Wimbledon: Day 5 Preview
Published June 26, 2009 08:47
LONDON, UK - The stakes are raised another notch at the All England Club on Friday, as third round matches get underway. The players that have made it this far are in good form, while the new retractable roof over Centre Court might also be given a chance to strut its stuff.
 Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs.  Sorana Cirstea (ROU)
Azarenka leads 2-0
Azarenka dished out a double bagel to Ioana Raluca Olaru on Wednesday, to set up a third encounter with another Romanian. Seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time by virtue of her quarterfinal run at Roland Garros, Cirstea should provide sterner opposition than her compatriot - although she has struggled to dent the Belarusian's armour in the past. Indeed, Azarenka didn't concede a game the first time they played, at Roland Garros last year, and at Wimbledon 12 months ago Cirstea was able to win just four. Things should be more competitive today, if only because Cirstea is playing with greater confidence, but then Azarenka has hardly been standing still either, and she still possesses the more explosive game of the two.
[Q] Regina Kulikova (RUS) vs.  Elena Dementieva (RUS)
Kulikova is a contemporary of Alisa Kleybanova, the No.27 seed whom she dispatched in the second round despite losing the first set 6-0. But the 20-year-old's progress up the rankings has been impaired by all sorts of injuries, most recently an abdominal strain that kept the Kazakh-born, Swiss-based Russian out of action from October until just before Roland Garros last month. The worry is that she hurt her foot during the Kleybanova match, but playing her first Grand Slam main draw she knows she has nothing to lose now, and assuming she is fit could give Dementieva a run for her money. That said, she faces one of the game's ultimate pros today, and although recent middling results have cooled talk of her as a title contender, the Olympic champion has been making efficient progress through the draw.
 Vera Zvonareva (RUS) vs.  Virginie Razzano (FRA)
Razzano leads 4-2
Head-to-head records don't always reflect ranking status or overall career achievements, and this rivalry is a case in point. Razzano has been the victor three times in the last 12 months, including a match in Charleston this past April when Zvonareva retired after two games due to a right ankle injury. That led to an eight-week lay-off for the Russian, who didn't return until Eastbourne. The fallout was evident in a tight loss to Mauresmo at that event, and in her near-death experience against British wildcard Georgie Stoop in the first round here on Monday. But, while Zvonareva has done well to get this far under the circumstances, her retirement from a doubles match on Thursday afternoon does not bode well. Even if that was just a preventive measure, it should give Razzano, runner-up at Eastbourne and gunning for her first berth in the last 16 at Wimbledon, even more confidence.
Gisela Dulko (ARG) vs.  Nadia Petrova (RUS)
Tied at 2-2
Dulko was the last player to defeat the great Martina Navratilova in singles at Wimbledon, so perhaps her dispatch of Maria Sharapova shouldn't have been such a surprise. In any case, what was really most impressive about the win over the 2004 champion is that the Argentine didn't crumble after squandering a set-and-break lead, regrouping brilliantly to prevail in the final set. Today, the 24-year-old faces a different kind of mental test: the follow-up, and Petrova certainly won't be hard to budge. Interestingly Dulko, better known for her exploits on clay, scored one of her wins over the Russian on grass, but that was back in 2005 at 's-Hertogenbosch. Petrova has been serving well, which could prove to be the decisive factor today, as will the issue of whether Dulko suffers a let-down after what was surely one of the most intense experiences of her career.
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) vs. Ai Sugiyama (JPN)
Sugiyama leads 6-4
Good friends like playing each other on Tour about as much as sisters do, and, given the amount of doubles these two have played together - they even have a joint nickname, 'Hantuyama' and are the No.6 seeds here - there are no surprises as far as playing style goes. Indeed, as Sugiyama, playing a record 61st consecutive Grand Slam main draw, observed after her second round win, this match will rest on the psychological. So far the Japanese veteran has had the edge on that front, but after dropping out of the Top 40 earlier this year, Hantuchova seems to be getting her groove back. Now 26, the elegant Slovak was a quarterfinalist here way back in 2002, and if she plays like she did to defeat No.16 seed Zheng Jie on Wednesday, might well move a step closer to matching that feat. Before that, whoever wins this match willprobably face Serena in the fourth round.
More to watch…
No.2 seed Serena Williams gets the ball rolling on Court 2 against Italy's Roberta Vinci. Right after Hantuchova's match, fellow Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, the No.14 seed, steps onto Court 18 against Elena Vesnina of Russia; that will be followed by twelfth seed and 2007 runner-up Marion Bartoli versus Italy's Francesca Schiavone.