I’ve decided the best way to sum up Friday and Saturday’s action at Wimbledon is to look forward to Manic Monday, a.k.a. the greatest day of tennis in all the year, when the entire R16 – men and women – play on the same day.
Roger Federer v Jurgen Melzer
Roger’s got his Wimbledon back on track with a straight sets victory over Arnaud Clement, a good match-up for him at the best of times. Jurgen Melzer toiled slightly more with a four-set win over Feliciano Lopez. Doubles partners in the juniors, these two have unbelievably never played on the senior tour. Melzer can be a tricky opponent and knocked out Novak Djokovic at the French Open, and Roger has obviously looked wobbly, but I reckon he’s found his feet now. Prediction: Roger in four.
Winner to meet …
Tomas Berdych v Daniel Brands
Daniel Brands has, for me, been one of the surprises of the tournament; after beating Igor Andreev, Nikolay Davydenko, and Victor Hanescu (albeit in circumstances which bear examination, more on that later), he’s now through to the round of sixteen in his very first Wimbledon. And that’s not something that every bronzed sex god can pull out of the bag (I saw him at several points during Wimbledon, and he is.) He’s been excellent in tiebreaks and high-pressure situations, but Berdych certainly should be a bridge too far; he won his first two matches in straights and did get taken to five by Denis Istomin – but Istomin has been having some very good results of late. Definitely the hottest match of the day, anyway … Prediction: Berdych in three.
Novak Djokovic v Lleyton Hewitt
Probably the most eagerly anticipated match-up of the day on the men’s side, what’s surprising to me is that Nole has won both of their previous meetings on grass; once at Queens in 2008, and once at this stage during Wimbledon in 2007. Since that time, however, Nole has been floundering – not least at Wimbledon – and Lleyton is arguably riding a great wave of confidence, coming off a win against Federer in Halle and a very decent Wimbledon last year. Everyone seems to be giving the edge to Hewitt, who’s had a good run including a straight sets defeat of Gael Monfils in the third round; Nole, on the other hand, seemed to make progress in his defeat of Taylor Dent, but laboured to a victory over a dreadful Montanes. I’m going with Nole, however, in the hope that that will Make It True. Prediction: Nole in five.
Winner to meet …
Andy Roddick v Yen-Hsun Lu
Please. Despite many predictions of an early exit, Roddick has withstood inspired tennis from Michael Llodra and Philipp Kohlschreiber to be in the fourth round. When he does go out, it won’t be to Lu – no disrespect to the player from Chinese Taipei, who I saw putting paid to Horacio Zeballos in the very first round. Prediction: If it isn’t Roddick in three, something’s gone seriously wrong somewhere.
Julien Benneteau v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Neither of these two have had a very smooth route through, but through they are as part of a stellar showing for France at this year’s Championships. Benneteau has played fourteen sets in beating Vliegen, Beck and Fognini’s eyebrows, while Jo was stretched to the limit by the artist formerly known as Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. in the second round. I’m surprised their head-to-head is so evenly balanced, but Jo won their only other meeting on grass, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t go the same way – especially since Benny has had to work so hard to get here. I just hope it isn’t a total disappointment, as it is all too often when the French play each other. Prediction: Jo in three.
Winner to meet …
Sam Querrey v Andy Murray
Sam has never taken so much of a set off Andy in their previous meetings. And Andy has yet to drop a set at this year’s championships. I think both these things might be about to change. Murray has yet to be seriously tested – and now has the full weight of our nation’s expectations back on his shoulders after the abysmal performance of England’s footballers at the World Cup today – while Sam has had two tough matches against Malisse and, er, Ivan Dodig. He also has his famously laid-back attitude (when he’s not storming back off to the States in a snit) which serves him well on an occasion like this. Still, I think Andy will win. I have to believe that when Andy loses here, it won’t be to Sam Querrey, Queen’s champion though he might be. Prediction: Murray in five.
Robin Soderling v David Ferrer
Two of my favourite players still in this year’s draw. I’m excited. But not that excited, because Robin has looked in fearsome form and while that sometimes means a player is ripe for an upset, especially when they’re being tipped as a strong contender, it’s not going to come from Ferru (bless him), who narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of Jeremy Chardy last round when the latter enacted what I don’t think it’s unfair to describe as a massive choke. Will Ferru prove me wrong and deny everyone a Nadal-Soderling quarterfinal? No. Prediction: Robin in straights.
Winner to meet …
Rafael Nadal v Paul-Henri Mathieu
You’ll notice Paul-Henri Mathieu is pictured running into a wall. There’s a reason for that. Rafa encountered a spot of bother in his last match, courtesy of an inspired and determined Philipp Petzchner, eventually triumphing in five sets during which he called the trainer more than once and was warned for coaching. However, Rafa says the knee (for which he called the trainer – also, something in the armular region, possibly) is not an issue, and while Mathieu has been on a good run, most impressively beating Mikhail Youzhny, it ends here. Honestly, we all know Mathieu is frantically talented, but does anyone really think he’ll keep it together enough to seriously challenge Rafa? Prediction: Rafa in straights.
What do you think?