Wimbledon turns for the unexpected
THEY say upsets are contagious.
Fortunately for world No.1 Novak Djokovic and 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, they were able to shake it off just in time.
Following Thursday night's drama of world No.100 Czech Lukas Rosol's stunning upset of No. 2 Rafael Nadal, there was a buzz of confidence in the men's lockerroom.
"What this victory of Rosol does to me is give great belief for other players that they can beat the top guys, which I think is great, even though it might not be that great for me down the stretch," said No.3 seed Federer, who was just two points away from a third round exit five times against Frenchman Julien Benneteau on Friday night.
"This is not against Rafa, but it was nice to see it's still possible. I think 15 years ago you had matches like this so much more often on the faster surfaces, that a guy could catch fire and just run through you.
"Today it's virtually impossible because you make so many more returns these days and conditions are so much slower with the elements. It's so much harder to be, you know, in that state, I think."
Federer, however, survived 4-6 6-7(3) 6-2 7-6(6) 6-1 in 3rs 34min - just over an hour longer than the 30-year-old Swiss' first two rounds combined.
"It was a tough match - oh, my God, it was brutal," Federer said immediately afterward."
There were signs throughout the day to expect the unexpected but again no one in their wildest imagination, less than 24 hours after one of the biggest upsets in tennis, thought there was going to be a second straight prime-time five-set thriller under the lights on Centre Court.
The day had begun with Djokovic continuing on with his title defence with victory over Radek Stepanek but it wasn't without hiccup as the Czech took the first set on Centre Court as the reverberations of here we go again shot across SW19 - another Czech, another top seed, could this be?
Djokovic turned it around to win in four sets but on the outside courts - and outdoor courts with Centre Court's roof closed due to the unpredictable elements - the majority of matches went to the lower-ranked player.
No.18 Richard Gasquet beat No.12 Nicolas Almagro; Serbian Viktor Troicki knocked out No.15 Juan Monaco; No.26 Mikhail Youzhny sent the 8-seed Janko Tipsarevic packing; and unseeded Xavier Malisse upset No.17 Fernando Verdasco.
Only Florian Mayer and Denis Istomin survived tough matches to their less fancied opponents. The devastation of the top half of the draw leaves Djokovic, who faces compatriot Troicki and Federer, who takes on Belgian Malisse, as the lone top 16 seeds through to the second week and into the Round of 16, starting Monday.
"Now, I have been around the block obviously, and I know how hard it is to, you know, every day beat the guy ranked 25, 65, 105. It doesn't matter," said, Federer who is looking to capture his first Grand Slam since the Australian Open in January 2010 and equal Pete Sampras with seven Wimbledon crowns.
"They all present their challenges. But some playing styles suit you more and some don't. That's why I love this sport, that every day is a completely new day, you know.
"You don't know what to expect, and you have to react so much in our sport that you only control certain things. This is where I think it's impressive that the other guys also for so many years have been able to be so solid."
There's only one thing to expect as we enter the business end of the tournament - the unexpected.