Wimbledon 2013: Men’s round of 16 preview

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The fight for Wimbledon quarter-final places will be decided when the tournament resumes tomorrow, and there are some interesting matches to keep an eye out for.

For the first time since the 2003 US Open, neither Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal will feature in the quarter-finals of any Grand Slam tournament in which both men were entered.

That said, this does not take into account the 2004 French Open, which was the last time Federer failed to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, because Rafael Nadal was out injured at the time.

Of the sixteen men that remain in the field, only seven (Novak Djokovic, Tommy Haas, Andy Murray, Mikhail Youzhny, David Ferrer, Bernard Tomic and Tomas Berdych) have reached the quarter-finals at the All England Club, and three (Djokovic, del Potro and Murray) are former Grand Slam champions.

Six of them will be meeting each other in the fourth round, which means the potential is there for up to six men to make their first Wimbledon quarter-final, with Andreas Seppi and Juan Martin del Potro, among others, at the front of the queue.

What is known is that there will be four first-time Wimbledon quarter-finalists. Who will they be?

Novak Djokovic (1) versus Tommy Haas (13)
Head-to-head: Djokovic 5-3*
Last meeting: Novak Djokovic defeated Tommy Haas 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, quarter-finals, 2013 French Open.

* this does not include their meetings at the 2013 Hopman Cup and the 2010 Kooyong Classic.

For the second Grand Slam tournament in a row, Novak Djokovic and Tommy Haas will meet in a very important match.

They have already met three times this year, including at the Hopman Cup, with Djokovic winning two of them. Haas, however, won their meeting in the fourth round in Miami back in March.

Djokovic has not relented in his bid for a second Wimbledon title, and his chances have been significantly boosted with the early departures of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

But after cruising through his first three rounds, he faces his first genuine threat in the form of the German veteran.

Haas has enjoyed something of a resurgence in 2013, reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open and winning a title in Munich when it appeared his career was all but shot.

Now ranked world No. 13, Haas has the chance to reach back-to-back Grand Slam quarter-finals, but he’ll have to beat Novak Djokovic for a second time this season to do so.

Haas has beaten Djokovic at Wimbledon before, in the 2009 quarter-finals en route to being beaten by Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

But that will count for nothing if Haas cannot bring his a-game into this encounter.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.

Bernard Tomic versus Tomas Berdych (7)
Head-to-head: Never met*

* this does not include their sole meeting at the 2012 Kooyong Classic, which Tomic won.

Bernard Tomic has everything to lose when he enters this fourth round showdown against former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych.

It seems like not having his father, who is banned from ATP tournaments following an incident in which he allegedly hit Tomic’s trainer, courtside is helping him.

He has reached the fourth round of Wimbledon for the second time in his career and has the chance to convert his good form into a second quarter-final at the All England Club – if he does that, then it’s very likely to be against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Tomic, though, despite his impressive run through the draw.

He almost lost in the first round against Sam Querrey after winning the first two sets and wasted three set points on the Gasquet serve in the second set of his last match, before being eventually winning in four.

In the middle of this, though, was his convincing straight-sets victory against American veteran James Blake.

Opposing him on the opposite side of the net for a place in the quarter-finals will be the inconsistent Czech Berdych.

The former Wimbledon finalist survived a scare from South African Kevin Anderson to get this far, and his chances of reaching a second final at the All England Club, to compliment his achievement three years ago, are very high.

It seems as though the stakes are very high for the winner, as he would very likely take on World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for a place in the semi-finals.

Both men defeated him in their most recent meetings (though Tomic’s victory at the Hopman Cup does not count on the professional circuit), so you would think that they would have a chance against the Serb.

But for now, both men should not get ahead of themselves. The victor of this fourth round tie has everything to play for I feel.

Prediction: Berdych in five sets.

David Ferrer (4) versus Ivan Dodig
Head-to-head: Ferrer 1-0
Last meeting: David Ferrer defeated Ivan Dodig 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, semi-finals, 2012 Valencia Open.

Ivan Dodig must be the luckiest man in the Wimbledon draw, having only had to win one completed match to get this far at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

His first round opponent, 2012 quarter-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber, retired in the fifth set due to fatigue, while his most recent match was also a short affair when Dutchman Igor Sijsling suspended their match in the third set due to injury.

Now, he faces soon-to-be World No. 3 David Ferrer as he looks to convert his first ever Grand Slam Round of 16 into a quarter-final.

Ferrer has made the transition from clay to grass successfully, despite a first round slip up to Belgian Xavier Malisse in the Netherlands.

This has shown through his progress to the fourth round, which is the fourth year in a row he has gone this far at the All England Club.

He has been pushed to more than three sets in each of his three matches so far, including having to come from two sets to one down against Ukranian Aleksandr Dolgopolov in his previous match.

Dodig can present problems for the Spaniard – the Croat has defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero and Fernando Gonzalez in Grand Slam tournaments, and also took Novak Djokovic to four sets at the Australian Open in 2011.

He also took Ferrer to three sets in their only previous meeting, and he will be hungry for revenge this time around.

But in the end, Ferrer’s experience should be what counts the most.

Prediction: Ferrer in straight sets.

Andreas Seppi (23) versus Juan Martin del Potro (8)
Head-to-head: del Potro 3-0*
Last meeting: Juan Martin del Potro defeated Andreas Seppi 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), second round, 2012 London Olympics.

*this does not include a meeting at the Sunrise Challenger tournament in 2007, which Seppi won.

This is the first of four matches that will guarantee a first-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist.

For Andreas Seppi, this is his third round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament, and after two previous failures at last year’s French Open and this year’s Australian Open, he will be hoping that it’s third time lucky.

Seppi has proven himself on grass over the last few years, winning a title at Eastbourne in 2011 and being narrowly unsuccessful in that title defence last year, losing to the more experienced, now retired Andy Roddick.

The Italian caused a minor upset in the third round, defeating Japanese sensation Kei Nishikori in five sets. Prior to that, he was also pushed to five sets by Denis Istomin in the first round and was the beneficiary of a retirement from Michael Llodra in the second round, with the Frenchman quitting after the first set.

For him to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final, he’ll have to overcome the big, towering serve that is former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.

The 24-year-old Argentine’s decision to skip the French Open due to illness has paid dividends, even though he lost ranking points there as he was defending a quarter-final from 2012.

Grass might be statistically one of his worst surfaces, having never reached the quarter-finals at the All England Club, but he did defeat Novak Djokovic to win the bronze medal at the London Olympics a month after falling to David Ferrer in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.

For del Potro, he will also be hoping for a case of third time lucky, as he bids to join the elite group of men who have reached the quarter-finals at all four Grand Slam tournaments. Against Andreas Seppi, whom he beat en route to his medal at the Olympics, the chances for him to reach his first quarter-final at the All England Club couldn’t be so much easier.

Prediction: del Potro in straight sets.

Lukasz Kubot versus Adrian Mannarino
Head-to-head: Never met

What could have been a fourth round match between Rafael Nadal and either Stanislas Wawrinka or Lleyton Hewitt will instead be a showdown between these two, one of whom will reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final.

At 31, Lukasz Kubot is one of the journeymen of men’s tennis, and this is be his third round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament, having previously fallen to Novak Djokovic at the 2010 Australian Open and to Feliciano Lopez at Wimbledon two years ago.

At the latter tournament, Kubot had several match points in the third set tiebreak, but he eventually lost the match in five sets. This suggests that he will be very hungry to finally taste a quarter-final at the highest level of tournaments in the game.

On the opposite side of the net will be France’s Adrian Mannarino, who ousted Lleyton Hewitt’s second round conqueror, Dustin Brown, in the third round.

Mannarino can count himself lucky that he has gotten this far, but he has worked hard to get to where he is now.

In the first round, Mannarino dismissed Pablo Andujar for the loss of just six games, and after that his second round opponent, John Isner, stopped their tie after just two completed games on black Wednesday.

Then, in his most recent episode, he scored another straight sets victory over Dustin Brown, who had defeated Lleyton Hewitt in the second round.

Having gotten this far for the first time at a Grand Slam, Mannarino can instantly fast-track his career with a quarter-final at the All England Club. But to do that he’ll have to beat one of the great journeymen of men’s tennis.

Prediction: Kubot in four sets.

Jerzy Janowicz (24) versus Jurgen Melzer
Head-to-head: Never met

The third of four matches that will guarantee a first-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist pits Poland’s rising star, Jerzy Janowicz, up against Austrian journeyman Jurgen Melzer.

Janowicz has come a very long way to get to where he is now. This is the first time he has reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament, and this comes twelve months after he reached the third round here as a qualifier.

Having shot up the rankings thanks to a run to the Paris Masters as a qualifier last year, Janowicz now finds himself knocking on the door of the top 20, and also has the chance to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final.

To do that, however, he’ll have to overcome Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, who reached the semi-finals of the 2010 French Open after coming from two sets to love down to defeat Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

The 1999 junior champion’s career has dipped into the quietness since then, but now he finds himself with a chance to reach his second Grand Slam quarter-final (and first at Wimbledon).

His previous match was a victory against Serhiy Stakhovsky, the man who upset Roger Federer in the second round.

That followed victories over 30th seed Fabio Fognini and Julian Reister, in which he lost the first set in both matches before going on to win in four sets.

Based on form, Janowicz should win as he continues to make a rise up the rankings.

Prediction: Janowicz in four sets.

Fernando Verdasco versus Kenny de Schepper
Head-to-head: Never met

This match pits together Spanish former No. 7 Fernando Verdasco up against Frenchman Kenny de Schepper.

Verdasco’s chances of reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final since the 2010 US Open must be very high, having gotten to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2011 Australian Open.

To get here, he’s had to defeat Xavier Malisse (the same man who ousted him in the third round here last year), Julien Benneteau and Ernests Gulbis in the first three rounds.

And to reach his first quarter-final at Wimbledon, he won’t get a much easier assignment than de Schepper.

Entering this year’s Wimbledon Championships, de Schepper had only won one Grand Slam match, and was ranked outside the top 100.

Now, he finds himself in the top 100 and in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time.

His progress to the fourth round included victories over Paolo Lorenzi and 2second-seed Juan Monaco, as well as a walkover in the second round when 10th seed Marin Cilic was forced out with a knee injury on black Wednesday.

At age 26, and with no career titles, de Schepper is considered one of the journeymen of men’s tennis. But his career can go up another notch if he can claim the scalp of unseeded Verdasco in this interesting fourth round match.

The reward for the victor won’t be just a Wimbledon quarter-final, it’ll also be a showdown against the man many consider to be the title favourite right now, Andy Murray.

Prediction: Verdasco in straight sets.

Mikhail Youzhny (20) versus Andy Murray (2)
Head-to-head: Murray 2-0
Last meeting: Andy Murray defeated Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, final, 2009 Valencia Open.

This is the most interesting tie in the bottom half of the draw.

It seems only complacency, injury or poor form can stop Andy Murray from reaching the final at Wimbledon for the second consecutive year.

His progress so far cannot be faulted. He has not lost a set in his three matches, and is undefeated from two matches against Mikhail Youzhny, his fourth round opponent.

Murray was very impressive in ensuring Tommy Robredo had a centre court debut he’d rather forget, scoring a straight-sets victory and never being threatened throughout.

This follows similar victories over Benjamin Becker and Lu Yen-hsun.

But come tomorrow, he will be presented with his first real challenge in the form of Russia’s Youzhny.

Despite Murray’s 2-0 record against him, Youzhny’s relatively mid-profile career (he has reached the quarter-finals at all four Grand Slams, and reached a career high ranking of No. 8) suggests that he is the only man who can stop Murray from reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the sixth consecutive year.

The Russian has defeated Robin Haase, Vasek Pospisil and Viktor Troicki to get this far. But he could find that this is far enough, as he will not only face Murray, but also the wrath of the centre court crowd, who will be desperate for the first home-grown male champion since 1936.

Youzhny might find all that too much for him in the end.

Prediction: Murray in straight sets.

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