So Wimbledon finally got its giantkiller in the shape of Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, the Czech conqueror of No.2 seed Li Na yesterday.
It might not have been up there with Lori McNeil’s first-round defeat of champion Steffi Graf in 1994 or even the unknown George Bastl’s defeat of the fading Pete Sampras in 2002, but it was the first genuine surprise of these Championships.
Giantkillers have been in short supply ever since Wimbledon became the first of the four Grand Slams to switch from 16 seeds to 32 in 2001, ostensibly to appease the clay courters who struggled to get seeded, but it also had the effect of increasing the likelihood of greater quality in the second week of the tournament.
This year more than most there are some potentially mouth-watering quarter-finals coming up, but the improvement in quality is already obvious at this third-round stage and today’s programme, particularly the top half of the women’s draw, is littered with enthralling match-ups.
Take Eugenie Bouchard against Andrea Petkovic, who are first up on No.3 Court, for example. Both made a huge impact at the French Open where they reached the semi-finals and they appear to have carried their good form across the Channel. There can be few more mature 20-year-olds than Bouchard, while the erudite Petkovic is coming back to the form she showed three years ago before injury stymied her progress.
Bouchard won the junior title here two years ago, but over on No.2 Court there is a girl who won it just 12 months ago – Belinda Bencic. It would be unfair to compare the latest Swiss miss to the outrageously precocious Martina Hingis, but there is no doubt that Bencic has made the transition from juniors to seniors with similar ease. No-one in their right mind would expect her to beat the No.3 seed and French Open runner-up Simona Halep, but she is going to have fun trying.
The women’s game has been waiting a long time for Ana Ivanovic to rediscover the game that took her to the French Open title and the No.1 ranking - six years in fact. But there have been signs this year that it's finally returning. Her match against last year’s runner-up Sabine Lisicki on No.1 Court may tell us a little more about her rejuvenation.
Of course, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova can never take a back-seat, even on days when they are not driving the tournament forward, and with a projected quarter-final between the two in the offing many neutrals will be crossing fingers and toes in the hope that they get past Alize Cornet and Alison Riske on No.1 Court and Centre Court, respectively.
Don’t rule out the possibility of a lesser-known name making a blind-side run to the final from the bottom half of the men’s draw. Kei Nishikori, of Japan, hasn’t looked back since Michael Chang came on board and goes into his match against Simone Bolelli on Court 18 without having dropped a set so far.
Nor, too, has Feliciano Lopez, the runner-up at Queen’s and winner at Eastbourne. His serve-and-volley game can cause anyone problems and probably will John Isner on No.3 Court. When it comes to players in form he could be the Spaniard people have most to fear.
Now that he is through that dangerous opening phase of the tournament Rafael Nadal will fancy his chances of going deep into the competition. After all, once past the second-round stage he has made the final every year since 2006 with the exception of 2009 when he didn’t compete. He should have too much momentum now for Mikhail Kukushkin when they open on Centre Court.
By comparison, it’s been a walk in the park for his old nemesis Roger Federer. If this were clay the Swiss would be more than a little concerned about facing Santiago Giraldo, but it’s grass and Centre Court where the gods always smile benignly upon him – unless he is playing Andy Murray, of course.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all