Thursday, June 25, 2009
Everything OK in Murray-land thus far
By Ravi Ubha Special to ESPN.com
WIMBLEDON, England -- Here are 10 things we learned on Day 4 at Wimbledon:
1. Something is amiss with Venus
But two-time defending women's champ Venus Williams failed to give many details.
Williams showed up for her match against Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko with a heavily strapped left knee.
In the wake of the 6-3, 6-2 win in 1 hour, 9 minutes, Williams insisted she simply needed "support."
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
"I really hate tape," Williams said. "But I just needed it this time. I accepted that, and I realize that this is Wimbledon. So since it was Wimbledon, I taped."
When Williams was asked what kind of pain she was in, she retorted, "That's all you need to say, is I needed support and it worked well."
"Well, the match worked all right," Williams countered.
A familiar foe, Carla Suarez-Navarro, surfaces in the third round. The Spaniard with the picturesque one-handed backhand upset Williams at the Australian Open.
2. There's comfort for Andy
All of Britain expects Andy Murray to reach the Wimbledon final after defending champion Rafael Nadal, in the wily Scot's half, pulled out because of those wonky knees.
Murray beat Ernests Gulbis on Thursday to reach the third round, but if he does falter earlier than expected, he should take a stroll around the Wimbledon village.
He'd feel better reading this sign on the grounds of a church: "Win or lose Andy, God loves you anyway."
Or were they referring to Andy Roddick?
Andy Murray looked stellar in a straight-sets thrashing of Ernests Gulbis in the second round.
3. Murray is on course
Murray appeared much more comfortable in his second-round match against Gulbis, the sleeping giant from Latvia, than in his first against U.S. showman Robert Kendrick.
The only problems he faced in the 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 victory came in the second game, when Murray saved two break points, his only two altogether. Gulbis' disappointing season persists -- he has yet to get past the second round in 2009.
4. Wimbledon doesn't need a roof
Go figure. Wimbledon builds a retractable roof over fabled Centre Court and the first four days of the tournament produce sunny, summery weather.
Well, the roof might finally get some proper work Friday. Scattered showers, some heavy, are forecast in the afternoon.
It was partly shut earlier this week, according to British tabloids, to provide shade for the lucky few in the royal box. Murray complained that the roof produces shadows on the court, making it difficult to see.
5. Ana loves reunions
Having cut ties with Martina Navratilova's former coach, Craig Kardon, Ana Ivanovic is back with adidas' umbrella of consultants, specifically respected Dutchman Sven Groeneveld.
Groeneveld was in Ivanovic's corner when the Serb claimed her lone Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2008.
"He knows not only my game, but also he can tell in my face expression how I'm feeling," said Ivanovic, a straight-sets winner over scrambling Italian Sara Errani. "It feels really good to have someone in the crowd that I can look to, and he can just be supportive. It already means a lot to me. It makes me calm."
There could be plenty of worrying looks in Round 3: Ivanovic encounters dangerous Aussie Sam Stosur.
6. The schedule puzzles Kuzy
Svetlana Kuznetsova, the recently crowned French Open champion, began her 2009 Wimbledon campaign with a rendezvous on distant Court 14, not exactly a big arena.
The affable Russian got a slight promotion Thursday, beating Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier first up on Court 3. World No. 1 Dinara Safina later played on Court 2.
"If you look at the schedule, it's not only about me," Kuznetsova said. "It's about Dinara, she plays on Court No. 2, Venus plays on Court No. 1, and girls who's not very high-seeded, they play on Center."
Kuznetsova might have been referring to Wednesday's encounter between 24th seed Maria Sharapova (a former champion, it should be pointed out) and Argentine Gisela Dulko.
Kuznetsova was at least happy to get an early start.
"I wanted to try to finish quick, and I want to go shopping," Kuznetsova said. "I need just two, three hours to spend some cash."
Safina added she thought the scheduling wasn't fair.
"Hopefully next match I'll play on a bigger court," Safina said.
7. The Bryan brothers have company Bob and Mike Bryan aren't the only prolific U.S. doubles team.
James Blake, a surprising loser in the first round in the singles, teamed with good friend Mardy Fish to upset third seeds and reigning French Open champions Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes of the Czech Republic and India, respectively, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
Fish meets fourth seed Novak Djokovic in singles Friday.
8. Ivo's not the ace king Ivo Karlovic not atop the ace leaderboard through two rounds? True.
Karlovic, the 6-foot-10 Croat, trails Spaniard Nicolas Almagro by five heading into Friday's play.
Almagro belted 33 in the first round against workmanlike Argentine Juan Monaco and 28 versus Slovakian qualifier Karol Beck on Wednesday.
However, it's worth noting that Almagro has played 10 sets and Karlovic the minimum, six.
Almagro, shaking off the effects of a wrist injury, makes for interesting viewing. He traded insults with Monaco, Nadal's good buddy, even offering to give him tennis lessons after hitting a winner Monday.
9. Levine's got talent
How many times have we seen a player pull off an upset, only to lose the next, winnable match?
It didn't happen to American Jesse Levine, the Ottawa-born, Florida-based lefty.
Levine followed up his scalp of two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin with a 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory over lucky loser Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
Levine, 21, lands in the third round of a major for the first time. Hot-and-cold Swiss No. 2 Stanislas Wawrinka, seeded 19th, awaits.
Levine lost his only other five-set match to Austrian Jurgen Melzer in the second round at last year's Wimbledon.
Fellow American Melanie Oudin, a 17-year-old native of Georgia, overcame Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, also landing in the third round for the first time.
10. Can Tsonga survive?
Karlovic gets the chance to catch Almagro when he meets another big server, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in an old-fashioned grass-court tussle. Expect plenty of aces, net play and limited baseline exchanges.
This one could go either way, and in any number of sets.
The winner matches his best performance at the All England Club and probably meets Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round.
ESPN.com prediction: Tsonga in five.Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.