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Wimbledon: Day 6 preview

Jun 25, 2011

Here we are at the sharp end of the first week of the 125th Championships, more or less on schedule despite the nastiness hurled in the direction of this part of London by the weather over the past few days and with remarkably few casualties among the big names.

Andy Roddick has gone, sadly and surprisingly, beaten by a Spaniard he had never lost to in seven previous meetings. So has Li Na, the winner of the French Open women's title, skewered by one of the German girls who are suddenly resurgent. Germany spends years looking for another Steffi Graf and suddenly three come along together.

In addition to Sabine Lisicki, whose recovery from severe ankle problems to ousting Wimbledon's third seed is the stuff of fairy tales, there are Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic, all three rising in the rankings.

roger federerOn the men's side Europe is dominant, with France's and Spain's squads to the fore of players looking forward to a second week at the world's greatest tournament. And then, of course, there is Roger Federer, intent on another Wimbledon title. The fact that it would pull him level at seven with Pete Sampras is, he claims, an irrelevance. Nice to have if it happens, but not what he is working his socks off for this fortnight.

Another title, another chance to hold aloft the greatest trophy in the game, that's what Roger wants and he is in line to take another step towards that ambition with a third round match against David Nalbandian.

To say this pair are old adversaries is quite an understatement. It all kicked off nine years ago on the clay of Monte Carlo, with the Argentine winning for the loss of three games, and this will be their 19th confrontation in a series that Federer leads by 10-8. Nalbandian won the first five, Federer took eight of the next nine and they have split the last four. They have met at the US Open (twice), the Australian Open and the French Open but not, until now, at Wimbledon.

novak djokovicNovak Djokovic, Federer's "Big Four" partner in the lower half of the draw, will also be playing his third round and, like the Swiss, is not so much motoring along as flying. So it will be the turn of Marcos Baghdatis, the sort of bloke you would like to meet at a Happy Hour, to attempt to apply the brakes.

The omens are not good since the Serb has won all four of their clashes. Interestingly, though, they had a five-setter at Wimbledon four years ago and Novak squeaked through 7-5 in the fifth after three tie-break sets.

rafael nadalRafael Nadal, the third of the Four Musketeers, must try to finish his assignment on No.1 Court against Gilles Muller, postponed after one set because of rain. The break will not have come as a disappointment to Rafa, the defending champion, since he took a nasty tumble just before winning that set on a tie-break and had gone off court for treatment when the rain set in.

By that time, Muller, the man from Luxembourg ranked 92, had inflicted a good deal of grief on the world No.1. Perhaps it was the fact that, for a change, Rafa was facing a fellow left-hander but Muller rattled down 89% of his first serves on target, an incredible statistic. Our hero from Majorca will be the better for a nice night's rest before resuming hostilities.

robin soderling

Fifth seed Robin Soderling lurched through his first round match against Germany's Philipp Petzschner on a string of errors and then fell two sets behind against Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon Champion, before scrambling home in five and falling to his knees, either in relief or disbelief.

Saturday will be a day for revenge, since he now takes on another Australian, Bernard Tomic, who has survived the shot and shell and horrendous weather of the Roehampton qualifying week. So Bernard should be honed and toned against someone he has never even practised with, though he feels his best bet is to be more relaxed than he was in his five-set second round struggle against the Russian, Igor Andreev.

He has also spoken to Lleyton Hewitt's coach and general wise man of the courts, Tony Roche, and in that laconic Aussie way, Bernard says: "Tony gave me a few good advices on how to play him." Good on yer, Tony.

The Great Adventure of the sisters Williams, Venus and Serena, takes another step, with Serena, going for her fifth Wimbledon title, facing Maria Kirilenko of Russia. Three times previously they have met, and three times Serena has beaten her, so the recovery process for the younger Williams sister should inch forward.

In her last match Serena was required to take herself on to No.2 Court and had a bit of a chunter about it. Asked to comment on this, Maria Sharapova said she would be happy to play wherever she was sent. Just as well, since that is where she will be playing on Saturday.