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Saturday, June 29, 2013
Manic Monday: Djoker, Serena star

By ESPN.com

LONDON -- So, remember all that commotion about this Wimbledon's most-loaded bracket, the bottom half of the men's draw?

Heading into Monday's always-anticipated, never-duplicated 16 round-of-16 matches, loaded is not a word that no longer applies.

No. 3 seed Roger Federer, No. 5 Rafael Nadal, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Marin Cilic, No. 11 Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 14 Janko Tipsarevic, No. 15 Nicolas Almagro and No. 18 John Isner are, incredibly, long gone.

This is what we are left with in the dirty bottom half:

• Only three seeds remaining among the eight players.

• The survivors are so unlikely that three of the four matches have never been contested.

• Believe it or not, Lukasz Kubot (ranked No. 130) and Adrian Mannarino (No. 111) are meeting in the fourth round of a Grand Slam. One of them will be in a major quarterfinal.

Oh, and raise your hand if you can name three fast facts about Kenny de Schepper. He's a Frenchman, who, for the record, is 6-foot-8. That means the bottom half, which also features Jerzy Janowicz, has two 6-foot-8 guys. And, with Kubot, two Poles.

The other three singles brackets are a little tattered, too, but that hasn't stopped ESPN.com from providing you with a look at every match on the greatest day in tennis.

Come back on Monday and we'll give you the skinny on those 16 for 16.

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No. 1 Novak Djokovic versus No. 13 Tommy Haas

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic doesn't appear to have an overly tough road until the final.
This marks the third meeting on three different surfaces for these two. Haas stunned Djokovic on the Masters 1000 hard court in Miami, after which Djokovic simultaneously congratulated Haas, blamed himself and essentially vowed it wouldn't happen again. When they met on the clay at Roland Garros, Djokovic destroyed him in three uneventful sets.

Prediction: Djokovic in four

No. 7 Tomas Berdych versus Bernard Tomic

Berdych has had a very difficult draw with big servers (Martin Klizan, Daniel Brands, Kevin Anderson), but Tomic is the most complete player he's faced. Plus, it appears Tomic is playing with special fire as he is upset at what he sees as unfair treatment of his father by the International Tennis Federation. Tomic is a dangerous player whose ranking is lower than his talent level.

Prediction: Berdych in five

No. 4 David Ferrer versus Ivan Dodig

Dodig survived a bizarre first-round match with No. 16 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, who was up two sets before retiring in the fifth, but since then, he has not had to play anyone of Ferrer's ability.

Prediction: Ferrer in four

No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro versus No. 23 Andreas Seppi

Del Potro has not dropped a set in the tournament, and, while Seppi is a dangerous veteran and good grass player, del Potro's power on grass should overcome his lack of mobility compared to Seppi.

Prediction: del Potro in four

No. 2 Andy Murray versus No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny

This is the only match in the bracket that has actually happened before. Murray won both matches, but they came six and four years ago, respectively, in St. Petersburg and Valencia. Murray got to the final here a year ago, then triumphed at the London Olympics. But Youzhny, in his 12th Wimbledon, produced his best result: the quarterfinals a year ago.

Prediction: Murray in three

No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz versus Jurgen Melzer

In the bracket of death, Poland's Janowicz took out the second-highest remaining seed, Nicolas Almagro, in the third round. He has a complete, diverse game and hits bullets. He has the tournament's fastest serve, at 140 mph. Melzer, who is a decade older, is looking to produce his best Wimbledon ever in his 12th tournament here.

Prediction: Janowicz in four

Lukasz Kubot versus Adrian Mannarino

This is the longshot match. Kubot knocked off No. 25 seed Benoit Paire, and Mannarino benefited from Isner's retirement in the second round.

Prediction: Kubot in four

Fernando Verdasco versus Kenny de Schepper

Verdasco was a top-10 player several years ago, but he has fallen to No. 54 and is a pedestrian 12-12. De Schepper, who is No. 80, was the beneficiary of Cilic's withdrawal. He took out No. 22 seed Juan Monaco in straight sets.

Prediction: De Schepper in five

WOMEN

No. 1 Serena Williams versus Sabine Lisicki

The 24th-ranked Lisicki has had an injury-plagued year but has looked impressive this week, rallying to defeat former US Open champ Samantha Stosur in the third round.

Sabine_Lisicki 130629
Sabine Lisicki has a game perfectly suited for grass, but does she have enough fire power to stun Serena Williams?
Lisicki, with a booming serve second only to Williams, plays well here, having reached the 2011 Wimbledon semifinals and two other times getting to the quarters.

But she has the toughest fourth-round match of the tournament in the five-time champion, who dispatched of Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-2, 6-0 Saturday in 61 minutes and only gets stronger as she goes.

Prediction: Williams in two

No. 23 Laura Robson versus Kaia Kanepi

Robson, 19, the top women's player in Britain and 38th-ranked in the world, has been known as something of a giant-killer only to lose to players she should beat. She nearly fell into that trap against 71st-ranked Marina Erakovic Saturday before rallying back for the 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Robson has roused the support and imagination of local fans by joining countryman Murray in the round of 16, making it the first time since 1998 that a British man and woman will play in Wimbledon's round of 16.

Against 46th-ranked Kanepi, aiming for her fifth Grand Slam quarterfinal and second here, she will face a player with a superior serve, but Robson's momentum and fan support should win out.

Prediction: Robson in two

No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska versus Tsvetana Pironkova

It's hard to imagine the 72nd-ranked Pironkova knocking off last year's Wimbledon runner-up. But Pironkova has had her biggest success here, reaching the semis in 2010 -- one of three Grand Slam tournaments in which she defeated Venus Williams (in the quarters) -- and is a superior grass court player with a big serve.

Radwanska can be vulnerable against power players, but despite struggling against young American Madison Keys -- a power player -- in a third-round match, she prevailed with her typical heady attack, committing just 10 unforced errors to 51 by Keys.

Prediction: Radwanska in two

No. 11 Roberta Vinci versus No. 6 Li Na

Vinci reached the round of 16 here last year, her best result at a Grand Slam tournament, and might be able to take advantage of an all-court style opposite from the baseliner Li faced in the third round.

Li, 2011 French Open champion, reached the finals of the Australian Open in 2011 and again in January, defeating Radwanska in the quarters and Maria Sharapova in the semis before spraining her ankle en route to losing in a controversial match to Victoria Azarenka. She has been uneven at Wimbledon this week and barely got past Klara Zakopalova, outlasting her 8-6 in the third.

Prediction: Li in three

No. 17 Sloane Stephens versus Monica Puig

They're both 5-foot-7, less than eight months apart in age and have even trained at the same academy in the past. But the two have never met at the WTA level and, according to Stephens, are "not besties."

It all points to a close match. Stephens has more experience but also needs to play better than she has so far in the tournament. Puig tests opponents with her scrappy play, and she got a big boost when she reached the third round of the French Open and then defeated No. 5 seed Sara Errani in her first match at Wimbledon. The teenager from Puerto Rico won't go down easily.

Prediction: Stephens in three

No. 15 Marion Bartoli versus Karin Knapp

Little was expected of 2007 finalist Bartoli at this year's Championships. The Frenchwoman has been through a series of coaches since deciding to stop working with her father earlier this year, and her fitness level is a question mark. But with a wide-open draw and Fed Cup captain Amelie Mauresmo in her corner at this tournament, she is emerging as one of the unlikely favorites in the bottom half.

Her unexpected opponent will be the Italian Knapp, whose serving has been her main strength this week. Bartoli, however, thinks she can turn that to her advantage. "Even if she has a big serve, normally my return of serve is my strength against any opponent in the world, even Serena Williams," the No. 15 seed said. "Obviously, she has a huge serve, and she [sees] some returns coming back that she's not used to. Maybe she will be disturbed."

The bigger question for Bartoli is whether, after such a sorry season, she has enough confidence to perform up to her capabilities.

Prediction: Bartoli in two

No. 8 Petra Kvitova versus No. 19 Carla Suarez Navarro

Kvitova is the biggest name left standing in this half of the draw, but she has gone three sets in both matches she's played so far (with a walkover in the second round). Her wobbly form is the only thing stopping the former champ from being a heavy favorite not just in this match, but to get to the final.

She has a 4-1 record against Suarez Navarro and is more comfortable on grass than the clay-loving Spaniard, so expect her to get through. But Suarez Navarro has been having a very solid season, and with her low-to-the-ground build and one-handed backhand, there's no reason she shouldn't be able to adapt to grass. The real Kvitova must show up.

Prediction: Kvitova in three

No. 19 Kirsten Flipkens versus Flavia Pennetta

This will be the second Grand Slam in a row they will have faced each other, having also played at the French Open a few weeks ago. Flipkens won that match in three sets but notes that the contrast between clay and grass "is like black and white."

Asked which she likes better, Flipkens replied cryptically, "I prefer white."

Her slice backhand and attack-minded game suggests the answer should be grass, and she did reach the final of the grass-court warm-up event in Rosmalen coming in. The late-blooming Belgian, 27, has also shot up the rankings recently, breaking into the top 20 after being outside the top 200 a year ago. Part of the credit goes to recently retired compatriot Kim Clijsters, who has helped Flipkens after a cruelly timed funding cut by the Belgian tennis federation, which came just as she was diagnosed with blood clots in her legs.

All this momentum makes her the favorite against Pennetta, 31, who was in the top 20 about a year ago but has fallen outside the top 150 after wrist surgery. At least the Italian has the edge in experience. She has reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals, while Flipkens will be playing in the second week of a major for the first time and is apparently also dealing with a knee injury.

Prediction: Flipkens in two