Wimbledon 2017

Big guns stay alive at start of second week

Briton Andy Murray is elated after beating Italy's Fabio Fognini in the third round. The defending champion has made the quarter-finals every year since 2008 and is fancied to take out Benoit Paire in the last 16.
Briton Andy Murray is elated after beating Italy's Fabio Fognini in the third round. The defending champion has made the quarter-finals every year since 2008 and is fancied to take out Benoit Paire in the last 16.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Murray, Djokovic, Federer and Nadal looking great but fight for women's title is wide open

LONDON • For the first time since 2011, the top four men's seeds have reached the Wimbledon round of 16 - with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal set to take centre stage today.

The four stars have shared the grass-court tennis Grand Slam title since 2003 when Federer won the first of his seven trophies at the All England Club. Djokovic has claimed three, with defending champion Murray and Nadal winning two apiece.

It is the kind of domination that looks unlikely to end today when the fourth round takes place, after a rest day.

Murray, who has battled hip pain, is the only one of the Big Four to have dropped a set in the first week. He faces unpredictable Frenchman Benoit Paire, who is in the last 16 for the first time.

"He has very good hands, moves well, takes a lot of chances, goes for his shots," said Murray, who has a 1-0 career lead over Paire and has not lost at Wimbledon before the quarter-finals since 2008.

Djokovic also takes a 1-0 career lead over unseeded Adrian Mannarino of France into his last-16 clash. His former coach Boris Becker praised him for his first-week performances after fears that the Serb had lost his love for the sport after losing all four Grand Slam titles he held.

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  • Wimbledon titles won by tennis' Big Four of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray since 2003.

"Boris knows me very well. So he's right when he says that the passion is back," said second seed Djokovic.

Federer, who is bidding for a record eighth Wimbledon title which would also make him the oldest champion at the All England Club, faces Grigor Dimitrov boasting a 5-0 record over the Bulgarian once tipped as his natural heir.

"It's a great day to play. I would be happy to be a fan," said Federer of a day when all last-16 matches in the men's and women's events would be played.

Nadal, fresh from a 10th French Open title, faces fellow left-hander Gilles Muller, who is looking to make the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years.

Nadal has a 5-1 record over Muller, although he will be wary that the Luxembourg grass-court specialist beat him at Wimbledon in 2005. "He's one of the toughest opponents possible on this surface," said the Spaniard.

The title as well as the world No. 1 spot are up for grabs in the women's tournament, which remains wide open in the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Angelique Kerber, the runner-up to Williams last year, could lose the top spot to either Simona Halep or Karolina Pliskova despite the Czech having been knocked out in the second round.

The German tackles 2015 runner-up Garbine Muguruza after surviving a three-set scare to see off Shelby Rogers in the third round.

In contrast, Muguruza has sailed into the last 16 without dropping a set, a run which has even surprised herself. "I never feel that comfortable on grass. Every time I start the grass season, I'm like, How the hell I did that final (in 2015)?" said the last year's French Open champion.

Muguruza, the 15th seed, holds a 4-3 career lead over Kerber, having won all their four most recent meetings, including in the Wimbledon fourth round two years ago.

Victoria Azarenka, bidding to become the first mother to win Wimbledon in 37 years, faces Romanian second seed Halep, who was in the semi-finals three years ago.

In all, the women's last 16 features seven Grand Slam winners and seven playing in it for the first time.

Two of those new faces are the bookmakers' new favourite Johanna Konta, the British sixth seed, and France's 21st seed Caroline Garcia who play each other.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and Elina Svitolina face off in another duel of first-timers, while another battle of last-16 debutantes sees Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova facing Petra Martic of Croatia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WIMBLEDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Big guns stay alive at start of second week'. Print Edition | Subscribe