Sunday Sightings, Monday Match-ups
WIMBLEDON, England—So Novak Djokovic and his portable poodle, Pierre—the pair I was hoping to see in town? They've been discovered! Not by me, unfortunately. ESPN.com's Howard Bryant spotted them yesterday at, of all places, the same Le Pain Quotidien I saw Djokovic's coach eating at three years ago. A return there for my breakfast this morning offered no clues as to their next move. Maybe I'll have to put in an interview request at the press centre—for the dog.
I did see some famous humans, however, on this Sunday before the storm, including Andy Murray. The Scot, fresh off a hitting section, was huddled up with Justin Gimelstob just outside the press centre, speaking in a low voice on day when the loudest thing at the All England Club was the wind. (And outside it, as you'll see in a video I shot with Steve Tignor.)
Murray begins his tournament tomorrow, last on Centre Court, against Benjamin Becker. They've played once before, and that was just a few days ago at Queen's Club, where Murray won 6-4, 7-6 (3). Anything but a straight-sets result here would be a surprise, but Becker's big serve should keep Murray at bay for long enough to make this a match. Still, Becker is 7-2 in his last nine matches, all on grass, including wins over Bernard Tomic, Lukas Rosol, and Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Speaking of Rosol, the—all together now—man who upset Rafael Nadal in the second round here last year, I caught a glimpse of him on the grounds, along with Victor Hanescu, who will try and emulate the Czech when he faces Roger Federer in tomorrow's opening match on Centre. The 31-year-olds have met five times in their careers, with Federer unbeaten. This is the third different major they'll have played at (only the U.S. Open will be missing), and all of their matches have ended in straight sets except their last one, a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 decision at Indian Wells. Expect the straight-set pattern to resume.
The other member of the Big Four in action on Monday is Nadal, who due to Murray's and Federer's presence on Centre will compete on No. 1 Court. For me, and perhaps you, that will be a nice, different perspective from which to watch Rafa this week, even though No. 1 Court is still a fairly large venue. I don't think Nadal should take much issue with his placement, considering he was more than fine with his No. 5 seeding.
The Spaniard will face Steve Darcis tomorrow, whose game has translated well to grass in the past—he beat Tomas Berdych (who I also saw heading home) here at the Olympics last year. As for his record against Nadal, it's just one match, a 6-1, 2-0 retirement loss in Doha three year's ago. So as long as he finishes, it should be considered an improvement.