Five matches to watch on Day Three of Wimbledon 2012, including Novak Djokovic vs. Ryan Harrison.
Now it gets tricky. In theory, drawing up a grand slam tennis schedule is pretty easy: the first round takes two days (half the bracket one day, half the next, for both the men and women), the second round takes two days, the third round takes two days, and you rest on Sunday. But Wimbledon takes place in London in June. The odds of the tournament schedule not getting sidetracked by rain are worse than the odds of an American male winning Wimbledon in 2012.
(Okay, that was mean.)
Anyway, the scheduling gymnastics begin Monday, as 16 Tuesday matches -- seven on the men's (gentlemen's) side and nine on the women's (ladies') -- either need to be started or completed after rain delayed the proceedings. So Wednesday will see an interesting mix of first- and second-round matches. Here are some Wednesday matches to watch, whether they actually take place on Wednesday or not.
1. Gentlemen's Second Round: No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Ryan Harrison (Centre Court)
Odds of Wednesday completion: minimal. It is the fourth and final match scheduled to start on Centre Court.
As I mentioned earlier this week, the 20-year old Harrison has been zeroing in on a big upset for a while now, stealing sets from highly-ranked players here and there despite continuously awful slam draws. Of course, there is quite a leap involved in going from losing in four sets to Jo-Wilifried Tsonga to beating Djokovic, the world No. 1 and defending Wimbledon champion. Still, even if he loses, Harrison is worth watching because he is still only 20, his game is interesting and well-rounded, and he has improved by leaps and bounds just over the last year or so.
The two have played just once: Djokovic won, 6-2, 6-3 at Cincinnati in 2011. Djokovic dominated Harrison's serve; Harrison won just 50 percent of his first-serve points and 40 percent of his second-serve points and faced 12 break points in just eight service games. Harrison's serve has improved a big in 2012 -- he now wins 80 percent of his overall service games compared to 74 percent last year. He will probably lose, but this one should be intriguing regardless.
2. Ladies' Second Round: No. 8 Angelique Kerber vs. Ekaterina Makarova (Court No. 2)
Odds of Wednesday completion: minimal. It is the fourth and final match scheduled to start on Court No. 2, and there are two men's (gentlemen's) matches scheduled before it.
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.
3. Gentlemen's Second Round: Ernests Gulbis vs. Ernests Gulbis (vs. Jerzy Janowicz) (Court No. 17)
Odds of Wednesday completion: good. This is the second of just three matches scheduled for Court No. 17.
I said yesterday that tennis is very, very mental. No one knows this better than Ernest Gulbis, the 23-year old from Latvia who looked incredible in taking down former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych in the first round on Monday. Anyone watching that match had to be confounded, not by Berdych losing, but by the fact that Gulbis had advanced to the second round of just one of his last 10 slams and hadn't advanced past the second round of one since 2008. that guy? With that forehand? He can't win anything? It just makes no sense.
So now Gulbis has to attempt an encore. His opponent, 21-year old Jerzy Janowicz, is enormous (6'8) but has yet to win much. He currently ranks 136th, and this is his first slam. Gulbis should be able to handle the youngster relatively easily … but can he handle his own game? Can he maintain this level? If so, the draw is wide open.
4. Ladies' Second Round: No. 5 Sam Stosur vs. Arantxa Rus (Court No. 1)
Odds of Wednesday completion: good. It's the first match of the day on Court No. 1. In a way, this match is more Stosur vs. Stosur as well. When Sam Stosur is on, she is one of the most powerful, dominant players on the tour. But when the wheels come off, it takes her a long time to recover. Rus, just 21, is coming off of a nice appearance at the French Open (she made the fourth round) and is more than capable of taking advantage if Bad Sam shows up.
(Rus is also apparently not named after tennis great Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, which completely wrecks the narrative I was going to unroll here. But she's still from a town called Monster, Holland, so there's that.)
5. Ladies' Second Round: Jamie Lee Hampton vs. Heather Watson (Court No. 2)
What this match lacks in star power (Hampton is currently ranked 100th in the world, Watson 103rd), it could make up for in pure energy. Watson, a 20-year old Brit, thrilled the home crowd by destroying No. 55 Iveta Benesova, 6-2, 6-1 on Monday. Similarly, she won her only meeting with Hampton, a 22-year old American, 6-1, 6-2 in Auckland last year. But Hampton's aggressive, powerful game got her past No. 27 seed Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets on Monday. Both women potentially played above their heads on Monday; if they do so again, this could be a fantastic match. (And if only one person stays at this level, it will be a short one.)