Wimbledon Day 3 preview: Victoria Azarenka tests knee; Tsonga vs. Gulbis
Victoria Azarenka's knee gets a test: A nasty fall during her first-round match Monday left the WTA No. 2 sobbing and writhing in pain. Azarenka's camp says there's no structural damage to her right knee, which was heavily taped after the fall, and she intends to take the court against Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday (first match, Centre Court). The two have split two meetings, both of which took place before Azarenka went on her incredible tear in 2012 and Pennetta -- a top-10 player in 2009 -- underwent wrist surgery and tumbled in the rankings. Both are completely different players now. Pennetta, 31, ranked No. 166, has told Italian reporters that she may consider retirement if her results don't improve by the end of the year. But Pennetta is a canny competitor, and she may find some inspiration knowing that Azarenka's injury woes could give her a chance at the upset. Look for Azarenka to keep the points short and attack as much as possible to avoid any movement issues. Keep an eye on her serve, too. She double-faulted nine times in the first round.
(UPDATE, 8 a.m. Wednesday: Azarenka has withdrawn because of injury. Pennetta advances to the third round.)
Match of the Day: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Ernests Gulbis: Many are pointing to Tsonga as the most likely challenger to the Big Four -- er, I guess it's just the Big Three now -- at Wimbledon. He should get an early challenge from Ernests "I'm the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw" Gulbis (second match, Centre Court). By now, we all know how well Gulbis is capable of playing. He beat Tomas Berdych in the first round of Wimbledon last year and played Rafael Nadal tough on both hard courts and clay courts this year. He's also thrown in some horrid losses. The quality of this match is entirely dependent on him. If he brings his best, this will be a cracker of a match. Tsonga is 3-0 against Gulbis, but they haven't played since 2009. (Roger Federer vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky will follow Tsonga-Gulbis on Centre Court.)
Americans on No. 3 Court: Three out of the four matches scheduled on No. 3 Court feature Americans: No. 18 John Isner (vs. Adrian Mannarino, first match), No. 17 Sloane Stephens (vs. Andrea Petkovic, third match) and Christina McHale (vs. No. 15 Marion Bartoli, fourth match). Isner, who will become American No. 1 again after Sam Querrey's first-round loss, has a great shot to make the fourth round. He's the highest-ranked player left in the section of the draw that was decimated by the upsets of Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka on Monday.
Matches to watch
Besides Tsonga-Gulbis, here are more matches to watch:
Andrea Petkovic vs. No. 17 Sloane Stephens (third match, No. 3 Court): Stephens has made at least the third round in five consecutive majors. Despite playing no grass-court lead-up events, Stephens was impressive in her first match against Jamie Hampton. Her serve was solid, she was hitting big off the ground and her movement was impeccable. Petkovic, who was elated after her first-round win, isn't the same player who beat Stephens 6-1, 6-2 in Carlsbad, Calif., in 2011, their only meeting. Grass is her worst surface, and she's still trying to build some momentum in her comeback after injuring her knee in January.
Yaroslava Shvedova vs. No. 8 Petra Kvitova (third match, No. 1 Court): Here's your Day 3 upset special. Kvitova struggled past Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 on Monday. She's vulnerable right now. More so than usual. In their only previous meeting, Shvedova pushed her to three sets before losing 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 at the 2012 French Open. I'm not saying Shvedova is going to notch a Golden Set, but she has an excellent chance to make at least the third round for the second year in a row.
Dustin Brown vs. Lleyton Hewitt (first match, No. 2 Court): Hey, world, meet Dustin Brown. He's the closest thing the tournament has to Gael Monfils, who missed Wimbledon because of personal reasons. Brown, 28, ranked No. 189, is a flamboyant shot maker and fan favorite, but rarely gets the chance to play in the big tournaments on a TV court. That changes Wednesday. Tune in to this one. Knowing Brown's penchant for putting on a show, he's going to make the most of it.
Check out this trick shot he pulled off last year against Marcos Baghdatis in Munich:
No. 12 Ana Ivanovic vs. Genie Bouchard (second match, Court 12): Bouchard's best friend, Laura Robson, knocked off a seed Tuesday, and I wouldn't be surprised if Bouchard tested Ivanovic here. The reigning Wimbledon juniors champion will do her best to make Ivanovic hit the extra ball in a rally. Christina McHale vs. No. 15 Marion Bartoli (fourth match, No. 3 Court): Can McHale pull off the upset? She's still rounding into form after being diagnosed with mononucleosis last fall. But she snapped a four-match losing streak by defeating Alexa Glatch in the first round. Bartoli leads the head-to-head 3-1, with McHale's victory coming at the 2011 U.S. Open. The Frenchwoman withdrew from Eastbourne last week with a viral illness, but she got through her first-round match against Elina Svitolina in straight sets.