WIMBLEDON, England—Every tournament has that one side court you remember, for whatever sentimental reason tugs at your heartstrings. Court 2 at the Rexall Centre in Toronto immediately comes to mind, and at Wimbledon, it's Court 14.
Surrounded by the press centre and Centre Court, and adjacent to a main thoroughfare at the All England Club, Court 14 can be seen from many vantage points. You can stand behind the short wooden backboards along the pathway and still see over the seated crowd. You can—with a credential, of course—see much of the court from the second-level terrace outside the press centre, where journalists, players, officials, and various hangers-on congregate, smoke cigarettes, sip wine, and take phone calls. And it can also be seen from high above, right behind the baseline, inside the elevated media cafeteria. There's plenty for a player to focus on besides his opponent.
You can see the players on Court 14 from pretty much everywhere except for on the court itself. Because of its central location, this is an incredibly tough seat to get at any point of the day. So today I watched, from every viewing area I've mentioned besides a physical seat, Jeremy Chardy close out his second-round match with Jan-Lennard Struff in four sets.
In covering the Big Four this week, I haven't had much chance to see players up close during match play—the press seats on Centre Court are good, but we're not royalty. Whether it's because of that or not, Chardy took my breath away with some of his shots. The Frenchman uses an extreme grip on his forehand (see above) and has a busy service motion that left me wondering how any of his second serves landed in. He obviously has incredible feel, for he controlled his high-risk tennis enough to claim victory, putting him one win over .500 for his career (123-122). For his reward, the world No. 25 will face world No. 1 Novak Djokovic tomorrow on Centre Court.
Djokovic has faced Chardy six times in his career, including two years ago at Wimbledon, and he's won all six matches. He's won all 14 of their sets, too. Only once has Chardy even taken Djokovic to a tiebreaker, and that was in the friendly confines of Marseille.
Chardy, who needed two tiebreakers in his win over the largely unknown Struff, cannot be expected to test Djokovic too severely—though with his explosive game, I wouldn't be surprised if he finally takes a set from the Serb. Djokovic is clearly comfortable against Chardy, who will be forced to hit low-percentage shots over and over again against the über-consistent top seed.
The larger takeaway, in all likelihood, will be how Djokovic performs. As Steve Tignor points out, the once "easy" half of the men's draw is now clearly the tougher side. Andy Murray's remaining path to the final, should all the favorites win, would be Mikhail Youzhny, Juan Monaco, and Jerzy Janowicz. Djokovic's could be Chardy, Tommy Haas, Tomas Berdych, and David Ferrer (or Juan Martin del Potro). Murray also has the entire weekend off, having advanced to the fourth round today, while Djokovic could be playing late into Saturday, having been scheduled last on Centre Court.
There's nothing Djokovic can do about any of those facts. The only thing he can do is to remind Chardy why he was on Court 14 in the first place.
The Pick: Djokovic in four sets