Freak match over, second week at Wimbledon ideally poised

London: After a week which saw the most freakish tennis match ever played, a visit from Queen Elizabeth and both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal dallying with early exits, the business end of Wimbledon is shaping up superbly.

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut rightly stole the headlines with the match that, almost, never ended.

Every landmark in the book was re-written after their 11 hour five minute marvel captured the imagination of the sporting world, but there is only one record on Federer`s mind this week -- Pete Sampras`s modern era mark of seven singles titles at the All England Club.

Next up for the Swiss maestro is a childhood friend, with whom he played junior doubles but has never faced in a singles match on the tour.

Austrian Jurgen Melzer, in the form of his life after reaching his first grand slam semi at Roland Garros earlier this month, stands in between Federer and a place in the quarters.

“It`s funny because I`ve practised with him, chat with him every day in the locker rooms, but it`s one of the guys I never faced. He`s my age, so it`s an interesting matchup,” Federer said.

“Kind of cool we finally get a chance to play each other, especially here at Wimbledon, which I think is one of his best surfaces on grass.

“He`s making a move, a push in his ranking. My job is to try to stop that a little bit.”

After going within three points of defeat against Alejandro Falla in the first round, Federer seems back on track and on target for a reunion with Andy Roddick.

The fifth seeded American captured British hearts with his gritty performance in last year`s final, the third time he has lost to the Swiss with the trophy within his reach, when he went down 16-14 in an unforgettable deciding set.

Roddick faces the only Asian remaining in the men`s draw, Taiwan`s Lu Yen-Hsun, who with Andy Murray and Robin Soderling is the only man not to have lost a set so far.

The bottom half of the men`s draw is equally poised though after coming through two five-set matches the determination in the eyes of Nadal is clear to see.

Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieeu is next in the sights of the fiery Mallorcan, though tougher tests lie in wait with the bulldozing Swede Robin Soderling and Britain`s Murray possible quarter and semi-final opponents.

There was little in the first week to suggest anything other than a fifth final contested here by the irrepressible Williams sisters.

Serena, who claimed bragging rights with victory over Venus in last year`s final, faces a repeat of her 2004 final defeat by Maria Sharapova on Manic Monday`s programme which sees all 16 men`s and women`s fourth-round matches disputed.

All Belgian eyes will be on the match-up between Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, it is just a shame the contest will not be a fourth in a grand slam final.

Two of the crispest hitters in women`s tennis, both revived after stints in retirement, will be meeting for the 25th time -- they stand at 12-12 -- on tour as they both seek a first title.

Bureau Report

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