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Qualifying begins: 26 June

The Draw: 30 June

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Order of Play: 2 July

Championships begin: 3 July


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Wednesday, 5 July 2017 22:14 PM BST
The Preview: Day 4
Tougher tests lie in wait for Federer and Djokovic, while Pliskova is closing in on a tour-best 300 aces READ MORE

It was a weird introduction to their Wimbledon campaigns for both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on Tuesday when no sooner did they appear to be getting into their stride than their respective opponents ended up having to hobble off into the sunset.

The old masters both seemed so nonplussed about their truncated day’s work that they even joked about the idea of playing a practice set together, the most novel idea to cheer up Centre Court denizens since Cliff Richard and his Navratilovettes sang Summer Holiday in the pouring rain.

So, anyway, let’s start again, shall we? The two great champions, with 10 titles between them, are primed for more substantial workouts on Thursday. Federer is up against one of Djokovic’s Serbian compatriots Dusan “Dutzee” Lajovic back on Centre while Djokovic tackles 22-year-old Czech Adam Pavlasek on No.1 Court.

Exactly how substantial may, in the case of world No.136 Pavlasek, depend on how starstruck he feels, staring across the net at the man he describes as his tennis hero.

World No.79 Lajovic, actually a great friend of Djokovic, owns an intriguingly themed coffee shop in Belgrade where you can apparently enjoy an espresso and a bagel while imagining you’re an inventor in a minimalist laboratory, surrounded by test tubes.

Alas, the likelihood that he’s invented some magical concoction there to knock Federer off his regal perch seems unlikely. After all, how do you stop a man who just notched up his 10,000th career ace during his brief sojourn against Alexandr Dolgopolov?

I’m only the underdog on paper

- Kyle Edmund

After one magnificent server comes another. No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova needs to fire down just five more aces against Magdalena Rybarikova on Centre Court to make it a tour-best 300 for the season.

Fresh from her emphatic triumph at Eastbourne, Pliskova really does look as if she could emulate the double that Jana Novotna, the last Czech winner before her at the seaside tournament, achieved in 1998. Yet she knows the in-form Slovak Rybarikova, who’s made a really striking comeback after surgery to her wrist and knee, will be the toughest obstacle she’s faced in the early stages of any Grand Slam.

Rybarikova, who won Challenger titles in Surbiton and Ilkley and reached the semi-final of Nottingham, has won 14 of her 15 matches on grass this summer. “She can play a lot of slices, dropshots, serving well, also good at the net. Expecting a tough match,” muses Pliskova.

Garbiñe Muguruza looks another potential winner, with her smile restored and a Wimbledon champion in her coaching corner. Finalist here two years ago, she’s felt a strange sense of release after losing her French Open title and she’s clearly enjoying having the 1994 winner Conchita Martinez at her side.

Not to be outdone, though, Muguruza’s opponent on No.3 Court, Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, has also called on some high-level coaching advice this week from Kim Clijsters.

The four-time Grand Slam champion Clijsters has, in the past, done a similar service for friend and former doubles partner, 31-year-old Kirsten Flipkens. ‘Flipper’ has all-court agility and a Wimbledon pedigree that saw her make the semis here in 2013, so may whiff a sensation on No.1 Court by toppling the fragile-looking No.1 seed Angelique Kerber.

All British eyes will be on Kyle Edmund, who faces a tall order first up on Centre Court against one of the sport’s great swooping and soaring entertainers, No.15 seed Gael Monfils. Edmund always seems refreshingly unfazed by reputations. “I’m only the underdog on paper,” growls our Yorkshire terrier.

We said a fond farewell to an old favourite as Tommy Haas played his last Wimbledon match at 39 on Monday but in the spirit of Wimbledon’s generation game, our quest for a glimpse of the future takes us to No.3 Court where exciting 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe takes on that wizened 20-year-old veteran Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev.

It hardly seems five minutes ago when we were lionising Grigor Dimitrov in the same way as the next big thing. At 26, he almost comes over as an elder statesman these days. His contest on No.2 Court against the lively Marcos Baghdatis - is he really 32? - just might be vibrant enough to make us all feel young.

Grigor tells us he was giving coaching lessons to Romeo Beckham, son of former England captain David, at the weekend and that “he sure showed a lot of potential”. Baby Fed mentoring Baby Becks? The future of British tennis is in gilded hands indeed.

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