Final 16 to face tender mercies of Centre Court at Wimbledon
Seeds will be halved as all go hoping for a place in the quarterfinal lineup
Serena Williams, uncharacteristically, has shown no blips, kinks or wefts in her Wimbledon story so far.
There are still some players in the last 16 rubber necking into the latter stages of the draw and others, too, who are a threat but have never won a Grand Slam.
But today’s cast of characters in the men’s and women’s singles will weed out half of those and make the pool smaller for the handful who expect to be around next weekend as fourth-round matches in the men and women’s draw take place.
Robson is not one of those with genuine expectations, after a flawed but sassy win over New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic. Attention on Wimbledon’s latest object of veneration will become a little more cloying and frenzied. Her meeting today with Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi will kick-start that with gifted tabloid material. ‘Robson eats Kanepi (canapé).’
With Murray, Djokovic and Australia’s Bernard Tomic elevated to Centre Court status, the Australian is now finally punching at the weight many expected of him. Murray and Djokovic have been towering and arrive for each match with a presidential air of authority.
The second seed and Russian Mikhail Youzhny have played twice before, with the Scot winning both times. But it’s been quite a while since they’ve met, and never on grass. Youzhny’s run smacks of a final bloom as it’s been five years since his heady days in the top 10. His career high of eight was in 2008.
This year there is a deeper sense of expectation – not just because of the departure of Nadal and Federer but because Murray has looked more bulletproof and with a US Open and Olympic gold medal, the nuanced art of winning has become part of his armoury.
Tommy Haas, at 35 years old has an excellent grass pedigree and reached the semi-finals in 2009. But his opponent Djokovic is blue blood and no one yet has found a chink. He’s unflinchingly good, makes very few errors and gets everything back.
He’s also reached the round of 16 for the first time without dropping a set, whereas Haas is looking to become the oldest man to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final since Tom Okker in 1979. You know which one of those benchmarks you’d like in your corner.
Tomic is the player everyone wanted to see rise. A junior champion, the swirl of his father’s pending court case hasn’t distracted him. Not allowing John into the club over his alleged nutting of junior’s training partner seems a pejorative decision. But that flat forehand of Tomic and his sliced back hand has worked.