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Three To See, Wimbledon: Day 3

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 /by

Ernests Gulbis vs. (6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Head-to-head: Tsonga leads 3-0

These two can hit such blistering shots you almost expect the chair umpire to inspect the balls for bruise marks during changeovers. Tsonga has shown all-surface skills in reaching the 2008 Australian Open final, successive Wimbledon semifinals, and his first French Open final four earlier this month.

Gulbis slammed 30 aces upsetting seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych in the first round of Wimbledon last year. The talented Latvian's strengths—a stinging serve, jolting two-handed backhand, ominous return and immense power—make him a dangerous opponent.

Tsonga will want to engage Gulbis in forehand exchanges and try to make him pass off his reconstructed forehand, which is the Latvian's least reliable side. Gulbis will want to work over Tsonga's sometime sketchy backhand hitting his two-hander crosscourt.

Gulbis is 9-35 lifetime vs. Top 10 opponents, with his lone Top 10 win this season coming against Janko Tipsarevic in Indian Wells. Tsonga is the better big match player—he's reached at least the quarterfinals in six of his last eight Grand Slam events, while Gulbis has one major quarterfinal to his credit in 23 Grand Slam appearances, and he's failed to surpass the second round in 18 straight majors. Tsonga knows the volatile Gulbis is a threat and will be ready for this test, which could feature a few tiebreakers.

The Pick: Tsonga in four sets

(8) Petra Kvitova vs. Yaroslava Shvedova
Head-to-head: Kvitova leads 1-0

Wimbledon champions capable of glittering shotmaking—and littering the lawn with errors—meet for the second time in a major. The left-handed Kvitova rallied for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win in the 2012 French Open quarterfinals in their lone prior match.

Both women can play all-court tennis, but both can suffer patchy stretches where the mind wanders and shots stray. Shvedova, who won the 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles titles with Vania King, is an agile athlete who can do a little bit of everything, and is a creative improviser on the run. She is the better mover so she'll want to play some sharper angles, and mix up the pace. A year ago, Shvedova became the first woman in the Open Era to record a Golden Set when she beat Sara Errani in the third round, then tested eventual champion Serena Williams before falling, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5.

Kvitova can alternate from brilliance to bewildering when she loses her range. The 2011 Wimbledon winner held off Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in the first round—her seventh three-setter in her last 10 matches. Kvitova must be vigilant here, but if she plays with clarity and control, she is more explosive and the better server, and I give her the edge.

The Pick: Kvitova in three sets

(32) Tommy Robredo vs. Nicolas Mahut
Head-to-head: Robredo leads 2-1

Marathon men on rousing post-30 runs face off for the first time in five years. The 31-year-old Robredo turned the art of the comeback into an empowering trek en route to the Roland Garros quarterfinals earlier this month, becoming just the second man in history to come back from two sets down to win in three consecutive Grand Slam matches.

Mahut played a match for the ages at the 2010 Wimbledon, falling 70-68 in the fifth set to John Isner in the longest match in tennis history. Patience paid off for Mahut last weekend. The 31-year-old Frenchman beat Stanislas Wawrinka to win his first career ATP title on the grass of s'-Hertogenbosch on Saturday. The then-240th-ranked Mahut was the lowest ranked champion on the ATP tour since 2008.

Robredo is most comfortable on clay, which gives him time to run around his backhand and hit his favored forehand. Mahut is on a roll right now, but he hasn't surpassed the second round at Wimbledon since his 2006 debut. The resourceful Robredo is almost always a tough out (he has a .533 winning percentage on grass), but Mahut's attacking style of play and net skills are better suited to the surface.

The Pick: Mahut in four sets


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