After great week at Wimbledon, tennis's greatest day

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> At Andy Roddick's rental house, one recent conversation turned toward Wimbledon's first week.

Updated: June 28, 2010 11:22 IST
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At Andy Roddick's rental house, one recent conversation turned toward Wimbledon's first week.

There was Roger Federer escaping, just barely, in five sets, in the first match on Centre Court. There was the Queen of England's first visit in 33 years, Rafael Nadal's sore right knee, and, of course, the longest match in professional tennis history: the John Isner-Nicolas Mahut trilogy, as Roddick appropriately called it.

"If you guys are struggling for story lines," Roddick told reporters, "you need to get a different job, fast."

The last few years unfolded similarly at Wimbledon, said Roddick, who was part of the epic 2009 duel in the final with Federer. For reasons, he offered the tournament's status as "the mecca of our sport," a small percentage of interesting events and a large percentage of "fortunate coincidences" that "only add to the spectacle and drama inside these grounds."

Now, after the traditional middle Sunday break, comes a Monday just as likely to be remembered. Some call the second Monday at Wimbledon the most exciting, intriguing and spectacular day on the sport's calendar, a tennis nirvana.

Unlike at other Grand Slam tournaments, each of the 16 men and 16 women remaining in the singles draw play for berths in the quarterfinals on one day. And this second Monday, of all second Mondays, is bursting with promise, oozing potential.

The only comparable day in tennis, players said, is Super Saturday at the United States Open, when the men's semifinals and the women's final are played. If forced to choose between that day and the second Monday here, Roddick said he would choose Wimbledon, "purely on the basis of numbers."

Top-seeded Serena Williams described the atmosphere in the locker rooms on the second Monday as intense. "No one really wants to go out," she said. "Everyone is really fighting, really serious. It's all business in there."

This year, particularly on the women's side, matchups that once were Grand Slam finals will take place in the fourth round. Like Williams's bout against Maria Sharapova, a rematch of the 2004 final that Sharapova won, catapulting her out of anonymity.

Or Justine Henin's meeting with Kim Clijsters, in the battle of the Belgians. It will be their 24th career match and their third this year, with the last two contests decided by third-set tie breakers.

"In our first career, we never played our best tennis against each other," Henin said recently. "It's a great opportunity for both of us. I mean, to play each other in a Grand Slam, it's something we couldn't have expected a year ago."

Clijsters and Henin grew up together on tennis's international stage, arriving and retiring almost simultaneously.

Henin played with touch, with feel, with slice shots so natural she seemed born to hit them. She made the Australian Open final earlier this year. Clijsters played with power and attitude, and after she gave birth, she won the United States Open last year, as if she never left.

They departed and returned for different reasons. Even their comebacks seemed timed.

Both listed winning Wimbledon among the reasons they returned, and when they came back, they became closer than before, like those years away from tennis had closed a gap between them. They teased each other with text messages and played in the Federation Cup.

Henin proved to herself that she could exist without tennis. Clijsters proved that she could have both tennis and the family that she wanted.

"The challenge is to find a good balance between that and being a tennis player again," Henin said. "I wouldn't say I've changed, but I grew up. I learned a lot of things."

Clijsters and Henin will resume their rivalry on Court 1, so deep is this Monday madness. They will be followed by Novak Djokovic, the third seed, against Lleyton Hewitt, the rapidly ascending 15th seed, in a match many observers say is the most likely to produce an upset, mainly because Hewitt said his hip problems had disappeared.

On Centre Court, fans will find three matches of high quality: Roger Federer (1) against Jrgen Melzer (16), Williams versus Sharapova, and Andy Murray (4) against Sam Querrey (18).

Murray, in front of the home fans, has yet to lose a set. Querrey has recovered from a disastrous French Open, in which he cited mental lapses after losing and later admitted he had not tried his hardest in defeat. He won the Queen's Club grass-court tournament before advancing to the second week of Wimbledon.

"I'm very proud of myself and the way I've been playing, and the way I've handled myself on the court," he said. "This is what I'm going to do for the rest of the year."

On Sunday, the remaining players each logged light practice time and rested their weary bodies for the second week. A second week that promises to be dramatic, if form holds.

A favorite? Serena and Venus Williams remain obvious choices. On the men's side, where for only the second time in the Open era the top three seeds (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) needed at least one five-set victory in the first three rounds to advance, the picture has been muddied. Each of those three could win it, but so could either Andy (Murray or Roddick) or Robin Soderling.

"It was kind of like this global event," Roddick said.

He meant Isner-Mahut and the longest match. But he could have meant the tournament's first week, this Monday or this Wimbledon. 

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  • Tennis
  • Andy Roddick
  • Lukas Dlouhy
  • Rohan Bopanna
  • Leander Paes
  • Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi
  • Maria Sharapova

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