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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tandon's Wimbledon live blog -- Day 4

By Kamakshi Tandon
Special to ESPN.com

Need the inside scoop on all the latest news, results and gossip during the 2009 Wimbledon Championships? Our fearless blogger Kamakshi Tandon is on hand to fill you in on all the happenings every day from noon to 3 p.m. ET. Don't hesitate to ask your questions.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

3:17 p.m. ET: There's still some action going on around the grounds as we close up shop for the day.

Jelena Jankovic is up a set and a break against Iveta Benesova, though she'd probably prefer to be up a hold. Two five-set battles are taking place -- Pablo Cuevas versus Jesse Levine (Levine looking good), Radek Stepanek versus Potito Starace.

Let's give doubles a little love ... Kendrick and Querrey wrapped up a four-set win (yes, they still play best-of-five doubles here, bless them) against Knowle and Melzer.

Earlier in the day, James Blake and Mardy Fish scored an excellent straight-sets win over another tough doubles tandem -- Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy.

Looks like the Bryan brothers could have some extended company in the men's doubles draw this year.

See you tomorrow for Novak Djokovic versus Mardy Fish and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga versus Ivo Karlovic. Send in any overnight questions to Ana Ivanovic. Yes, he was at her match today.

Yes, all I got from her camp was a nondenial denial: "Ana prefers not to comment on her private life."

Yes, you can add that together however you want.

On another front, Fernando Verdasco denies a rumor that he telephoned Laura Robson after her loss on Monday. (The adidas harem is full at the moment, though there may be an opening down the road now that Sania Mirza is getting engaged.)

And the thinking here is that Gisela Dulko and Fernando Gonzalez may be an item no more after she refused yesterday to answer a postmatch question about whether she has a boyfriend.

2:48 p.m. ET: Gulbis' good buddy Igor Kunitsyn did a little better against Andy Roddick but Roddick finished strongly in a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win.

Since we seem to be on a Twitter theme today, here's a very entertaining news conference exchange that resulted from Roddick's mention that he liked British singer Rick Astley:

Question: So can you talk us through Rick Astley here?

Roddick: What do you want me to say? I said I wasn't proud, but I'm not going to lie to anybody. I busted my wife on some of her crappy music. She brought up Rick Astley. I can't deny it. It's in my iPod. I bet it's in your iPod, too, so shut up.

Question: You can get arrested in this country for having Rick Astley on your iPod.

Roddick: You can get arrested in my country for lying under oath, so ...

Question: How did it come about, this passion for Rick Astley?

Roddick: OK, calm down. Just calm down.

Question: Does it help listening to Rick Astley?

Roddick: I didn't hear that.

Question: Any other favorite spots in London that you like?

Roddick: Wherever Rick Astley is going.

Ba-da-bum. Then Roddick gets home and tweets: "just got back to the house ... i feel like i answer more questions about twitter now in press than i do tennis :)"

This is part of a broad transition, one that's been very obvious in political coverage. Once upon a time, the media asked questions and public figures responded. Now, frequently, public figures put out a message and the media has to react to it.

Those of us in the press room have to think about the effects of this and how we want to deal with it.

Meanwhile, the players have to accept that if they're going to put things out there in public, no matter how inane, they're going get asked about them.

2:16 p.m. ET: E-mail question:

What's the story with steroids on the men's tour? There must be rumors flying around regarding whether the top players are using steroids. -- David

It's not a consuming topic among players or insiders. Unlike some other sports, innuendo and suspicion aren't rife or even common. I think most people would say they believe that the sport is "basically clean."

Tennis has a pretty stringent testing program -- you might have seen a lot of players protesting the new whereabouts rules that require them to let drug testers know where they are every day of the year.

So as far as known performance-enhancing substances are concerned, it's unlikely for a player to avoid getting caught in the medium to long term.

Of course, previously undetectable steroids get discovered from time to time, and some blood-doping techniques are pretty hard to police. That's an unknown zone.

Still, keep in mind that those hard-to-detect methods generally require a pretty sophisticated setup. Players operate as individual entities, and I personally don't see a lot of them having the organization, staff or know-how for that kind of operation. Some barely have a coach.

2:16 p.m. ET: And that's the match ... Gulbis lasts barely an hour and a half against Murray, who made just five unforced errors in a 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 win.

"Never seen Andy serve better," John McEnroe says.

The serve is always the make-or-break factor for Murray, so it's a positive sign for him as he tries to make 1936 an obsolete date in British tennis.

2:02 p.m. ET: E-mail: How is Novak Djokovic's form at Wimbledon? Do you think he can be a serious competitor in later rounds. I am participating in suicide pool and would like to know if I should pick him early.

Sasamka: You want my advice on picks? I'm the one who picked Sharapova as a sleeper. :)

To be honest, Djokovic is not looking great either on the court nor sounding too happy off it. I wouldn't pick him against Fish because that's far from a sure thing, but I'd definitely pick him against whoever he would face in the round after that, if he wins.

Overall, his draw is really open, so he's got a good chance of reaching the semis even without playing his best.

1:54 p.m. ET: Did I unleash something asking Kuzy about her humble court assignments? Here's Safina getting asked about it: "Hopefully, next match I'll play on a bigger court. I don't really -- I mean, of course it's not fair. But I'm not doing the schedule. If tournament directors or referees think this way."

Knee tendinitis update from Dinara Safina: "Yesterday was perfect, and today I feel a little bit, but ... better than the other day."

1:48 p.m. ET: Catching up on some e-mail questions. Here's one from Joon on players and umpires:

I've always noticed that the loser of the match usually shakes the umpire's hand first. After Venus won her first-round match couple days ago, I noticed she shook the umpire's hand first. Is there some kind of unwritten rule about this stuff? -- Joon

I'd never actually thought about this. I think it's because the loser usually leaves the court first -- he or she wants to get the handshakes done and get off quickly. It's also a form of consideration for the winner to let the other person go ahead of him or her.

1:38 p.m. ET: Gulbis has settled down a bit, but Murray is just proving too clever -- getting the ball back low and deep and forcing Gulbis to go for bigger and bigger shots 'til he misses.

Murray leads by two sets 6-2, 7-5 with the match only about an hour old.

Excellent serving from both players, but the stat of the set is the second-serve points won: 64 percent for Murray, 29 percent for Gulbis.

1:27 p.m. ET: And speaking of Twitter, is Sam Querrey just making this stuff up, or do I need to start being more careful walking around the village?

(Yesterday) samquerrey: on my return home from my close 5 set loss, i was struck, yet again, by a drunk vagrant in wimbledon village, this time in the gut.

(A couple of days ago) samquerrey: A homeless guy just punched me in the arm while I was walking home from breakfast.

Querrey and Robert Kendrick are playing doubles right now, up a set against Austrians Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer.

1:20 p.m. ET: But it doesn't matter -- Liezel Huber is still jealous:

@LiezelHuber: I wish I got a letter from the queen! Pres Obama is my idol. Please send me a letter. I dreamt he came over for dinner and I made meatloaf.

1:14 p.m. ET: A nice little detail from Andy Murray on his Twitter last night:

andy_murray: got a nice letter from the queen saying well done for winning queen's. Put it in its own pile away from the bills. see you tomorrow.

Well, we all know that the queen isn't a tennis fan. Guess she just assumed that a tournament named after her had to be important. :)

1:09 p.m. ET: If Murray was holding a grudge over Gulbis' fake-timeout comment (see below), he's certainly taking it out on him on the court.

Lobs, drop shots, passing shots and all the rest of the Scot's variety is on display as he takes the first set 6-2 and is on serve at 1-1 in the second.

Like Murray, Gulbis loves the drop shot, but it's not working for him today.

1:01 p.m. ET: The knees watch continued today as Venus Williams showed up for her match against Kateryna Bondarenko with extensive strapping on her left knee.

As mentioned the other day, knee problems kept Rafael Nadal and Marcos Baghdatis out of the tournament, caused the retirements of Grigor Dmitrov and Severine Bremond and the near retirement of Julien Benneteau. Dinara Safina is struggling with knee troubles, and now so is Venus.

The most basic explanation is that grass does tend to be harder on the knees and back because players have to bend lower to get to the ball on the low-bouncing surface.

More updates on a kneed-to-know basis.

12:52 p.m. ET: Lleyton Hewitt wasn't the only Aussie winner today. Sam Stosur came back from a set and a break down, then 4-0 down in the second-set tiebreaker, to win. A 31-stroke rally at 6-6 in the tiebreaker and a successful foray into net got her on even terms, and she went through with a final score of 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4.

That sets up an intriguing encounter in the third round with Ana Ivanovic, who finally got an easy win today 7-5, 6-1 against Sara Errani.

12:42 p.m. ET: Murray and Gulbis have just started on Centre Court. It's an intriguing match, tenniswise, and it's certainly received a big buildup for a second-rounder.

Gulbis probably had no idea what he was unleashing the other day when he said Murray had called the trainer to disrupt his rhythm in their Queen's Club match last year.

"MURRAY IN CHEAT STORM" went the headline in The Sun, and Murray responded angrily, "I never once used any of the rules that certain players have used to try to gain an upper hand in a match or to slow my opponent down or anything. Definitely when I played him at Queen's that was not the case."

Both players played it down in their prematch interviews on BBC, but John McEnroe stirred the pot a bit, saying Gulbis isn't motivated enough and swans around in private jets.

12:25 p.m. ET: Wondering how Wozniacki and Kirilenko got Centre Court billing?

So is Svetlana Kuznetsova -- the French Open champion played her first match on Court 14 (moved from Court 2) and her second round today on Court 3. "If you look at the schedule, it's not only about me," she said. "Dinara plays on Court No. 2, Venus plays on Court No. 1, and girls who are not very high-seeded -- they play Centre."

The choice became even more glaring as Wozniacki quickly bageled Kirilenko in the first set and wrapped things up 6-0, 6-4 in 1 hour, 14 minutes.

The Marin Cilic-Sam Querrey match on Centre Court yesterday was a bit of a puzzle, too. Is Wimbledon trying to introduce the public to the stars of the future? Not a bad move if so, but it's making the players of the present scratch their heads.

12:12 p.m. ET: C'monnnnnnnnnnnnnn! It's been a while since we've seen Lleyton Hewitt rocking the "lawn mower" on Centre Court, but the little Aussie battler produced some vintage shots -- and fist pumps -- to take out No. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 this afternoon.

Right now, it's the battle of the Adidas cover girls -- Caroline Wozniacki versus Maria Kirilenko. Wozniacki has just become the face of Adidas' Stella McCartney brand. The old face? Maria Kirilenko.

Let the catwalk fight commence ...

6:33 a.m. ET: Welcome to Day 4 of Wimbledon. A couple of tantalizing matchups await us: Juan Martin del Potro and Lleyton Hewitt clash on Centre Court in the first match of the day. Then, England's great hope, Andy Murray, will take the court against talented but underperforming Latvian Ernests Gulbis. Here's a look at all the notable matchups, with seeds in brackets:

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [5] vs. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [9] vs. Maria Kirilenko (RUS)
Andy Murray (GBR) [3] vs. Ernests Gulbis (LAT)
Venus Williams (USA) [3] vs. Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR)
Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) vs. Andy Roddick (USA) [6]
Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) [10] vs. Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
Dinara Safina (RUS) [1] vs. Rossana De Los Rios (PAR)
Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) vs. Fabrice Santoro (FRA)
Iveta Benesova (CZE) vs. Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [6]

Stop back at noon ET for all the latest news, notes and results.

Keep those e-mails (courtcoverage@rogers.com) coming, as I also will be answering your questions and comments throughout the day.