By the end of the second round last year more Grand Slam champions than you could shake a racket at had departed The Championships, among them Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Is it any wonder then that even the sport’s smoothest movers never get ahead of themselves at the All England Club at this stage of the tournament.
Make no mistake, the banana skins have, as usual, been strategically placed, but no-one as yet has stepped upon any save for the likes of double digit seeds like Fernando Verdasco and Samantha Stosur. The order of play at the start of the second round today gives few clues as to which if any of the top seeds might fall by the wayside.
In the men’s draw, none of the opponents of Messrs Murray, Berdych, Ferrer, Dimitrov and Gulbis is ranked higher than No.86 while in the ladies’ draw Mmes Li, Kvitova and Azarenka appear to have similarly trouble-free passages through to the third round. Famous last words.
The day begins on Centre Court with former finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, who plays Casey Dellacqua, the highest ranked Australian in the ladies’ draw following Stosur’s departure. Radwanska was narrowly defeated by Sabine Lisicki in last year’s semi-final, and is many pundits’ pick to ruffle some feathers.
Over on No.1 Court, it’s doubtful whether the defending champion Murray needs any confidence boost today prior to facing the world No.92 Blaz Rola, judging by the way he disposed of David Goffin in the first round.
Not that tennis players, we are constantly being told, ever look beyond their next opponent, but Murray could be excused if he had noted with interest that he could be facing Jan Hernych in the third round. One of Murray’s first matches on Tour was against the Czech, at a tournament in Barcelona in 2005, when he was just 17. He lost in three sets to a man seven years his elder. He has waited a long time to have his revenge.
Elsewhere, on Court 12, the No.12 seed Ernests Gulbis, who had such a thrilling French Open, plays Federer’s conqueror last year, Sergiy Stakhovsky, of the Ukraine, while Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov face the present and potentially future hopes of Australian tennis, Bernard Tomic and Luke Saville, on No.1 Court and Centre Court, respectively.
A seed who could be more at risk, on Court 8, is another Ukraine, the enigmatic Alexandr Dolgopolov, who has a 1-2 losing record against the German Benjamin Becker that includes a loss on grass at The Queen’s Club last year.
Novak Djokovic meanwhile, the top seed, plays Radek Stepanek, the veteran who abruptly foreshortened Murray’s competitive grass-court preparations at Queen’s a fortnight ago. A comfortable win here for last year’s runner-up on Centre Court would signal a warning to Murray.
Even allowing for domestic preferences, the match between Britain’s Naomi Broady and the former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki on No.2 Court has to be among the pick of the ladies’ matches. The Dane knows nothing of her background, nor does she want to. Sharapova showed similar disinterest in her British opponent, Samantha Murray, yesterday. They are here simply to win.
Finally, two former Wimbledon champions, Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams, will keep their third-round date should they see off the challenge of Germany’s Mona Barthel and Japan’s Kurumi Nara, on No.1 Court and No.3 Court, respectively. Unlike these two, Li admits she is still improving on grass, but the No.2 seed will have no intention of providing a notable scalp for the experienced Austrian Yvonne Meusberger on No.2 Court.
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...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all