Super Monday sure to be a doozy
For many, the second Monday at Wimbledon is the best day of the tennis year. All 32 players remaining in singles compete in one frenetic afternoon and evening.
With the exception of a certain Mallorcan, all the usual suspects are in action.
Here's a breakdown of all 16 matches with our not-so-fearless predictions.
If Djokovic has to face a countryman, he'd prefer it to be Troicki than the more dangerous Janko Tipsarevic. The three are tight.
Troicki remains "the nearly man." So close to beating Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in the past, he just can't see it through. It was Troicki's meltdown in New York two years ago that allowed Djokovic to escape in the first round.
Prediction: Djokovic in three.
Another Grand Slam, another two-set comeback for Federer. In downing Julien Benneteau on Friday, the Swiss proved again he's one of the top battlers on tour. With his suave game, sometimes that's forgotten.
The meeting with Malisse marks another encounter between two players 30-plus in age. Malisse is ridiculously talented and is a former semifinalist at Wimbledon, a tournament he loves. But he didn't come close to realizing his potential and is 1-9 against Federer.
"Xavier is one of the first guys I ever saw in an international junior tournament, so we go way back," Federer said.
Federer will be the one going forward when Monday concludes.
Prediction: Federer in four.
Andy Murray (4) versus Marin Cilic (16)
Murray beat Marcos Baghdatis -- and the clock -- to move into the fourth round. It was a major obstacle to overcome, since Baghdatis still has the skills to knock off any of the top four. Murray, who's under the microscope even more now that his path to the final has significantly opened up, played for the first time since Lukas Rosol's stunning upset of Nadal. A little more pressure on him (as if trying to end Great Britain's 76-year men's drought at Wimbledon wasn't enough).
At first glance, Murray catches a break in the round of 16, drawing Cilic, who went 5½ hours in the third round.
"I feel I'm going to be OK, because I don't feel any soreness in muscles or anything," said Cilic, who is trying to rediscover his 2010 form.
We'll soon find out.
Prediction: Murray in four.
Even after he was sidelined for more than two months because of a heart scare, Fish looked at the draw at Wimbledon and liked his chances in the early rounds. He didn't falter, but it was a draining week nonetheless.
"I will probably take a day off tomorrow, to be honest," Fish said Saturday. "You usually don't take too many days off during tournaments, but my body will need it for sure."
When Tsonga beat Fish at the U.S. Open last year, a bit of nastiness was in the air. Tsonga won in five sets and made it two in a row at the World Tour Finals.
He's much, much fresher.
Prediction: Tsonga in three.
He's been to the semifinals at the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open. But Ferrer, despite success on grass at warm-ups, has never progressed to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
Ferrer drew inspiration from defeating former Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick on Saturday.
"I am with great confidence because I won one tournament last week," Ferrer said.
He holds a 4-2 advantage over del Potro in their head-to-heads, easing past the Argentine in Miami this season.
Del Potro says his knee is "almost perfect." And he played a high-level match with Nadal at Wimbledon in 2011.
Prediction: Del Potro in five.
It's been five long years since Gasquet played that match against Roddick at Wimbledon, the one in which he rallied from two sets down to reach the semifinals. A lot has happened to the Frenchman since, and he's never been back in the quarterfinals at SW19.
This is his chance, and he knows it. Mayer is an awkward player and has toppled Nadal, but Gasquet is 3-1 against the German.
"It's not Djokovic or Murray or Ferrer," Gasquet told French reporters.
Gasquet looked sharp in disposing Nicolas Almagro in the third round.
Prediction: Gasquet in three.
It can be tricky having your mom as a coach, as Istomin does. They sometimes share the same hotel room.
"It means I can't bring girls to my room, but that's OK, as I have a girlfriend at home," he told the Independent.
Istomin, the first Uzbek to advance to the fourth round at a major, is an uplifting story. As a teen he injured his leg in a car accident and stopped playing tennis for two years, only to return later.
Youzhny is rebuilding after a poor 2011 and knows how to play on grass, landing in the fourth round at Wimbledon for the seventh time. However, he's 0-6.
Prediction: Istomin in five.
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There's no stopping the fabulous Baker boy.
Not content simply to perform well on clay, Baker, and his reconstructed body, have lost only one set in reaching the fourth round -- at his first Wimbledon. And as a qualifier, he's already prevailed in six matches. His ranking is projected to rise from 126th to the top 80.
"It is crazy kind of what's going on," Baker said. "But I'm still trying to stay focused on the task at hand and not get too wrapped around [it]."
Kohlschreiber, despite his impressive arsenal, has never reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal. He has a tough time winning when it counts.
Prediction: Baker in four.
Lisicki, the big-hitting, oft-injured German, complained to the chair umpire because of opponent Bojana Jovanovski's grunting in the second round.
Will she do the same against Sharapova in a rematch of last year's Wimbledon semifinal?
"I'll go into the match and focus on myself," Lisicki said. "We'll see what happens out there. It's another challenge. I love playing those big matches and am just looking forward to it, really."
An air of unpredictability still hovers around Lisicki, but Sharapova downed her at Wimbledon and also at this year's Australian Open. She's rolling.
Prediction: Sharapova in two.
Azarenka won 26 straight matches to begin the season, and even when Marion Bartoli ended the streak in Miami, she responded well. On clay, her weakest surface, Azarenka ventured to the final in Stuttgart and did the same in Madrid.
However, the finale in the Spanish capital ended up pegging Vika back. It was a disaster. She was crushed by Serena Williams, and the frustration on court returned. Azarenka then lasted all of four rounds at Roland Garros.
Sure, Azarenka has waltzed into the second Monday, but her draw was kind. Ivanovic overcame three opponents who at one time or another were considered tricky. Now would be a good time for the four-year quarterfinal drought at majors to dissipate.
Prediction: Ivanovic in three.
Following a first-round loss to grass-court stalwart Tsvetana Pironkova in Eastbourne earlier this month, Radwanska said she was tired. Entirely plausible, since she's already played 50 matches in 2012.
But the Pole, bidding to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009, hasn't looked fatigued through three rounds, dropping a combined 11 games.
Radwanska is another level up.
Prediction: Radwanska in two.
Kvitova, on the eve of her title defense, said she had goose bumps entering the grounds at the All England Club. There weren't many nerves.
The way she's bulldozed through her first three matches suggests she's relaxed, indeed.
"I like to play on grass, here especially," Kvitova said. "I am trying to be focused on my game. It's nice that I know I can play here very well. I'm glad."
The big, long swings Schiavone takes off both wings aren't conducive to grass, yet the Italian possesses a nifty slice and isn't afraid to finish points at the net. If she upsets Kvitova, it'd make up for a disappointing French Open.
Prediction: Kvitova in two.
Serena Williams (6) versus Yaroslava Shvedova
Williams and Shvedova both made history at Wimbledon on Saturday. Williams hit 23 aces, while Shvedova became the first known woman in the Open era to execute a golden set -- winning all 24 points.
But unlike Shvedova, who took care of French Open finalist Sara Errani, Williams toiled. On the brink of losing early at a major for the second time in a month -- Virginie Razzano eliminated the 13-time Grand Slam champion in the first round at Roland Garros -- she dug deep to edge pesky Chinese baseliner Zheng Jie.
"Definitely way more calm today than I was in my last long match and the loss," Williams said.
No golden set this time, but Shvedova won't be easy. Her career was derailed by a knee injury in 2010, and now she's on the way back.
Prediction: Williams in three.
Clijsters, one of the tour's darlings playing in her final Wimbledon, says her stomach injury hasn't worsened. Both days off over the weekend will help further.
"I'm excited that I made it into the second week," Clijsters said. "A week ago, I don't think I was expecting that, so I'm very happy with the way things have been going."
A year ago, meanwhile, Kerber was the world No. 77 and fell to a British wild card in the first round at Wimbledon. Now she's firmly inside the top 10 and leading the productive German pack.
In taking on a multiple Grand Slam winner, we'll see where she's at.
Prediction: Clijsters in three.
On paper, anyway, Li Na and Samantha Stosur were supposed to meet in this section in the fourth round. With much of the pressure off Li when she lost at the French Open -- all of China was hoping for a repeat at Roland Garros -- she returned to Wimbledon, where she had her first success at a major. Unfortunately for her, an inspired Sorana Cirstea showed up in the second round. The Australian Open and Wimbledon are unkind to Stosur, and she was sent packing in the second round, too.
So Kirilenko, the glamour girl, and Peng, the workmanlike baseliner, took full advantage. Peng has never reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Prediction: Kirilenko in three.
Paszek doesn't like winning matches easily, does she?
Paszek downed Bartoli in the Eastbourne semifinals in three hours; she won the title in nearly three hours against Kerber; in the first round at Wimbledon, it was three more hours against Caroline Wozniacki; and in the third round, a marathon with Yanina Wickmayer ensued.
What happened to the gutsy Paszek in the second round? She needed only 79 minutes to handle Alize Cornet.
So Vinci should expect a rather long afternoon.
Vinci's singles career has cooled after a sizzling summer last year, even if she reached the quarterfinals at two Wimbledon warm-ups in June.
Prediction: Paszek in three.
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