Wimbledon 2012: Thursday Is Moving Day For Brits, Americans

Here are five matches to track on what is potentially another rainy day at Wimbledon.

1. Gentlemen's Second Round: No. 4 Andy Murray vs. Ivo Karlovic (Centre Court)

Neither the U.S. nor (especially) Great Britain have produced a wealth of elite tennis talent recently, but both countries have had solid weeks at the All-England Club. On Wednesday, American's Andy Roddick and Sloane Stephens advanced, while 20-year-old Heather Watson became the first British female to reach the third round at Wimbledon in a decade. But tomorrow is put-up-or-shut-up day for both countries. On the American side, five men (including both remaining seeds: No. 10 Mardy Fish and No. 30 Andy Roddick) and three women (including both remaining seeds: No. 6 Serena Williams and No. 28 Christina McHale) attempt to reach the third round. On the British side, two unseeded women (Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong) attempt to join Watson in advancing, unseeded James Ward does the same ... and then there's Andy Murray.

The 25-year-old Murray, the world's No. 4 player, has reached the semifinals of five of the last six majors and has made the semis at Wimbledon for three straight years. And if you were attempting to read whether he was ready to advance even further by how he played in his first round match on Tuesday, you were duly impressed. Murray thoroughly whipped veteran Nikolay Davydenko, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. Now he faces exactly the type of player built to challenge at Wimbledon: cannon-armed, 6'10" Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic fired 26 aces in a straight-set win in the first round, and he advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2009.

This is the first meeting of the two since they played a pair of matches in 2008. Murray won four of five sets then and, if he is anywhere near the level he established on Tuesday, he should take this one as well.

2. Gentlemen's Second Round: No. 21 Milos Raonic vs. Sam Querrey (Court No. 1)

From a "styles make fights" perspective, this match could be fantastic. It pits an up-and-comer (Raonic) versus a former up-and-comer (Querrey) who is still battling back from an elbow injury. Both are 6'5" or taller, and both possess big serves and strong baseline strokes. (Neither takes advantage of his size by coming to the net very often, but that's another story.) At the end of the 2011 Australian Open, Sam Querrey was ranked 17th in the world and, at 23, still on the upswing. Now he's back up to 64th, and a win over the 21-year-old Raonic, a clear favorite, could give him a serious boost.

3. Ladies' Second Round: No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Varvara Lepchenko (Court No. 17)

When it became clear that I was going to be doing occasional SB Nation YouTube bits on tennis, it clinched that at some point soon, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will advance far in a grand slam, just so I will have to seamlessly say her name multiple times without flinching. The 20-year-old Russian is big and powerful, and she advanced to two slam quarterfinals in 2011. Her progress has stalled a bit of late (she exited the Australian Open in the second round, the French Open in the third), and she must face surging American Varvara Lepchenko on Thursday. Lepchenko advanced to the French Open fourth round in May and smoked Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, 6-2, 6-3, in the first round on Tuesday. She planted 30 winners to just nine unforced errors against Mayr-Achleitner, and she should have a strong chance for an upset. Pavlyuchenkova has shown solid upside, but she needs to hit the reset button on 2012.

4. Gentlemen's Second Round: Brian Baker vs. Jarkko Nieminen (Court No. 9)

By now you know the story: once considered America's next great champion, Baker battled a series of awful injuries -- repeated hip issues, wrist surgery, a sports hernia -- and never even came close to getting his career off the ground. But he began a comeback attempt this time last year, at 26 years of age, and has now advanced to the Round of 64 in each of his last two slams. On Tuesday, he took out Portugal's Rui Machado in straight sets, and on Thursday he takes on 44th-ranked Jarkko Nieminen, who upset 14-seed Feliciano Lopez in the first round. If Baker continues to win, he could eventually meet Rafael Nadal in the fourth round. And by then, just about everybody would have this story down by heart.

5. Ladies' Second Round: No. 8 Angelique Kerber vs. Ekaterina Makarova (Court No. 18)

Since I already previewed it yesterday before rain prevented it from starting, let's do some recycling.

Angelique Kerber has surged of late. The 24-year-old from Germany ranked 106th at the end of 2009 and 32nd at the end of 2011 but currently finds herself eighth after winning two WTA events and making the French Open quarterfinals. She got a tough Wimbledon draw, however: not only did she end up in Maria Sharapova's section of the draw, but she has to face an Australian Open quarterfinalist, Makarova, in the second round. Makarova is up to 44th in the world, powered both by her nice Aussie run (she beat three seeds, including Serena Williams, before falling to Sharapova) and her 6-2 record on grass. One of her two losses, however, came to Kerber, 6-2, 6-4 at Eastbourne. The two have played three times, and Makarova has won four of seven sets overall, but while Makarova got a faster start to her career, Kerber has caught up.

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