Wimbledon 2017: The story so far

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    As we enter the second week at Wimbledon, let’s take a look back at what has shaped this year’s Championships and preview the second week of the tournament.

    As expected, the top four seeds (Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) have all advanced to the fourth round, with the dream semi-final match-ups of Murray versus Nadal and Federer versus Djokovic all remaining on track to occur.

    Murray was barely challenged in his matches against Alexander Bublik and Dustin Brown but was stretched to his limits against Fabio Fognini in the third round, dropping the second set 4-6 and nearly being taken to a fifth set when he trailed 2-5 in the fourth, during which he saved five set points.

    Nevertheless, the Scot won in four sets to advance to the fourth round for the tenth consecutive year, where Benoit Paire will now await as the possibility of a semi-final showdown against Rafael Nadal looms.

    The Spaniard, fresh off winning a record-breaking tenth French Open title, has also barely been challenged as he pursues a third Wimbledon crown, which if he achieves will also see him complete the Channel Slam (i.e. winning the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back) for the third time.

    Nadal has made mockeries of his first three opponents, dismissing John Millman, Donald Young and Karen Khachanov all in straight sets to advance to the fourth round for the first time since 2014.

    By defeating Khachanov in straight sets, the 31-year-old matched his record of winning 28 consecutive completed sets from the second round of Wimbledon 2010 through to the final of the US Open that year.

    Though the Mallorcan native should reach the quarter-finals, a familiar foe does await in the form of Luxembourgian Gilles Muller, who notably upset the Spaniard in the second round in 2005 before giving Andy Roddick a 23rd birthday present he would rather forget at the US Open later that same year.

    Muller may be 34, an age where most tennis players start contemplating retirement (or have already done so), but he has hit career-best form this year, achieving a career-high ranking of 26 in May after winning his first career title in Sydney back in January.

    Thus, Nadal will have his work cut out for him if he is to reach the final eight at the All England Club for the first time since finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2011.

    Rafael Nadal

    (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

    In the bottom half of the draw, both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic remain on track to meet in the semi-finals, after both started their campaigns on Centre Court with nearly-identical truncated first-round victories.

    Three-time champion Djokovic was stopped in his tracks when Martin Klizan retired hurt while down 0-2 in the second set; likewise, seven-time champion Federer was barely made to sweat, his opponent Alexandr Dolgopolov pulling the pin while trailing 0-3 in the second set.

    Both players had taken the first set 6-3 in their respective matches.

    The Serb subsequently defeated Adam Pavlasek and Ernests Gulbis in his next two matches to advance to the last 16, where he will tonight face Adrian Mannarino with a potential quarter-final against Dominic Thiem looming.

    It was at the French Open last month where Thiem handed Djokovic a straight-sets humiliation in the quarter-finals, the result seeing the 30-year-old drop the last Grand Slam title he had held for the last 12 months.

    There is no doubt that revenge will be on the Serb’s mind if that match-up occurs; Thiem, for his part, needs to beat 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych in the fourth round first.

    Federer, on the other hand, had to overcome first-set tiebreaks in his subsequent two matches against Dusan Lajovic and Mischa Zverev, but eventually pulled through in straight sets both times.

    Tonight (AEST) he will take on Grigor Dimitrov in what could shape as a potential changing of the guard on grass, given the fact that Dimitrov has been nicknamed “Baby Fed” for his playing style over the years.

    The 26-year-old is a former junior Wimbledon champion and has reached the semi-finals once at the All England Club, getting this far in 2014 at the expense of then-reigning champion Andy Murray.

    His looming clash against Federer could provide him with the “Roger Federer” moment of his career in the manner that the Swiss, then aged 19, famously upset Pete Sampras in five sets in the fourth round back in 2001.

    That defeat ended the American’s hopes of a record eighth Wimbledon title and within fifteen months he would never strike a ball in anger again, though he would eventually bow out quietly after winning a then-record 14th Grand Slam title at the 2002 US Open by defeating Andre Agassi in the final.

    This is not to suggest that Roger Federer will suffer the same fate that Sampras did 16 years ago – after all, he remains the favourite to win a record eighth title at the All England Club, but of course he still needs to win four more matches to do so, starting with tonight’s showdown against Dimitrov.

    While the top four seeds have gone their merry way, the next biggest name after them, Stan Wawrinka, became the tournament’s biggest casualty when he lost to unheralded Russian Daniil Medvedev, who by virtue of the result grabbed his first victory in a Grand Slam main draw match, in the first round.

    The 32-year-old had been going for the career Grand Slam, having won the Australian Open in 2014, the French Open in 2015 and the US Open last year, but will have to wait at least another twelve months to complete his set after crashing to yet another embarrassing defeat at the All England Club.

    It was the sixth time dating back to 2010 in which he has departed SW19 in either the first or second round. However, he has reached the quarter-finals twice, in 2014 and 2015, and grass still remains his weakest surface overall.

    The other big story to come out of the first week of the Championships was the dismal performances of the Australian players; of the six men who started in the main draw, not one of them was able to reach the second round.

    The best hope, Nick Kyrgios, was forced to retire while trailing two sets to love against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert due to a hip injury, while Bernard Tomic’s horror 2017 continued when he was beaten in straight sets by Mischa Zverev.

    Nick Kyrgios of Australia wipes his face with a towel

    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

    Tomic drew more controversy following his post-match press conference, in which he claimed he was “bored” and that he didn’t care about how he fared at Major tournaments anymore.

    Having reached the fourth round last year, the 24-year-old will drop a significant amount of rankings points and could find himself having to qualify for the US Open if his results don’t improve over the next month-and-a-half.

    It wasn’t the first time an Australian had courted controversy in a match against Zverev – last October at the Shanghai Masters, Kyrgios appeared to give little (or no) effort in a straight-sets defeat which ultimately resulted in a three-week suspension (reduced from eight weeks) from the ATP World Tour.

    It wasn’t all that bad on the Australian front – Thanasi Kokkinakis took Juan Martin del Potro to four sets in just his second Grand Slam match since 2015, while qualifier Arina Rodionova reached the second round, losing to Zarina Diyas in straight sets after having led 5-1 in the second set.

    This now leads us to the women’s side of things, where there is a lot to recap from the first week of a tournament that has been blown wide open with the absences of big names Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

    The new Australian number one, Daria Gavrilova, will be wondering what could have been with her first-round victor, Croatian qualifier Petra Martic, having now reached the round of 16.

    Martic, who won their first round clash 10-8 in the final set, faces another giant killer in Magdalena Rybarikova, who sent third seed Karolina Pliskova packing in the second round, with a dream quarter-final berth at stake.

    Despite Pliskova’s early defeat, which continued her poor run of results at the All England Club, she can still become world number one depending on how Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep fare for the rest of the tournament.

    Kerber needs to reach the final while Halep must reach the semi-finals to have any chance of leaving Wimbledon with the top ranking. If seedings hold, then the world number one ranking could be decided in Saturday’s final.

    Kerber and Halep both remain alive in their pursuit of the top ranking, but both face tough tasks against former Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka in their respective fourth round clashes tonight (AEST).

    ashleigh-barty-tennis-2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    The other major casualty from the women’s draw was that of two-time champion Petra Kvitova, who had her dreams of a third Wimbledon title ended at the hands of a player who before this year had never won a singles match at the All England Club.

    Plagued by illness, the left-handed Czech, in her third tournament back from a violent hand injury suffered before Christmas last year, went down in three sets to American Madison Brengle in the second round.

    This leaves Venus Williams as the only former champion, and the oldest player at 37, still alive ahead of her clash against Ana Konjuh, who conversely is the youngest player left in the draw at age 19 (she turns 20 in December).

    To better understand the significance of their clash, the two-time junior Grand Slam champion wasn’t even born when Williams made her debut at the All England Club in 1997, or reached the US Open final later that same year.

    Local favourite Johanna Konta will carry the hopes of a nation behind her into her clash against France’s Caroline Garcia, having won one of the matches of the tournament just to get this far at SW19 for the first time.

    The Sydney-born 26-year-old held her nerve to defeat young Croat Donna Vekic in a gripping three-setter in the second round, breaking in the eighteenth game of the final set to break new ground at the All England Club.

    Vekic had beaten Konta in their previous meeting, in the final of the Nottingham Open last month, to claim her second career title and show the world the potential that had gone missing in recent years.

    But now, with Kvitova out of the way, Konta will tonight bid to become the first local woman since Jo Durie in 1984 to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, having already reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open last year.

    Other notable fourth round matches will see 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova resume their long-standing rivalry, while reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is up against the form player of the season, Elina Svitolina.

    Given what has transpired in the women’s draw, there will be at least three first-time Wimbledon quarter-finalists, with the aforementioned match between Magdalena Rybarikova and Petra Martic set to produce a first-time Major quarter-finalist.

    Conversely, nine of the remaining sixteen men have reached at least the quarter-final stage at the All England Club, with only Sam Querrey and Marin Cilic having not reached the semi-finals or better.

    Here are the matches to watch on Day 8.

    [1] Andy Murray (GBR) versus Benoit Paire (FRA)
    [24] Sam Querrey (USA) versus Kevin Anderson (RSA)
    [4] Rafael Nadal (ESP) versus [16] Gilles Muller (LUX)
    [18] Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP) versus [7] Marin Cilic (CRO)
    [6] Milos Raonic (CAN) versus [10] Alexander Zverev (GER)
    [13] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) versus [3] Roger Federer (SUI)
    [8] Dominic Thiem (AUT) versus [11] Tomas Berdych (CZE)
    Adrian Mannarino (FRA) versus [2] Novak Djokovic (SRB)

    [1] Angelique Kerber (GER) versus [14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
    [9] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) versus [7] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
    [PR] Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) versus [Q] Petra Martic (CRO)
    [24] Coco Vandeweghe (USA) versus [5] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
    [27] Ana Konjuh (CRO) versus [10] Venus Williams (USA)
    [13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) versus [4] Elina Svitolina (UKR)
    [6] Johanna Konta (GBR) versus [21] Caroline Garcia (FRA)
    [PR] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) versus [2] Simona Halep (ROU)

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