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Five matches to watch

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Originally published on 07/07/17 00:00

Ernests Gulbis (LAT) v Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2]

Gulbis arrived at the All England Club without a single main tour level win in over a year.

Injuries and forehand problems have contributed to the Latvian’s ranking slide but he is finally showing signs of promise after a few years in the wilderness. He has significant attacking arsenal at his disposal and he blasted Juan Martin Del Potro off the court in the second round.

Gulbis, a former top 20 player who reached the semi-finals of the French Open in 2014, adores the big stage and he will relish the chance to take on Novak Djokovic on Centre Court. He may have only beaten the Serbian once in seven previous meetings, but he will expect to deliver a big performance on Saturday afternoon.

Djokovic has had a soft introduction into the latest edition of the Championships. His first round rival, Martin Klizan, retired and his second opponent was a qualifier ranked a lowly No.136. Gulbis should provide a greater challenge but there is no doubt the No.2 seed will target the Latvian’s forehand.

Prediction: Djokovic in four

David Ferrer (ESP) v Tomas Berdych (CZE) [11]

This is a battle of two former top ten players who have been on the slide this year. Ferrer in particular has struggled for victories and his appearance in the third round stage is a surprise – although his second round opponent, Steve Darcis, retired after just three games.

The Spaniard’s famed consistency has deserted him in recent times and his play has become erratic as a consequence. Niggling injuries have hindered his training schedule and it remains to be seen if the tenacious 35-year-old can climb the rankings once again.

Berdych, once a perennial top 10 player, has not had the results he would have expected this year. The 31-year-old is failing to reach the latter stages of tournaments like he once did, and he struggles against the elite.

The pair have met 15 times before and it's the Spaniard who leads by one. It’s a fantastic opportunity for both players to reach the second week but Berdych should emerge as the winner.

Berdych in four

Roger Federer (SUI) [3] v Mischa Zverev (GER) [27]

It has been an outstanding 2017 for the older Zverev brother. The 29-year-old delivered a serve-volley clinic to defeat Andy Murray at the Australian Open and his game is perfectly suited to the immaculate lawns in SW19.

The German, in the third round for just the second time, was soundly beaten by Federer in Melbourne and he lost to the Swiss on grass at the Gerry Weber Open. He is not going to challenge the tournament favorite from the baseline, so he will set up base camp in the forecourt.

Federer finished his match with Dusan Lajovic in style but he will expect a tougher challenge against Zverev. His passing-shots will need to be fine-tuned in preparation for his latest rival, but he will expect to prevail.

Federer in three

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [9] v Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) [19]

Radwanska will be delighted to still be in the competition. The Pole was on the brink of defeat against Christina McHale but she saved two-match points and found a way to surpass the American.

Surviving such a scare could provide Radwanska with the impetus she needs to embark on a deep run. The former finalist has had an injury-hit campaign but she is capable of challenging for the Venus Rosewater Dish next weekend.

Bacsinszky continues to be a solid performer at Grand Slam level and she reached the semi-finals of the French Open last month. The Swiss has won both previous meetings with the Pole but they have never met on grass.

This promises to be a tight match between two crafty and creative competitors.

Bacsinszky in two

Sorana Cirstea (ROU) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [14]

Muguruza has responded well to the disappointment of not defending her Roland Garros crown and her results on grass have been strong. The 23-year-old reached the semi-finals of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and she has enjoyed an incident-free path to the third round in London.

Cirstea reached this stage after her second round opponent, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, took a horrible tumble and sustained a nasty injury. The uncompromising Romanian rarely ventures from her preferred attacking style and she has a chance to reach the last sixteen for the first time.

The pair have met just once before – at the Australian Open in January – and the Spaniard won for the concession of five games.

Prediction: Muguruza in two

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