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Day 4 preview

6/23/2005

Following the Justine Henin-Hardenne first-round stunner and Serena Williams' near-defeat, No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova is now the clear choice to win Wimbledon and successfully defend her crown. Sharapova will put her title bid and current 18-match grass win streak on the line against the feisty 15-year-old Sesil Karatancheva. Last year's men's finalist Andy Roddick gets a bit of a breather in facing Danielle Bracciali instead of the towering ace machine Ivo Karlovic. British hopes rest with first-round survivor Tim Henman and his teenage countryman Andrew Murray, who will hope to give the home fans another day of thrills and excitement.

Men

• Roddick got a favorable break when his next opponent, Bracciali, ousted the dangerous Karlovic in a first round ace-fest on Tuesday. With Karlovic out of the way, Roddick may still have his hands full with Bracciali. The 27-year-old Bracciali entered Wimbledon having just won the grass challenger title in nearby Surbiton, defeating Karlovic in that final. The Italian then won two straight matches in qualifying last week before retiring in the fifth set in the final round with a sore back. Fortunately for Bracciali, Sjeng Schalken withdrew with an injured achilles giving Bracciali a "lucky loser" spot in the main draw against Karlovic. Head-to-head, Bracciali and Roddick have never played singles before, but the Italian did get a win against the former No. 1 in a doubles match at Rome last month. If nothing else, Bracciali should be accustomed to returning big serves!

• British hope Henman will have the country at a standstill again for his second-round match against powerful Russian Dmitry Tursunov. Henman survived the first round in narrow fashion overcoming a two-set deficit to Jarkko Nieminen to win in five. Possessing a huge serve and big groundstrokes, Tursunov presents a different problem for Henman than the Finn before him, and he's had a history of pulling the upset in Slams. Last year at Wimbledon, Tursunov upended Marat Safin in five sets, and the year before at the U.S. Open he took care of Gustavo Kuerten, also in five sets.

Women

• In an intriguing affair, Sharapova faces fellow teen Karatancheva. The 15-year-old Karatancheva made headlines earlier this month reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open. But those closer to the game may remember the Bulgarian's comments last year before a first meeting with Sharapova at Indian Wells. Karatancheva said she wanted to kick her butt, but it was Sharapova who did the butt kicking, winning in three sets. Today, the outspoken Karatancheva gets another crack to back up her words against one of the most famous female faces in the world.

• Serena Williams hardly looked like a two-champion Wimbledon Tuesday, surviving a three-set, first-round scare against Angela Haynes. Today, Serena should have an easier test in Italian qualifier Mara Santangelo. The 23-year-old Santangelo has won four matches (had a walkover in qualifying) at Wimbledon in the last week and now has the opportunity to pull the upset against the slumping Serena in the biggest match of her life.

• Two-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams takes on Australian 32-year-old Nicole Pratt. Venus looked good in a straight-set, first-round win over Eva Birnerova. Venus and Pratt have met just once before at the 2003 Australian Open, with the former No. 1 coming out in front in straight sets. With Henin-Hardenne out of the mix, the draw is open for a Williams sister to come through and continue her Wimbledon dominance.

Also in action

• Tournament dark horse Max Mirnyi meets Olivier Rochus in a David vs. Goliath matchup. Mirnyi has won all three prior meetings with the 5-foot-5 Belgian. Also, new British sensation Andrew Murray seeks career win No. 4 against the dangerous Radek Stepanek; Wayne Arthurs and Alexander Popp square off in a contest of big servers, and Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal will test his evolving grass court game against fellow lefty Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. On the women's side, rising teen Ana Ivanovic is back on court along with French Open finalist Mary Pierce and lone remaining British hope Jane O'Donoghue.

American Watch

• The exit of Henin-Hardenne gives Florida resident Laura Granville a good chance to advance to her second Wimbledon final 32. In the second round today, Granville faces Henin-Hardenne's conqueror Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. Veteran Jill Craybas is also on the schedule against No. 29 seed Marion Bartoli of France.

Miki Singh is a tennis researcher for ESPN.