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Cramming for Wimbledon: Serena Williams' match and many more on tournament's busiest day

It's an embarrassment of riches on Wimbledon's second Monday as Centre Court-worthy matches are played out all over the grounds. Following the traditional day off on the middle Sunday, 16 fourth-round matches are on the docket.

June 27, 2010|By Diane Pucin

Reporting from Wimbledon, England — This would be enough for any tennis fan with a ticket to Wimbledon on Monday.

Serena Williams, the defending champion, is playing Maria Sharapova, an eager ex-champion who at 23 desperately wants to be at the top again, with her surgically repaired shoulder a mental hindrance but her fighting spirit still potent.

And Kim Clijsters is playing against Justine Henin. The two Belgians, combined, have nine major championships, and both took big chunks of time off from tennis. But the two have been — at best — cordial toward each other. Now they have returned and will play each other for the 25th time in their careers.

It's only the fourth round at Wimbledon and, already, these delicious matchups.

Seems plenty good enough for a single day, but that's only a slice. Because Wimbledon keeps the middle Sunday as a rest day, anyone still in the running comes back on Monday — 16 men and 16 women to play fourth-round matches.

Is it too much?

Two-time U.S. Open champion and two-time Wimbledon semifinalist Tracy Austin, working here as an analyst for the BBC, sees good and bad.

"It is a lot of great matches at one time," she said. "But then you miss some of them, which is a shame. I would like to savor each match."

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, playing Australia's Jarmila Groth, is consigned to Court 2, and there's no room on Centre Court for Clijsters and Henin, who are on Court 1.

Andy Roddick, a three-time finalist here and a crowd favorite after last year's narrow loss to Roger Federer that went to 16-14 in the fifth set, also is relegated to Court 2 for his match against Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan.

The wounded Rafael Nadal, seeded No. 2 and the 2008 champion, won't play until after Clijsters-Henin and then third-seeded Novak Djokovic and 15th-seeded Lleyton Hewitt on Court 1. Maybe that will give Nadal time to nurse his aching right knee, which required treatment during his five-set win Saturday.

"Normally, Kim and Justine would be on Centre Court if they split this up over a couple of days," Austin said. "That's a shame."

The hallowed court has been reserved for a pair of defending champions and Britain's lone hopeful, and if that's the only place you sit, you'll get a full sampling of grass-court greatness, hometown enthusiasm and smashing power.

"It is a very special day," said Federer, who is first up on Centre Court. "It is hard to pick one day over the other, but the feeling is special at Wimbledon on Monday."

Federer, who faces off against Austrian Jurgen Melzer, likes being in the first match because he will probably finish his day first too and, if he wins, would have a little extra rest going into the quarterfinals.

Williams and Sharapova are next, squeezed in almost because fans here will most certainly be waiting to bellow for fourth-seeded British fave Andy Murray against American Sam Querrey.

Querrey, who lives in Santa Monica and who played past dusk on Saturday to finish off a five-set third-round win, knows full attention will be on him since all of Britain is rooting for Murray, who is from Scotland.

"Yeah, there is a little extra buzz for this day," Querrey said.

But will anyone find, say, third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki playing second on Court 2, just after Venus Williams and right before Roddick?

"Well, I don't know about that," Wozniacki said Sunday as she walked away after practicing. "There will be a lot of big matches going on, won't there?"

French Open runner-up and sixth-seeded Robin Soderling might hardly be noticed, third on at Court 12 against ninth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain.

"It's a busy day, yeah?" Federer said.

Busy enough, or too busy? Depends on where you're sitting. Lars Jensen, whose face was painted red and to resemble the Danish flag, said he was a Wozniacki fan and had decided to spend Monday waiting in line for a ticket. It's a tradition that if fans leave early they will drop off their tickets to those in line.

"Maybe someone will get tired early, and I get in," Jensen said. "That's my hope."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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