Here are five third-round matches to watch on Friday at Wimbledon.
So now that Lukas Rosol has set the men's draw aflame with his second-round upset of Rafael Nadal, what does the rest of Wimbledon's first week have in store for us? And which other heavy favorites should remain on guard? Here are five matches to track on Friday.
1. Gentlemen's Third Round: No. 3 Roger Federer vs. No. 29 Julien Benneteau (Centre Court, Third Match)
The last time Roger Federer and Julien Benneteau faced off, Benneteau won. Whether Federer is on the downside of his career or not, very, very few players can say that. Granted, the match took place three years ago, on hard court, and in Benneteau's home country, no less; but that day, Benneteau's serve confounded Federer (he won 79 percent of his first-serve points and a very high 57 percent of his second-serve points), and Federer's return has only gotten weaker since then.
The 30-year old Benneteau has been grinding out a living on the ATP tour for more than a decade and his current ranking (32nd) is about as high as it's ever been. While Federer is an obvious favorite, especially with the way he has looked in his first two matches (he has dropped just nine games in six sets), Benneteau provides some awkward matchups for the six-time Wimbledon champion. Or to put it another way, if Federer wins THIS one handily, he might become the favorite to win his seventh title.
2. Gentlemen's Third Round: No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic vs. No. 26 Mikhail Youzhny (Court No. 2, Third Match)
Tipsarevic has had to dodge quite a few landmines just to get to the third round. In the first round, he took out former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian in straight sets, and in the second round, he dropped the first set to American Ryan Sweeting before rallying to win in four. In Friday's third-round, he faces Mikhail Youzhny, a former Top 10 player and two-time U.S. Open semifinalist. Youzhny and Tipsarevic have played four times, all on hard court; they have each won two matches and five sets. They have only played once since the start of 2010 -- Youzhny took an easy 6-3, 6-4 decision at Dubai in 2010.
Tipsarevic's reasonably high-risk first serve has been wonderfully effective in the first two rounds; it will need to be so again against a strong returner in Youzhny. Because of a couple of upsets, the winner will face an unseeded player in the fourth round (either Alejandro Falla or Denis Istomin) before perhaps taking a shot at Federer.
3. Ladies' Third Round: No. 12 Vera Zvonareva vs. Kim Clijsters (Court No. 1, Third Match)
We probably all know the Clijsters story by now. A big, athletic Belgian, she won the 2005 U.S. Open and advanced to the finals of four other majors (and the semis of seven more) before retiring to become a mother. She started her comeback in 2009 and, in her first post-return slam, won the 2009 U.S. Open. She has won three of the last seven slams she has entered, but she cannot stay regularly healthy and is expected to retire again at the end of the year. She has not had amazing success at Wimbledon -- she has made the semifinals twice, but it is the only major in which she hasn't made the finals -- but she has looked strong in dispatching No. 18 Jelena Jankovic and Andrea Hlavackova and dropping just 12 games in the process. Now she takes on a familiar face, 27-year-old Vera Zvonareva, one of the most confounding players on tour. She made the finals of two slams (Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) in 2010, but won a total of just eight games in the two finals; in the 2010 U.S. Open finals, Clijsters disposed of her 6-2, 6-1. Since then, her performance has faded -- she has advanced beyond the fourth round of just one of her last four majors.
Clijsters has won seven of 10 matches versus Zvonareva, including two of three on grass (the last one, however, was in 2006), but Zvonareva has won three of the last five meetings. There might not be a better "Tennis is mental" example than Zvonareva, who can defeat anybody on a good day and lose to a high schooler on a bad one.
4. Ladies' Third Round: No. 15 Sabine Lisicki vs. Sloane Stephens (Court No. 3, First Match)
As I said on Wednesday, Sloane Stephens is inching closer and closer to a sustained breakthrough. The 19-year-old American ranks just 59th in the world, but she has advanced to at least the third round of three of her last four majors and followed up a fourth-round run at the French Open with a three-set win over No. 23 Petra Cetkovska in the second round on Wednesday. To reach another Round of 16, she will need to take out another seeded opponent, Sabine Lisicki. Stephens has won the only meeting between the two -- a 6-3, 6-3 win on clay -- but Lisicki plays incredibly well on grass. The 22-year old made the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2009, missed a good portion of 2010 with ankle injuries, then made a shocking run to the semifinals as a wildcard last year. She knows what she's doing at the All-England Club, and a Stephens win would be a major statement.
5. Ladies' Third Round: No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Heather Watson (Centre Court, Second Match)
What now, Heather Watson? On Wednesday, you became the first British woman in a decade to make the third round at Wimbledon. You are young (20 years old), athletic and exciting, and you have been untouchable in your first two matches of the fortnight: against Iveta Benesova and Jamie Lee Hampton, you dropped just eight games in four sets and cruised. Now, the real tests begin. Third-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist, has dropped only 10 games herself thus far, and while her offense isn't at quite the same level as many other top players, she has the defense to keep up with you. Do you, Ms. Watson, continue to distract Britain from its football failings with a huge upset and a trip to the Round of 16? Or is this the end of the road for you?