NO arguments, this is the finest day of the tennis season.
The second Monday at Wimbledon sees all the last-16 matches in the men’s and women’s singles take place, so there are great encounters everywhere around the All England Club.
WIMBLEDON WRAP really is spoilt for choice when deciding what to discuss! But it’s hard to look beyond the two British survivors and Wimbledon royalty.
Great Britain v France
Jo Konta v Caroline Garcia (Court 1, 1pm)
IT’s one week down and one to go for Jo Konta in her quest to become Wimbledon Champion. But even though she is halfway through the tournament, she’s still less than halfway to the title with three matches gone and potentially four more to come. But having never reached this stage before, Konta can at least say she has done the first part.
However, there is a different atmosphere come the second week of Wimbledon. The locker room is quieter, the focus on each match is more intense and the stakes are higher. From a supposedly wide-open women’s tournament, Konta’s route to the final is hardly open. That begins today against Caroline Garcia, a very talented player from France.
Garcia knows all about the expectations of the crowd at a home Grand Slam as she has experienced that at Roland Garros, where the French are every bit as desperate for a home winner as we are. Some players thrive under it, other players wilt. But as Tim Henman and Andy Murray have shown in the last 20 years, using that home support as a positive can often make all the difference in the tightest matches.
Andy Murray v Benoit Paire (Centre Court, approx. 3pm)
SOME Frenchman or woman must have offended Andy Murray’s ancestors hundreds of years ago, because Andy has turned into the modern-day French slayer. Despite the proliferation of French players on the ATP Tour, Murray has consistently swatted them away. He’s currently on a 25-match winning streak against them stretching back to February 2015 and the likes of Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have never beaten him at Wimbledon.
Next in his path is Benoit Paire. When they met in their only previous match in Monte Carlo last year, Paire served for the match and lost. Perhaps that in a nutshell sums up Murray’s record. The French players have oodles of talent, but they don’t have the same never-say-die attitude of the Scotsman. Given that Paire has never reached this stage at Wimbledon before, it would be a surprise if Murray had to dig too deep into the well on this occasion.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery
ROGER FEDERER may feel he is looking in a mirror when he stares across the net on Centre Court later. Grigor Dimitrov plays like Federer, moves like Federer and wants to be Federer. The only problem is that the Grand Slam tally currently stands at 18-0 in the Swiss man’s favour. Their head-to-head record also has Federer leading 5-0.
But sometimes things have to change. Dimitrov has played an excellent first week and given his natural ability, the Bulgarian should be higher than seeded 13th. Everyone in tennis talks of him as a future Grand Slam winner, but he is still awaiting the big breakthrough. Could this have echoes of 2001? Back then, in the same round and on the same court, a teenage Swiss took on the King of Wimbledon, Pete Sampras, and dethroned him over five sets. Will Federer be on the end of that role reversal this time?
IT should be all about the singles today and Andy and Jo, but come on, let’s hear it for Marcus Willis! He and partner Jay Clarke recorded a sensational upset to beat reigning Wimbledon Champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut on Saturday evening. They are back in action this morning on Court 14 against Austro-Croatian pair Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic.
Seed in danger:
VICTORIA AZARENKA is only unseeded because she took time off to have a baby. But the two-time winner of the Australian Open showed on Friday against Heather Watson on Centre Court that motherhood has taken away none of her tenacity and fighting spirit. So she will be a formidable opponent for No.2 seed Simona Halep, who is chasing both her first Grand Slam and the World No.1 spot this week.