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The Fifth Day: the Daily preview

Andy Murray plays a backhand return.
by Clive White
Friday 28 June 2013

The third round of The Championships is traditionally the round in which the seeds finally get to grips with one another, but such has been their decimation here that only two of the eight gentlemen’s singles matches in the bottom half of the draw today are all-seeded affairs while only one of the eight in the ladies’ section is.

However, before No.2 seed Andy Murray can get on with what British fans at least see as his on-going appointment with destiny against Spain’s evergreen Tommy Robredo it’s a case of ladies first on Centre Court. Domestic expectations will be heightened all the more because Britain’s Laura Robson is due to open the proceedings against Mariana Duque-Marino, of Colombia, their match being one of eight in the singles events alone to be held over from yesterday because of the rain.

Complacency would seem to be the only obstacle in the way of Murray and a place in the fourth round. With Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and John Isner to name but four who have been removed from this half of the draw, it must be difficult for contenders like Murray not to look too far ahead. Robredo, however, is playing well enough to keep his mind fully focussed on the here and now.

 There is nothing more dangerous than a quality player with nothing to lose and the Spaniard has been giving every impression of being just that; after his win against France’s Nicolas Mahut in the second round he said he would be treating himself to “a great dinner with chocolate cake and ice cream because I deserve it.”

One would say that is the very least he deserves after the summer he has had, the highlight of which to date is a fifth quarter-final finish in Paris where three times he came from two sets down to win. Here at The Championships, the 31-year-old has been more economic, winning both his opening matches in straight sets. What he has most reason to be proud of is his ranking, which a year ago stood at No.475 due to injuries. At this rate he could go on as long as his favourite footballer, Barcelona’s 35-year-old Carles Puyol.

The head-to-head record between the two men is two wins apiece. Murray’s have been the more recent and in more prestigious events, in Indian Wells and Madrid, but still too long ago to have any bearing on the outcome here.

“He's a tough player, he fights right until the last point,” said Murray, who was yesterday practising with the young Briton Kyle Edmund at Aorangi Park. “When he's not injured, he's been in the top 20 in the world for a number of years.” Either the Russian Mikhail Youzhny or Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, who meet on No.1 Court, awaits the winner.

 A closer match, at least in terms of seedings, is the second match on Centre Court between No.15 seed Nicolas Almagro, of Spain, and the rising Polish star Jerzy Janowicz, seeded 24th. Janowicz sprang to prominence when he finished runner-up at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris last November, when he included Murray among his scalps.

 The winner will meet either Austria’s Jurgen Melzer or Roger Federer’s conqueror, Sergiy Stakhovsky. Melzer is showing signs of moving back into the kind of form that saw him rise to No.8 in the world a couple of years ago, but after the stunning serve-and-volley performance that brought 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer to his knees on Wednesday, it’s hard not to favour Stakhovsky on No.3 Court.

Dustin Brown, the German ranked No.189, will be carrying the flag for jobbing professional tennis players and camper van owners everywhere when he takes on Adrian Mannarino, the beneficiary of Isner’s retirement and his opponent on Court 14. He and Brown operate on the same Challenger circuit where the Frenchman leads 2-1 in their head-to-heads.

The 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova cannot have come into these Championships exactly brimful of confidence after an in-and-out year to date, but with every top seed that has been cast to the wind – Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki among them – the No.8 seed must feel more confident about reliving that dream of two years ago. She is up against former Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova of Russia on No.1 Court.

Michelle Larcher de Brito will be walking taller than her 5’5” against Italy’s Karin Knapp on Court 17 after her astonishingly good performance in eliminating No.3 seed Sharapova. If nothing else, it may have helped unburden the Portuguese girl of the extra baggage she has been carrying since the age of 16 when her potential was compared to that of Martina Hingis.

Like Murray and Robson, she cannot afford to look too far ahead, but may have inadvertently done so when she said: “I don't like to get ahead of myself. I don't like to think semi-finals.”

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