Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 7: Men's 4th Round Preview and Predictions

The most overworked lawn in all of England gets a well deserved breather on the middle Sunday of the Wimbledon Championships.

Hopefully some of those bare patches can grow back because when Monday morning rolls around a frantic race to the finish will officially begin.

All 16 men and women left in the singles draws will compete on various courts tomorrow, with star-studded action on six different courts. This plethora of quality tennis gives holders of grounds passes the opportunity to view high profile matches in the intimate settings of Wimbledon's lesser known side-courts.

Here's a sneak preview of all of the 4th round match ups that are on the docket:

MENS, 4th Round:

1. Roger Federer vs. Robin Soderling, Centre Court:

Soderling did the unthinkable in Paris in the 4th round against Nadal, and that is good enough reason to consider him a threat, even though he has lost to Federer in all 10 of their previous encounters.

Of the six sets they have played on grass, Soderling has only won one, but half of them have gone to tiebreakers. So it's not like Soderling has been getting blown off the court by Fed. Still, it takes a pretty fecund imagination to visualize Roger getting beat here, on the surface he likes more than any other.

Pick: Federer in 5

2. Andy Murray vs. Stanislas Wawrinka, Centre Court:

Murray Mania is a beautiful thing for the English, and you can bet if the loyal enlistees of Andymonium are needed to get the wildly hyped Scot through a rough spot in this match, they will perform admirably.

That being said, the way Murray has performed in the Championships thus far, the more likely scenario is that those lucky enough to have Centre Court tickets can sit back and enjoy another classic Murray puppet act (with Andy pulling the strings, and Stan the Man reacting).

In their last big time match, Andy scored a decisive 4th round victory over Wawrinka at the U.S. Open in straight sets. It's hard to imagine the results here being any different. Wawrinka has taken 3 out of the 7 matches that the two have played, but Murray has taken 4 out of the last 5.

Pick: Murray in 4

3. Fernando Verdasco vs. Ivo Karlovic, Court 1:

Serving more aces than a Vegas dealer, Ivo Karlovic is the man that no one wants to face. And there's good reason for that. Karlovic leads all of Wimbledon with 102 aces, and he hasn't been broken in his first three matches (faced 4 break points in his first round match against Lukas Lacko, but saved them all).

But before you start anointing Dr. Ivo the new King of Grass, realize that Karlovic has never been beyond the 4th Round at Wimbledon, and he suffered losses in the first round for the previous 4 years.

That being said, he did beat Verdasco last year in their only previous encounter on grass (in a third set tiebreak at the Nottingham Finals), and Verdasco has never been beyond the 4th round at Wimbledon either (lost in both attempts in 5 sets).

Someone has to give here, and it'll be fun to see who does.

Pick: Verdasco in 4

4. Tomas Berdych vs. Andy Roddick, Court 1:

For those of you who were miffed when Berdych suddenly retired against Roddick after one set and 2 games at the 2007 U.S. Open (4th round also), here is your long awaited rain check.

Both heavy hitters come into this match riding a nice wave of momentum. Berdych is one of only two players to not lose a set thus far in the tournament, while Roddick, boasting a 36-6 record in 2009 under new coach Larry Stefanki, is looking more like the 2004 and 2005 Roddick who appeared in two consecutive finals.

This should be a high octane affair, as the two thrashers are both sensing that a win here might propel them into the semis.

Pick: Roddick in 5

5. Lleyton Hewitt vs. Radek Stepanek, Court 2:

Hewitt is 2-0 vs. Stepanek, but this one will feel more like a strange encounter than a familiar one. Both meetings were in 2003, and while the born again Hewitt is interested in reproducing the glory of yesteryear, Stepanek seems to be getting smarter as he gets older.

So throw the records out the window for this match.

This one will be won on heart and soul, not past accomplishments.

One thing to note is that Hewitt has come through the draw without losing a set, and Stepanek has been forced to labor through consecutive five-setters against Starace and Ferrer. Plus the rowdy Aussie supporters will be there to pick up Lleyton when he's down.

Hewitt, as a former Wimbledon champion, will be the favorite coming in, but Stepanek is one of those guys that you can never count out.

Pick: Hewitt in 4

6. Novak Djokovic vs. Dudi Sela, Court 3:

After his 3rd round loss in Roland Garros, and amidst all the hype surrounding Federer and Murray and Nadal these days, Novak Djokovic has become the forgotten man around the All England Club. Guess what? He likes it, and if there was ever something to put that chip back on Novak's shoulder, this might be it.

His straight set annihilation of Mardy Fish was impressive, and he has been a Wimbledon Semi-finalist before, so he knows the lay of the land.

Meanwhile, Sela has become quite the giant killer. He entered the tournament with a record of 12-11 on the year, but since his first round five-set thriller against qualifier Santiago Gonzalez, he has knocked off last year's semi-finalist Ranier Scheuttler (in 4) and No. 15 seed Tommy Robredo (also in 4).

Could the 5'9" 147 giant killer have another giant upset in him? Or will the forgotten man be remembered?

Pick: Djokovic in 4

7. Juan Carlos Ferrero vs. Gilles Simon, Court 3:

The diminutive yet indefatigable Simon is finally doing some damage after a long and disappointing slumber for much of this season. He's still ranked # 7, but big wins have been hard to come by for the 24-year-old. He's benefited from a fortunate draw, and the only seeded player that he's had to play so far was No. 31 seed. Victor Hanescu. Nonetheless, he's come through, and he's now one match away from his 2nd Slam quarterfinal of 2009.

Ferrero, a Wildcard, has a 21-8 career record on the Wimbledon grass, and is looking to match his 2007 quarter final performance with a win over the Frenchman. Ferrero's five-set upset over Fernando Gonzalez was grueling, but if he can recover nicely on his day off, he'll have a good shot to derail Simon.

Pick: Ferrero in 4

8. Igor Andreev vs. Tommy Haas, Court 4:

After blowing a 2 set lead against Roger Federer in Roland Garros, Tommy Haas has rebounded nicely. First he took a grass court title in Halle, Germany, and now, after winning a nail biter extraordinaire against Marin Cilic, he'll get another chance to make good in the 4th round of a slam.

His opponent on Monday, No. 29 seed Igor Andreev, has never been this far at Wimbledon, so he is going to have to cross his fingers and hope that youth trumps the experience of Haas, who is the oldest man left in the draw.

Pick: Andreev in 4


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