When asked once which player he least liked to face in the early rounds of a Grand Slam, Andy Murray replied: “Ivo Karlovic.” Fortunately for him the big Croatian was in the other half of the draw at this Wimbledon and, anyway, got knocked out in the first round. Kevin Anderson, at 6ft 8ins and with a monster serve of his own, could probably double for Karlovic and represents the biggest threat so far to the defending champion’s progress.
Actually, the British No.1 has an excellent record against the game’s big servers – remember how effectively he drew the sting of Jerzy Janowicz in last year’s semi-final? The only big server he has a negative record against is Milos Raonic: one win against three defeats. However, he did lose – in straight sets – the last time he faced Anderson, in Montreal three years ago, so he will be affording the South African the utmost respect when they meet on Centre Court today.
Murray’s own serve has been even more profitable than Anderson’s at these Championships, but it’s his return of serve that could prove the key. It’s currently running at a very healthy 45 per cent on first serve points won, which is at least 11 per cent better than any of the other leading players. Also, his 19 games lost are the fewest of any player.
It’s going to take someone with a superb all-round game to stop him in his present form, someone like Grigor Dimitrov, who by coincidence could be his opponent in the quarter-finals. The Bulgarian’s performance at The Queen’s Club a fortnight ago, while full of its usual artistry, also revealed a keen competitive edge that many had hitherto not seen. He should have too much game for the claycourter Leonardo Mayer on No.1 Court.
When Novak Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the 2008 Australian Open, no-one was too sure which of these exciting talents would advance further in the game. In the following 12 months it seemed almost certain that the Frenchman would as he won four out of four meetings. Since then Tsonga has won just once in 13 matches and it would be a major surprise if their Centre Court contest bucked that trend.
However much the courts may have slowed since the serve-and-volley days of Pete Sampras, grass-court know-how is still crucial. It can be the only explanation for Jeremy Chardy’s progress here. It’s not beyond the winner of 2005 junior Wimbledon to reach the quarter-finals on Court 18, but in Marin Cilic he comes up against a man who is equally at home on grass. Due to the weather disruptions to Saturday’s programme the two fourth-round matches that never got started will be played today: Stan Wawrinka v Denis Istomin, on No.2 Court, and Feliciano Lopez v John Isner on No.3 Court.
Also, two of the Ladies’ Singles quarters have been brought forward a day. Alize Cornet (pictured left) comes quickly down from cloud nine after her win against the No.1 seed Serena Williams to open proceedings on Centre Court against Eugenie Bouchard while Maria Sharapova takes on Angelique Kerber on No.1 Court.
Mmes Navratilova, Mandlikova and Novotna are, of course, a hard act to follow but it must be mightily encouraging for the Czech Republic to have four players involved in the latter stages and they all play today. The country has not won the Fed Cup twice in the last three years for nothing. With Lucie Safarova and Tereza Smitkova playing one another on Court 18 they are guaranteed at least one player in the quarter-finals, but given Petra Kvitova’s record against Peng Shuai – 4-0 going into their No.2 Court match – one is tempted to say two. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova completes the fourprong Czech attack, against Caroline Wozniacki on Court 12 while Agnieszka Radwanska’s path to the semis is unlikely to be blocked by Ekaterina Makarova 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...
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