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Day Five Pick 'Em

Novak Djokovic stretches out to get to a backhand.
by Courtney Nguyen
Friday 29 June 2012

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Radek Stepanek (CZE) [28]: Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a post-Rosol world, where no seeds are safe, every journeyman player is a threat, and the next earth-shattering upset around the next corner. Upsets like Rosol's tend to shake up the locker-room and top seeds can begin to get tight knowing that this mojo is floating in the air. It's up to the top men to shut down any further talk of an early tumble by taking care of business quickly and routinely. Stepanek has a tricky game and always the showman, he will relish his time on Centre Court. On any other day I woudn't even entertain the idea of a Steps stunner, but he is Czech....

Pick: Djokovic in three sets.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [3] vs. Heather Watson (GBR): When she's playing well, Radwanska is one of the most enjoyable players to watch. While most women have built their success around power, A-Rad is the throwback. She slices, she dices, she chips, and she charges and she puts her opponents off by building points as though she's playing chess against Deep Blue. That will be the challenge for Heather who, if she's not careful, could find herself suddenly yanked around the court.

Pick: Radwanska in two sets.

Did you know... a win hear by Hev would make her the No.1-ranked British woman.

Roger Federer (SUI) [3] vs. Julien Benneteau (FRA) [29]: How's this for an attempt to foreshadow an upset: in their last meeting, the Frenchman actually beat Federer in three sets at the Paris Masters in 2009. Granted, that was three years ago and the match was played in France on an indoor hard court, but... hey, I'm trying here. With Nadal's exit, Federer is assured of ascending to the No.2 ranking after the Championships, and if he wins the title he will move ahead to No.1, which would tie him with Pete Sampras for the all-time record for most weeks at the top spot. In other words, there's a lot riding on the Championships for Federer, and with Nadal out of the tournament, his prospects are looking even brighter.

Pick: Federer in three sets.

Vera Zvonareva (RUS) [12] vs. Kim Clijsters (BEL): Could this be Kim's last match at Wimbledon? It shouldn't be. Zvonareva, a former world No.2 and 2010 Wimbledon finalist, has been hampered by injuries as of late, though she's done well to battle through the first two rounds.

Pick: Clijsters in two sets.

Christina McHale (USA) [28] vs. Angelique Kerber (GER) [8]: The young American has a penchant for pulling off a big upset every now and then, and though she hasn't posted the best results on grass in her short career, it's clear her comfort level is on the rise. She beat Caroline Wozniacki last week in Eastbourne and seems to have learnt how to amp up her aggression to take advantage of the speed of the courts. As for Kerber, she's still my darkhorse pick for the final, even if grass is her least favorite surface.

Pick: Kerber in three sets.

Did you know... last year, Angelique Kerber lost to Laura Robson in the first round of the Championships.

Five more to watch (they may not be big names, but they're matched up well to provide some good tennis):

Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Sabine Lisicki (GER) [12]: In lieu of a tennis match, might I suggest these two have a smile-off? Their unguarded grins can light up a room.

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) [26] vs. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) [8]: At Roland Garros, Youzhny played so poorly against David Ferrer that he wrote the word "SORRI" into the clay. What will he carve into the grass this time?

Nicolas Almagro (ESP) [12] vs. Richard Gasquet (FRA) [18]: Do you like one-handed backhands? Then here you go.

Sorana Cirstea (ROU) vs. Maria Kirilenko (RUS) [17]: There will be photographers here. Just giving you a head's up.

Max Mirnyi (BLR) & Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs. Robert Lindstedt (SWE) & Sofia Arvidsson (SWE): Here's an Olympic preview match. Keep your eye on Mirnyi-Azarenka. They'll be medal contenders in a few week's time.


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