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Under the Roof: Another Night Time Thriller

Fed Survives; 4 US Men Advance with Serena


June 29, 2012 | 10:07 PM

Is JOKER about to begin a New Slam Quest?

It's clear that to win majors requires something beyond mental toughness and all the shots. The only person to do it in the Open era, Rod Laver, was almost 31 in 1969 when it was done against an accomplished field, including Emerson, Rosewall, Roche, Ashe, Smith, and Newcombe.

That something extra may be experience.

The odds of a slam are looking more remote with Joker needing to start over on his quest and with Nadal in the picture on clay. Yesterday showed what can happen against a big hitter who goes nuclear (for an explanation of why the odds favor such an upset about every 4 years, go to heavytopspin.com), but Nadal's loss also made it more likely that Joker will begin a new slam quest in London. Federer's near upset today would have put the champagne on ice [more on this below].

At 25 years old, after 9 years on the tour and with 30 majors under his belt, Joker has more major match experience than Laver had in 1969. Laver played just 70 matches in the 4 Major events during his career (so few because he had been ineligible as a pro for 5 years in the prime of his career). Joker has already played 150 Major matches, winning the same 83% of them as Laver did.

Like Laver, Joker also has the experience of being dominant for a year, and has come within two sets of a slam, as close as Federer ever came and closer than Rafa. Laver came with a set and sometimes a break of losing on his road to his '69 Slam.

As much experience as the top three have winning matches in majors, the field as a whole has experience both from starting young and from enduring careers: the average age of the field this year, 27.3, is higher than it's been at any time since Laver won his slam in 1969. The seeds today average age 27.1, higher than it's been in 35 years (in 1969, the average for seeds was 28.6, though there were only 16 seeds then - seeding 32 players didn't begin until 2001).

Today, two 30 year olds battled in a match that will be long remembered and holds significance for Joker's quest, Federer's legacy and a rivalry for #1.

DAY 5: Federer v Benneteau, The Center of Attraction

It came very close to happening again: two points separated #29 seed Julien Benneteau from the greatest victory of his 12 year pro career, and the first 2nd round loss in a Major for Roger Federer in 9 years (his first at The WC in a decade). At 5-5 in the 4th set breaker on Fed's serve, Fed put in the kind of huge ball that he'd relied on to get back in the match. On set point down, Benneteau made a successful net rush and forced a Fed BH error. For the 6th time, Julien was 2 points from ending Fed's best chances to win a major. But Fed stayed cool and rallied with aggression until he saw his opponent's backhand sail long. When he got to the line to finally serve for the set, he was again in control and played a ball that Julien couldn't return with his forehand.

Fed hadn't started the match with his customary radar working: too many groundstrokes went into the net, an easy forehand volley into an open court was blocked into the net, putting no pressure on on Benneteau with his returns (he didn't earn a single break point), and - most importantly - he was serving at barely 44%. An anemic 5 winners and 2 aces were offset by his 8 errors. By contrast, Julien was serving at 62%, and when he earned a break point at 4-4, he converted it and served out the set 6-4.

In the 2nd SET, Fed brought his serve percentage up to 64%, served 5 aces and started going to the net. He broke Juien in the 2nd game, but was broken back by more anemic play and Julien's aggressive returns. Julien pumped out winners like Rosol - 26 of them in the 2nd set alone - and banged 7 aces to keep Fed out of the points on his serve until 5-5 in the set, when he went down 0-40. That was when he became Rosol like and fired aces and winners, taking matters completely out of Fed's hands. When the set went to a breaker, it was no surprise that it was Julien's energy that gave him the edge, or that he won it 7-3. He was simply outplaying Fed and making him work harder on his service games, and Fed didn't seem to be improving fast enough to put an end to it.

The 3rd SET. When it started, Julien was already looking like he'd played 3 tough sets, while Fed looked like a man who's just hit a few. It showed early when Fed got an early break and ran out the set losing only 4 points on serve, 6-2. While he came in only 3 times, he was successful when he did and made only 4 errors.

The 4th SET was not to be so easy. Benneteau was re-charged, and firing winners again (he would hit 15, to 7 errors). Though neither mane earned a break point, Julien was ready for another breaker and began it well. They traded mini-breaks early, and each point afterwards seemed to carry the weight of the world, though Julien did not appear nervous as he had at times earlier. When he stopped a point to challenge a base line call and Fed's ball was called out by a centimeter, their was an audible gasp in the crowd, adding to the tension of the moment which had earlier produced a rarity in Centre Court: a Mexican wave, or so they dub it. But Fed was up for the situation, and produced his finest tennis of the match so far (he served at 71% and ended the set with 20 winners and only 4 errors, though still losing almost half his 13 points at nets).

The 5th SET was the kind of anti-climax we expected yesterday but didn't want to think about it. Fed ran away from the set, losing only 11 points, facing no breaks and making only 2 errors. Julien had called the trainer to treat him for cramps before the set. In the 5th his serve speed dropped noticeably and though he only missed 2 first serves, he lost 8 of 15 points on first serves, and hit only 3 winners and 2 aces. Like another Frenchman two years - Nicolas Mahut - Julien left exhausted and sad, but still exhilarated by the performance of a life time on Center Court. When you are up 2 sets on Roger in a major, as 7 men had previously been and lost, you have joined an exclusive club of men who have had their moment on the grandest court of them all.

Elsewhere on the grounds, another Frenchman was surviving a 5 setter and winning an opportunity to match Fed: 33 year old Xavier Malisse, a semi-finalist in '02 before Fed ever got that far in a Major, reached the 4th round for the second year in a row. #17 seed Verdasco was his victim, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Fernando hasn't reached the 4th round since '09, and was disappointed after banging out 21 aces and 69 winners.

A third Frenchman, Richard Gasquet (#18 seed), played with the kind of flourish he'd showed in the 3rd round at RG when he took out Tommy Haas 6-0, 6-0 in the 3rd and 4th sets. Today #12 seed Nicolas Almagro was the victim, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The spaniard hasn't had Gasquet's success on grass (he was a semi-finalist in '07, and has 3 times reached the final 16). Richard made that show in artistic ways, picking his powerful opponent apart with power and touch.

Richard's 4th round opponent will be 31 seeded German Florian Mayer, who outlasted Jerzy Janowicz, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 to get past the 3rd round for the first time since '04 at The WC. The 21 year old Pole had played 14 sets of singles this week without letting his 138 mph service speed falter til the end.

Joker had begun the day losing a set to 28th seed Stepanek after squandering 5 break opportunities and giving up his own serve in a single break to end the set. But this was to be no repeat of Rafa;s woes, as he took firm control of the 33 year old and won 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

Joker's next opponent will be fellow Serb Viktor Troicki, whose ranking has dropped him out of the seeding this year. With a big ground game and serve, his efficient net play was too much for 15th seeded Juan Monaco., taking the match 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 by converting 6 of 13 break points and losing only 3 of 9.

The final two reaching the 4th round in the top half are #26 seed Mikhail Youzhny and Denis Istomin. The 29 year old Russian has reached the 4th round 6 times previously and never gone further. After winning today in 4 sets over 8th seeded Tipsarevic, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, he is in good position to have his best championship and reach the quarters. His opponent, the 26 year old Uzbekistani Istomin, has never gone further than the 1st round in two previous times here.

The only American man in action today was Sam Querrey, who had to finish his 2nd round match with #21 seed Raonic, which was deadlocked at a set each and 3-3 after play was suspended. Thursday night. The 3rd turned out to be a test of nerves which the cool Californian won 10-8 in a breaker. It was even battle battle of big servers (Sam's 136 mph highest matched Milos' 139 - both averaged 122 on 1st serves), which ended with Sam winning 6-4 in the 4th courtesy of cashing in on 1 or 2 break chances in the set and not allowing even one on his serve. The two ended deadlocked still in total points, 153 each.

To reach his second 4th round in a row (he missed the event last year), Sam will have to best #16 seed Marin Cilic, a 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-1 winner over Polish veteran Lukasz Kubot. The two will meet for the first time tomorrow.

Other Americans in action tomorrow are:

- Roddick in Centre Court against #7 seed David Ferrer

- Fish against belgian 2 year old David Goffin

- Brian Baker against Frenchman Benoit Paire

- Serena in Centre Court against #25 seed Jie Zheng

SERENA is the only remaining American woman after today when:

- Sloane Stephens competed evenly with last year's semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki, but after finding herself on the losing end of a 7-5 breaker in the 1st set, trading lop-sided set wins wasn't enough: 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-2. Lisicki will face MARIA next, who was an easy winner over Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE), 6-1, 6-4.

- Christina McHale lost badly to #8 seed Sabine Kerber, 6-2, 6-3. The German will next face CLIJSTERS, who advanced when an ailing and weeping Vera Zvonareva retired at down 3-6 and 3-4.

The top half of the women's draw is filled out by:

- #17 Kirilenko v #30 Peng

- #3 Radwanska v Camila Giorgi (a 20 year old Italian qualifier)

SATURDAY: SCHEDULE OF PLAY

Centre Court

1:00 PM

LADIES' SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Serena Williams (USA)[6]

v

Jie Zheng (CHN)[25]

GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

David Ferrer (ESP)[7]

v

Andy Roddick (USA)[30]

GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)

v

Andy Murray (GBR)[4]

No. 1 Court

1:00 PM

LADIES' SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Varvara Lepchenko (USA)

v

Petra Kvitova (CZE)[4]

GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Kei Nishikori (JPN)[19]

v

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)[9]

GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)[5]

v

Lukas Lacko (SVK)

No. 2 Court

11:30 AM

LADIES' SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Ana Ivanovic (SRB)[14]

v

Julia Goerges (GER)[22]

LADIES' SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Jana Cepelova (SVK)

v

Victoria Azarenka (BLR)[2]

GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Marin Cilic (CRO)[16]

v

Sam Querrey (USA)

LADIES' DOUBLES - 2ND ROUND

Maria Kirilenko (RUS)[4] /

Nadia Petrova(RUS)[4]

v

Serena Williams (USA) /

Venus Williams(USA)

No. 2 Court

11:30 AM

LADIES' SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Ana Ivanovic (SRB)[14]

v

Julia Goerges (GER)[22]

LADIES' SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Jana Cepelova (SVK)

v

Victoria Azarenka (BLR)[2]

GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES - 3RD ROUND

Marin Cilic (CRO)[16]

v

Sam Querrey (USA)

LADIES' DOUBLES - 2ND ROUND

Maria Kirilenko (RUS)[4] /

Nadia Petrova(RUS)[4]

v

Serena Williams (USA) /

Venus Williams(USA)

Rick

Day 5: Wimbledon 3rd Round Results 6


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