For Andy Murray, Centre Court has become something of a home from home. The defending Gentlemen’s Singles champion has taken to the All England Club courts as naturally as his predecessor Tim Henman did, but with even greater success, losing just one match in 27 across two Championships and the London Olympics.
However, his opponent today in the third match on Centre, Roberto Bautista Agut, is not exactly uncomfortable on grass either, the Spaniard winning seven consecutive matches on the green stuff, including the title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch last week.
As an avid student of the game as well as a rather good exponent of it, Murray is well aware of his opponent’s attributes and may welcome a longer stay than he has had to date in order to deal with them. “He plays very flat,” he said. “Not much topspin. The grass courts suit his game pretty well. It will be a step up for sure.”
Novak Djokovic would no doubt welcome a step down after the fretful finale to his match on Wednesday, when Radek Stepanek refused to go quietly and in theory Gilles Simon, whom he has beaten convincingly in each of their last six meetings, should provide it when they open the day’s play on Centre Court.
Players never like to get too far ahead of themselves, but both Murray and Djokovic must have bigger things on their mind, quite literally so in the shape of two big hitters, Kevin Anderson and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, their probable fourth-round opponents. One might almost say that that is when The Championships start in earnest for both men.
Arguably, the most attractive match of the day on the men’s side could be that between two east Europeans on No.1 Court: the multi-talented Grigor Dimitrov, of Bulgaria, and the gifted Alexandr Dologopolov of the Ukraine. It could provide a rich consolation for the quarter-final that the pair didn’t play at The Queen’s Club a fortnight ago when the latter had to withdraw because of injury.
Even more finely balanced could be the match-up between Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic later on the same court. The Czech may be seeded twenty slots higher than Cilic at No.6, but the Croatian is arguably the better grass court player and that should even things up a bit.
Agnieszka Radwanska will doubtless be happy for the former Wimbledon champions Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams to share the limelight as they go toe-to-toe on Centre Court while she goes quietly about her business on No.2 Court. Incidentally, Kvitova, the No.6 seed, is one of the few players to have a winning record against the five-time Wimbledon champion that stretches back as far as 2008.
Radwanska is the antithesis of these two big hitters. She is often compared to Martina Hingis in terms of court craft and opponents invariably unravel before her. One recent victim, Silvia Soler-Espinosa, said she has the ability to make an opponent feel bad about their own game.
The Polish No.4 seed has been knocking on Wimbledon’s door for the last six years, during which she had made two quarters, a semi and a final. Could this be her year? Many may soon start to think so, but first she has to dispose of one of those bright young things, Michelle Larcher De Brito, who eliminated Maria Sharapova last year.
Generally speaking, the younger players appear to be up against it today, but one senses that 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, of Croatia, will not be short of support when she tackles the former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki on No.3 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...
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