Wimbledon men's quarterfinals preview
Eight countries are represented in the men's quarterfinal at Wimbledon on Wednesday. Among the remaining eight are former champions Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and past runners-up Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian. Sebastien Grosjean seeks his third straight Wimbledon semifinal while Feliciano Lopez and the surprising Fernando Gonzalez give today's schedule a little Spanish flavor. And the underrated Swede Thomas Johansson already knows how to spoil a party, having won the 2002 Australian Open.
• A headband-wearing Spanish lefty has reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, only it's not Rafael Nadal. Instead, his countryman Lopez finds himself in his first final eight after serving his way through the toughest section of the draw. The 23-year-old Lopez has been on fire of late, winning his last 11 sets since being down 2-1 in sets in the first round to unheralded German Bjorn Phau. Today, Lopez will have to continue to serve bombs and play his best tennis as he takes on one of the game's best returners in Hewitt. The third-seeded Hewitt who won this title in 2002 defeated Lopez in their only prior meeting in straight sets at the third round of the U.S. Open last year. In the last round, Hewitt showed his trademark fighting spirit upending the big-serving Taylor Dent.
• After a narrow five-set escape against the little-known Daniele Bracciali, Roddick has steadied his game and his confidence rolling in straight sets in his last two matches as he moves toward a showdown with nemesis Federer. Roddick must first focus on today's opponent, Grosjean, whom he has beaten in their last six meetings, including three wins on the grass at the Queen's Club the last three years. The speedy Grosjean, who has won two five-setters en route, may be able to take some comfort in knowing that Roddick's serve has not been as lethal as it has been in the past, as the American has been allowing opponents a few more break chances than usual. But the Frenchman will have to do an excellent job of protecting his serve to have any chance to reverse his recent results against Roddick.
• Nalbandian doesn't seem to make a lot of noise at tournaments unless it's a Grand Slam. The crafty Argentine has advanced to seven quarterfinals in his last 11 majors and his second one here following a runner-up finish in 2002. In his last two matches, Nalbandian showed his skills and wit defeating teens Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet. Today, Nalbandian faces the oldest player remaining among the last eight, 30-year-old Thomas Johansson, in a first-time meeting. Johansson, a two-time title winner on grass, has quietly crept through the field, surrendering just one set along the way. With a win today, Johansson would become the first Swede to reach the semifinals since Stefan Edberg in 1993, and it would place him within two wins of his second career Grand Slam title. At the 2002 Australian Open, it was Johansson sneaking through the draw and then stunning the heavily-favored Marat Safin to earn his first Slam victory.
• Top-ranked Federer is just a win away from his fifth straight Grand Slam semifinal appearance. The 23-year-old Swiss has dropped just one set en route to today's showdown with the always-dangerous Gonzalez, who is trying to become the first Chilean to reach the Wimbledon final four. Surprisingly, Gonzalez has done Federer one better, reaching the last eight as the only player yet to lose a single set. While he's known for his hard-hitting groundstrokes, Gonzalez has been doing it with his serve all week, leading the remaining eight in aces (69) and he's second just behind Lopez in first serve points won percentage (83 percent). Federer, however, will be undeterred as the two-time Wimbledon champ has handily beaten Gonzalez in all four career meetings, including a win last month on clay at the French Open. Federer has won his last 33 grass court matches and 18 straight at Wimbledon. Gonzalez is 0-2 in two previous Slam quarterfinals.
Miki Singh is a tennis researcher for ESPN.
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