today is an interesting one: a 19-year-old French girl called Caroline Garcia.

The French are still waiting for her to really blossom and this could be just the right environment for her to do so; she thrives in the spotlight, which she did in Paris two years ago. Then just 17, she stormed into a 6-3, 4-1 lead against Maria Sharapova in a second-round match at the French Open before the Russian managed to pull it around. Britain's Andy Murray was moved to tweet at the time: "The girl Sharapova is playing is going to be No.1 in the world one day...what a player."

With the second seed Victoria Azarenka withdrawing yesterday through injury and the third seed Sharapova suffering a defeat of similar seismic proportions to that of Rafael Nadal on Monday, it's a puzzle to know who could be the greatest threat to Williams winning her sixth Wimbledon singles title.

It would be unfair - not to mention illogical - to suggest it could be the world No.38 ranked Laura Robson, but the soothsayer Virginia Wade has predicted that the British girl could do "something special" this fortnight. One could argue that she already has done so by knocking out the tenth seed Maria Kirilenko, but presumably Wade, the last British winner of a Wimbledon singles title 36 years ago, meant something even more significant.

Robson plays Mariana Duque-Marino, of Colombia, on No.2 Court for a place in the third round, which would still be one round short of her Grand Slam-best at last year's US Open. Although Robson sometimes has more problems with lesser-known players one suspects it will take more than the world No.117's "nasty little slice" - as Robson called it - to halt her progress.

Madison Keys, the 18-year-old American whom Martina Navratilova believes has at least as much potential as Robson, must have her heart set on a third-round match against the No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland. But her focus on Court 17 will be on the German Mona Barthel even if she did defeat her quite comfortably in Birmingham a fortnight ago.

The second quarter of the men's draw may have looked the weakest initially, but with the exception of Philipp Kohlschreiber, who retired, the seeds are all still standing. At 6ft 6ins there can never have been a more conspicuous dark horse than Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentine is first up on Centre Court against Canada's Jesse Levine and should have a trouble-free passage through to the third round where he is seeded to meet Bulgaria's man-of-the-moment Grigor Dimitrov.

The prospect of possibly more evenly matched encounters can be found on Court 16 where Spain's Feliciano Lopez faces the Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu (the head-to-head is 5-all) and Court 14 where an older Frenchman and still a fully paid up member of the fast disappearing serve-and-volley club, Michael Llodra plays No.23 seed Andreas Seppi, of Italy.

What with 31-year-old Tommy Robredo reaching the third round yesterday, the thirtysomethings look about to continue the revival party they started in Paris. The American James Blake - 33 like Llodra - will be looking to reach that stage of The Championships for the first time in six years against Australia's Bernard Tomic, 13 years his junior, while the 35-year-old Tommy Haas, who plays the considerably lower-ranked Jimmy Wang, of Taipei, will be desperately disappointed if he doesn't get an invitation to the party, too.

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  • Novak Djokovic leans into a forehand stroke.
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  • Novak Djokovic celebrates his straight set victory in the First Round.
  • Novak Djokovic displays a backhand shot on Centre Court.
  • Florian Mayer leans into a backhand shot.
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