Roger Federer’s fourth round pairing with Tommy Robredo, the man who beat him for the first time in 11 meetings at last year’s US Open revives memories of the old Vitas Gerulaitis story. Beaten on 16 consecutive occasions by Jimmy Connors, the man from Brooklyn finally managed to win a match against the American, whereupon he proudly proclaimed: “Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row!”
Robredo said that he never expected to beat Federer in New York but had hoped that his confidence had been shaken by a series of setbacks that summer, including, of course, his shock second-round defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon.
Federer has been much more like his old self at this year’s Championships, to the point where an eighth Wimbledon title no longer seems beyond the realms of possibility. As the 32-year-old said before the tournament began: “I feel like I’m a contender.”
Who knows, in the quarter-finals we might even get that match-up with his fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka that was a tantalising prospect at the climax of the Australian Open until Rafael Nadal played killjoy in his semi-final against Federer. The No.4 seed has yet to drop a set at these Championships and, thanks to his collaboration with Stefan Edberg, seems to be playing with greater freedom, as Robredo may discover to his cost on No.1 Court.
This time it may be Wawrinka who is unable to keep the appointment. His opponent on No.2 Court, Feliciano Lopez, is playing arguably the best tennis of his life, certainly on grass and their previous meetings have usually been close.
Most eyes, if not all, will again be on Nadal. Perhaps not this time because they suspect he might suffer a calamitous fall but because his opponent on Centre Court, 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios, ranked No.144 (but not for long), brings to the party the unexpected exuberance of youth. They have never met before.
An even closer match to call could be the one on No.3 Court between the big-hitting Milos Raonic and the increasingly impressive Kei Nishikori. It might surprise some people to learn that the Japanese holds a 2-0 advantage in their head-to-heads.
Ivan Ljubicic, the coach of Raonic, feels that his charge is underrated, but if the Canadian wants to change that conception of him he needs to start reaching the business-end of Grand Slams more often. A quarter-final at the French Open last month was a good start, but his compatriot Eugenie Bouchard is threatening to beat him to the semi-finals and become the first Canadian to go that far here.
Maria Sharapova (pictured below) could block her path just as she did in the semis at Roland Garros, although first the Russian must find a way past Angelique Kerber in their delayed fourth round match which opens on Centre Court. She has done that four times out of five but this will be their first meeting on grass.
Ominously for both Kerber and Bouchard, Sharapova’s stunning form at Roland Garros appears to have been carried over to Wimbledon. She has dropped just seven games so far, fewer than any other player, male or female.
It could be a real Roland Garros reprise all round because Sharapova may even have to get past Simona Halep again, in the semis, if she is to win the title. The Romanian No.3 seed opens on No.2 Court against Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, who also still have Yaroslava Shvedova in the competition. Shvedova plays Sabine Lisicki, last year’s runner-up on No.3 Court.
Petra Kvitova is in similarly impressive form to Sharapova, dropping just one set to Venus Williams so far, and should be too good for her fellow Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova on Centre Court. If successful, there could be another Czech waiting for the 2011 Wimbledon champion in the semi-finals, although the outcome of Lucie Safarova’s quarter-final against Ekaterina Makarova on No.1 Court is anyone’s guess.
Makarova scored a major upset by beating the No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets in the fourth round. What odds on an all-Russian final?
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