Tennis

'Big Four' take centrestage at Wimbledon

Murray, Djokovic, Federer and Nadal in last-16 action on 'Manic Monday'

For the first time since 2011, the top four men's seeds have reached the Wimbledon last 16 with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in action today.

The four stars have shared the Wimbledon title since 2003 when Federer won the first of his seven trophies at the All England Club.

Djokovic has claimed three with defending champion Murray and Nadal winning two apiece.

It's the kind of domination that looks unlikely to end on "Manic Monday" when the fourth round takes place.

Murray, who has battled hip pain, is the only one of the "Big Four" to have dropped a set in the first week.

He faces unpredictable Frenchman Benoit Paire who is in the last 16 for the first time.

"He has very good hands, moves well, takes a lot of chances, goes for his shots," said Murray, who has a 1-0 career lead over Paire.

Murray has not lost at Wimbledon before the quarter-finals since 2006.

Djokovic also takes a 1-0 career edge over unseeded Adrian Mannarino of France into his last-16 clash, with that win coming at Wimbledon in straight sets in the second round last year.

The Serb admitted on Saturday that he has rediscovered his passion for tennis after easing to a 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (7/2) win over Ernests Gulbis of Latvia.

It's a far cry from 12 months ago when Djokovic was bundled out in the third round by Sam Querrey, a defeat which precipitated a decline that saw him relieved of all the four Majors he had held at the same time.

His former coach Boris Becker said he had witnessed enough in the first week of Wimbledon to confirm that the 30-year-old has rediscovered his love of the sport.

"Boris knows me very well. So he's right when he says that the passion is back," said Djokovic. "I've been feeling better on the court in the last couple of months.

"But especially on the grasscourt this season so far, every match that I've played, I felt very comfortable.

"When you're playing well, then you're feeling well, then you're even more motivated and passionate to see how far it can take you."

Federer, bidding for a record eighth Wimbledon title and the honour of the oldest champion at the All England Club, faces Grigor Dimitrov boasting a 5-0 record over the man once tipped as his natural heir.

GREAT DAY

"It's a great day to play. I would be happy to be a fan," said Federer, who is playing in the fourth round for the 15th time.

Nadal, fresh from a 10th French Open title, faces fellow left-hander Gilles Muller, who is looking to make the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years.

Nadal has a 5-1 record over Muller, although he will be wary that the Luxembourg grasscourt specialist beat him at Wimbledon in 2005.

"He's one of the toughest opponents possible on this surface," said Nadal.

The title as well as the world No. 1 spot are up for grabs in the women's tournament which remains wide open in the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Angelique Kerber, the runner-up to Williams last year, could lose the top spot to either Simona Halep or even Karolina Pliskova despite the Czech having been knocked out in the second round.

The German tackles 2015 runner-up Garbine Muguruza having survived a three-set scare to see off Shelby Rogers in the third round.

In contrast, Muguruza has sailed into the last 16 without dropping a set, a run which has surprised even herself.

"I never feel that comfortable on grass." said the 2016 French Open champion.

Muguruza, the 15th seed, holds a 4-3 career lead over Kerber, having won their last four meetings, including in the Wimbledon fourth round two years ago.

Victoria Azarenka, bidding to become the first mother to win Wimbledon in 37 years, faces Romanian second seed Halep.

Former world No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka is playing in her first Grand Slam since giving birth to son Leo in December.

She made the semi-finals in 2011 and 2012 while Halep was in the last four three years ago.

In all, the women's last 16 features seven Grand Slam winners and seven playing in the Wimbledon fourth round for the first time. - AFP

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