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The Fourth Day: Wimbledon 2014 Daily Preview

by Clive White
Wednesday 25 June 2014

There will be a collective, sharp intake of breath on Centre Court from Rafael Nadal fans as he starts his match today against Lukas Rosol, the man who sent him tumbling out of The Championships at the same second round stage of the competition two years ago.

The Spaniard, of course, is the last person to ever make excuses for a defeat, but there were extenuating circumstances on that occasion, which became obvious when he did not hit another tennis ball for more than seven months due to knee problems.

Injured or not, Nadal would freely admit that like a lot of players he is vulnerable in the opening two rounds at Wimbledon when the ball bounces low and skids through on the lush grass and his aching body is still in the throes of making that awkward transition from clay to grass. Blame it on Nadal’s nine French Open titles.

Next year it will be made easier for those who go deep into the French Open by an extra week’s gap between that particular Grand Slam and The Championships, but the No.2 seed has to come to terms with the problem now. Never one to sugar-coat a problem, he said quite simply this week of his Czech opponent: “He’s an aggressive player. Will be a tough match again.”

His old nemesis Roger Federer may also be experiencing a nasty feeling of déjà vu later on Centre Court after exiting the competition at this stage last year. However, his 3-0 lead in head-to-heads, not to mention 7-0 in sets, against Gilles Muller ought to ensure that it is the Luxembourgian who is left feeling a little queasy.

The pressure, of course, is always on a seed until he settles into a match. One imagines that the former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, now in the twilight of his career, rather enjoys his role as the hunter rather than the hunted these days and will no doubt take great pleasure in playing David to Jerzy Janowicz’s Goliath on No.2 Court.

It would go some way towards easing the pain of 2003 when he became Wimbledon’s only men's singles No.1 seed to lose in the first round in the Open Era, when another giant Ivo Karlovic served him off the court.

First up on No.2 Court will be Hewitt’s young Australian colleague Nick Kyrgios, who will not be without a chance against the No.13 seed Richard Gasquet, providing he replicates the 58 winners he hit against another Frenchman, Stephane Robert, in the first round, rather than his form in a straight sets defeat to Gasquet in a Davis Cup rubber in January.

It’s hard to see any danger to the top three ladies’ seeds playing today – Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova, but over on No.3 Court Ana Ivanovic, the No.11 seed, is at risk against Zheng Jie. The former Wimbledon semi-finalist, who won the doubles title here in 2006 with Yan Zi, beat enough decent players at s’-Hertogenbosch last week to suggest that she has got her grass-court game working nicely.

Many fans will be wanting Serena to beat the South African Chanelle Scheepers on No.1 Court to keep alive hopes of a fourth-round match-up against the exciting Eugenie Bouchard, if not a mouth-watering quarter-final against Sharapova. The Russian plays Timea Bacsinszky, of Switzerland, later on the same court.

Heather Watson must hope that the Centre Court crowd can carry her into the second week of The Championships, which is her goal. It’s just a pity that she has had the misfortune to run into someone as good and as in-form as ninth seed Angelique Kerber, who is capable of replicating the achievement of her fellow countrywoman Sabine Lisicki last year by reaching the final.

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