LONDON – As Week 1 gives way to Week 2 at Wimbledon on Monday, the primary story lines have not shifted since the beginning of the tournament.
Will Roger Federer win a sixth Wimbledon championship and record 15th Grand Slam title?
Will Andy Murray end Britain’s 73-year wait for a male singles champion at the All England Club?
Will Venus Williams become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win the Venus Rosewater Dish three years in a row, bringing her career haul to six?
Will Serena Williams end her older sister’s reign and add to her own Wimbledon championships from 2002 and 2003?
Will they ever play a point on Centre Court with the spiffy new retractable roof closed?
“The common joke has been that they haven’t had to use it yet,” said Andy Roddick, twice a runner-up to Federer at Wimbledon. “All this money, and the weather’s been nice.”
That might register as the biggest upset through six days of play at this edition of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament: 1995 was the last year there was no rain at all during Wimbledon, and while the lightest of sprinkles did emerge during Murray’s victory Saturday, it wasn’t deemed enough to warrant closing the top.
“It would have been a nice bit of history, I guess,” Murray said. “The first match to play under the roof.”
The 22-year-old Briton has yet to show any signs of being the least bit intimidated by all the fuss about the sort of history his countrymen hope he’ll make next weekend. He even received a note from Queen Elizabeth II wishing him luck, and there’s a buzz building about whether she would make her first appearance at Wimbledon since 1977, if Murray were to reach the final.
First things first, though. Wimbledon is the only major tennis tournament that schedules all 16 men’s and women’s fourth-round matches for the second Monday, so things should be busy around the grounds.
Most of the biggest names are still around – 2008 champion Rafael Nadal pulled out before the tournament with sore knees, and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova lost in the second round – but there are some new faces. Most notably: 124th-ranked Melanie Oudin, a 17-year-old American, who had to go through qualifying to get into the women’s draw; and 46th-ranked Dudi Sela, the first man from Israel to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since 1989.
“I mean, on the grass, it’s a lot about the draw, you know?” pointed out Sela, who could become the first Israeli to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final in the 41-year Open era.
Here are the matchups in the men’s draw: No. 2 Federer versus No. 13 Robin Soderling, No. 3 Murray versus No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 4 Novak Djokovic versus Sela, No. 6 Roddick versus No. 20 Tomas Berdych, No. 7 Fernando Verdasco versus No. 22 Ivo Karlovic, No. 8 Gilles Simon versus Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 23 Radek Stepanek versus Lleyton Hewitt, and No. 24 Tommy Haas versus No. 29 Igor Andreev.
And in the women’s draw: No. 1 Dinara Safina versus No. 17 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 2 Serena Williams versus Daniela Hantuchova, No. 3 Venus Williams versus No. 13 Ana Ivanovic, No. 4 Elena Dementieva versus Elena Vesnina, No. 8 Victoria Azarenka versus No. 10 Nadia Petrova, No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki versus Sabine Lisicki, No. 11 Agnieszka Radwanska versus Oudin, and No. 26 Virginie Razzano versus Francesca Schiavone.
Those matches are spread out across six courts Monday.
“It’s a good ticket, I guess, if you’re a tennis fan,” Roddick observed. “Even if you don’t get on Centre, your grounds pass will do just fine.”
Federer will get things started on Centre Court against Soderling. It is a rematch of this month’s final at the French Open, where Federer completed his career Grand Slam and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major titles by improving to 10-0 against Soderling.
A victory by Soderling over five-time Wimbledon champion Federer at the All England Club would be just about as startling as the Swede’s victory over four-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in the – yep, you guessed it – fourth round.
“Maybe it’s the same challenge. It’s very tough to beat Rafa on clay, and it’s as tough to beat Roger on grass,” Soderling said. “But I made it once.”
He never had been past the third round at a major championship until Paris. For Federer, it’s a regular occurrence.
“This is where it gets really interesting for me,” Federer said, “as a top player.”
He hasn’t lost during the first week of any major championship since a third-round exit at the 2004 French Open. Starting with Wimbledon that year, Federer has reached the semifinals at a record 20 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
Hewitt called that streak “a little bit unheard-of,” and he’s right: The closest any other man in history has come is 10 in a row. Federer’s semifinal streak – and, don’t forget, he also has reached 15 of the past 16 Grand Slam finals – is particularly remarkable when you consider how often players get injured.
There’s Nadal, for example, while 2002 Wimbledon champion Hewitt’s opponent, the Czech Republic’s Stepanek, has felt pain in his left knee since last month and asked his doctor to fly in from Prague to help him prepare for Monday. Roddick twisted his ankle at a warmup event on grass, although he hasn’t shown any signs of that at the All England Club.
Venus Williams suddenly showed up for her second-round singles match with all sorts of white and brown tape above, below and around her left knee, but has not had even the tiniest trouble stretching her winning streaks at this tournament to 17 matches and 29 sets.
She certainly knows what it takes to get through both Week 1 and Week 2 at Wimbledon, even if she says she doesn’t have a particular plan in place for navigating the fortnight.
“I take it match by match and figure out whatever I need to figure out that round. You know, I don’t really over-think it,” she said. “I don’t have all these strategies on first week, second week. It’s just you’ve got to play good tennis. That’s just really all it comes down to.”