Lon­don’s fi­nal 16 men in­cludes big four, who have dom­i­nated for 14 years, and Canuck

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - HOWARD FENDRICH

As usual, Roger Fed­erer, No­vak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Mur­ray are play­ing well at Wim­ble­don, lead­ing the way into Week 2.

“It’s their turf,” said Ernests Gulbis, who stood in Djokovic’s way in the third round, but failed to present too much of an ob­sta­cle. “It’s their home court.” In­deed, it is. Not since Lley­ton He­witt won the cham­pi­onship 15 years ago has some­one other than Fed­erer (a record-equalling seven ti­tles in that span), Djokovic (three), Nadal (two) or Mur­ray (two) left Wim­ble­don with the men’s sin­gles ti­tle. In ad­di­tion, that so-called Big 4 ac­counts for eight run­ner-up fin­ishes dur­ing that stretch.

Count Fed­erer among those shrug­ging at the quar­tet’s suc­cess so far this fort­night, with only one set dropped among the lot.

“I thought that ev­ery­body this week was go­ing to find their form, es­pe­cially speak­ing about Andy and No­vak . ... With me, I hoped I was go­ing to be there. Whereas with Rafa’s con­fi­dence, I thought he was also go­ing to be there,” said Fed­erer, who has a cold.

“So I’m not that sur­prised. But it’s great,” he added.

This Grand Slam sea­son has been just like old times.

Fol­low­ing a pe­riod in which Djokovic, then cur­rent No. 1 Mur­ray over­took Fed­erer and Nadal in the rank­ings, and started reg­u­larly ap­pear­ing in — and win­ning — ma­jor fi­nals, the lat­ter two have re­asserted them­selves.

First, Fed­erer re­turned from miss­ing the last half of 2016, while let­ting his sur­gi­cal­lyre­paired left knee heal and has been as im­pres­sive as he’s been in quite some time. He won his first Grand Slam ti­tle in 4½ years at the Aus­tralian Open, beat­ing long­time ri­val Nadal in the fi­nal.

If that was the first in­di­ca­tion that Nadal, too, was truly back af­ter his own health is­sues, an­other one came at the French Open, where he won his record 10th tro­phy in fan­tas­tic fash­ion, not drop­ping a set. He’s now run his con­sec­u­tive sets streak at ma­jors to 28, ty­ing his per­sonal best and, in the Open era, sit­ting be­hind only Fed­erer’s run of 36 from 2006-07, and John McEn­roe’s 35 in 1984.

“Against Rafa,” said the man he de­feated in the third round, 30th-seeded Karen Khachanov, “if you give him time, he can de­stroy you.”

As Fed­erer al­luded to, it’s been Djokovic and Mur­ray who ar­rived at the All Eng­land Club hav­ing been less than their best this sea­son. But, with Andre Agassi and Mario An­cic in his coach­ing cor­ner, Djokovic seems re­ju­ve­nated. De­fend­ing cham­pion Mur­ray is the only mem­ber of the foursome who hasn’t won ev­ery set he’s played in the tour­na­ment: Against Fabio Fognini in the third round, he ceded one and saved five set points to barely avoid los­ing an­other.

The men’s fourth-round matchups on the top half of the draw Mon­day are Mur­ray vs. Benoit Paire, Nadal vs. No. 16 Gilles Muller, No. 7 Marin Cilic vs. No. 18 Roberto Bautista Agut, and No. 24 Sam Querrey vs. Kevin An­der­son. On the bot­tom half, it’s Djokovic vs. Adrian Man­nar­ino, Fed­erer vs. No. 13 Grigor Dim­itrov, 2016 run­ner-up Mi­los Raonic vs. No. 10 Alexan­der Zverev; and 2010 run­ner-up To­mas Berdych vs. No. 8 Do­minic Thiem.

Wim­ble­don is the lone Grand Slam tour­na­ment that sched­ules all 16 re­main­ing sin­gles matches on the same day.

In the top-half women’s fourth-rounder play it’s: No. 1 An­gelique Ker­ber vs. No. 14 Gar­bine Mugu­ruza in a meet­ing of the past two run­ners-up; two-time ma­jor cham­pion Svet­lana Kuznetsova vs. 2012 run­ner-up Ag­nieszka Rad­wan­ska; No. 5 Caro­line Woz­ni­acki vs. No. 24 CoCo Van­deweghe; and Mag­dalena Ry­barikova vs. Pe­tra Mar­tic. In the bot­tom half, it’s five-time cham­pion Venus Wil­liams vs. No. 27 Ana Kon­juh; No. 2 Si­mona Halep vs. two-time Aus­tralian Open cham­pion Vic­to­ria Azarenka; French Open cham­pion Je­lena Ostapenko vs. No. 4 Elina Svi­tolina; and No. 6 Jo­hanna Konta vs. No. 21 Caro­line Gar­cia.

At 37, Wil­liams is the old­est woman left. At 19, Kon­juh is the youngest.

There is an in­ter­est­ing age dy­namic in the men’s event, too: The seven play­ers 30 or older in the round of 16 rep­re­sent the most to get that far in the 50 Wim­ble­dons of the Open era.

Fed­erer turns 36 in a month, Nadal is 31, and Djokovic and Mur­ray are both 30. They’re joined by Muller (34), An­der­son (31) and Berdych (31).

“I came through the ju­niors with all these guys. It’s nice to see them still hang­ing on, still en­joy­ing the tour, still be­ing tough out there, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the young­sters to break through,” Fed­erer said. “There is a bit of that clash right now — the young ones try­ing to push out, es­pe­cially, the 35-plus guys. But then there’s a strong, strong team, as well, around the gen­er­a­tion of Rafa and Mur­ray and Djokovic, ob­vi­ously.”


Canada’s Mi­los Raonic cel­e­brates his vic­tory Satur­day af­ter his third-round match against Al­bert Ramos-Vi­no­las of Spain, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-5. Raonic, the 2016 Wim­ble­don run­ner-up, plays No. 10 Alexan­der Zverev on Mon­day in the round of 16 at the ten­nis tour­na­ment.

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