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Nadal Breaking the Clay Mold

The French Open winner will get to Wimbledon's quarterfinals if he beats unseeded Labadze today.

July 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England — Rafael Nadal talks a lot about how he hopes to contend for a Wimbledon title in three or four years, once he gets used to the odd bounces and tricky footing that come with playing on grass.

Could it happen much faster than he thought?

Andre Agassi got a firsthand view of Nadal at the All England Club, and he was duly impressed by the two-time French Open champion.

"Grass is a shot-making court. And if he's making guys feel like they can't hit winners out there on grass, that speaks to his presence," Agassi said after losing his final Wimbledon match in straight sets to No. 2-seeded Nadal.

Already into the fourth round for the first time at the All England Club, Nadal can reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal away from Paris by beating qualifier Irakli Labadze of Georgia today.

One question about Nadal's game on grass has been whether his serve is strong enough to steal points. He answered that against Agassi, winning 64 of the 79 points he served.

"His serve really has an awkward movement through the air, so you never get a real clean swing at it unless you're able to give it time to settle down. And if you do that, you have to back up and you're really giving him position on the court," Agassi said. "But more than that, if you don't hit a good return -- a really good return -- he's going to take hold of that first shot."

After the middle Sunday's traditional day of rest for everyone, the men's matchups today include three-time champion Federer versus No. 13 Tomas Berdych, 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt versus No. 23 David Ferrer, and Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis versus Andy Murray, who knocked off Andy Roddick and has become the locals' only hope for their first British men's champion since Fred Perry in 1936. Only four of the top 12 men are still around, and no U.S. men reached the fourth round for only the second time since 1922.

Berdych upset Federer at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but the Swiss star has won their three meetings since.

The women's singles has had more stability, although defending champion Venus Williams is gone -- and the only U.S. woman left is 21-year-old Shenay Perry.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Matchups

For only the second time since 1922, there are no men from the U.S. in Wimbledon's fourth round. Men's and women's fourth-round matches begin today. The matchups:

MEN

* No. 1 Roger Federer, Switzerland, vs. No. 13 Tomas Berdych, Czech Republic.

* No. 2 Rafael Nadal, Spain, vs.

Irakli Labadze, Georgia.

* No. 6 Lleyton Hewitt, Australia, vs.

No. 23 David Ferrer, Spain.

* No. 7 Mario Ancic, Croatia, vs.

Novak Djokovic, Serbia.

* No. 14 Radek Stepanek, Czech Republic, vs. No. 28 Fernando Verdasco, Spain.

* No. 18 Marcos Baghdatis, Cyprus, vs. Andy Murray, Britain.

* No. 22 Jarkko Nieminen, Finland, vs. Dmitry Tursunov, Russia.

* Jonas Bjorkman, Sweden, vs.

Max Mirnyi, Belarus.

WOMEN

* No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, France, vs.

No. 19 Ana Ivanovic, Serbia.

* No. 2 Kim Clijsters, Belgium, vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland.

* No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne, Belgium, vs. No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia.

* No. 4 Maria Sharapova, Russia, vs. No. 16 Flavia Pennetta, Italy.

* No. 7 Elena Dementieva, Russia, vs.

Shenay Perry.

* No. 9 Anastasia Myskina, Russia, vs. No. 26 Jelena Jankovic, Serbia.

* No. 10 Nicole Vaidisova, Czech Republic, vs. No. 27 Li Na, China.

* No. 18 Ai Sugiyama, Japan, vs. Severine Bremond, France.

Source: Associated Press

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