Federer, Soderling set for rematch

6/29/2009 - Tennis

WIMBLEDON, England -- Following the traditional Wimbledon day of rest, all 32 players left in the draw will duke it out Monday for the opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals.

We break down each matchup in what promises to be a fascinating day.

No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 13 Robin Soderling

Here's the good news for the rejuvenated Soderling: He won't be as nervous as when the two faced off in this month's French Open final, and faster surfaces suit his big-hitting game. Only once has he dropped serve this week.

"I'd like to improve everything from Paris," said Soderling, who hopes to shrug off a stomach illness.

Oh, yes, there's plenty of bad news. Federer is almost unbeatable on grass and dissects Soderling. The 14-time Grand Slam champ is 10-0 against Soderling, dropping one set (on grass, mind you, in 2005).

Prediction: Federer in four

No. 6 Andy Roddick vs. No. 20 Tomas Berdych

Berdych, ever dangerous but never consistently good, hasn't dropped a set through three matches. Just for the record, the wins came against perennial British wild card loser Alex Bogdanovic, and the grass-averse duo of Paul-Henri Mathieu and Nikolay Davydenko.

Berdych, however, did beat Davydenko for the first time in nine tries. The 6-foot-5 Czech is also 2-2 against Roddick, winning their last head-to-head on hard courts in Japan last fall.

Roddick, trying to reach a third final at Wimbledon, and without Rafael Nadal in his section, has needed to go four sets in each of his first three rounds. He was ticked at wasting break points Saturday against tricky Austrian Jurgen Melzer, going 2-for-9.

"There's going to be times during the match where it's going to be out of my hands," Roddick said. "He can serve big, he's going to hit big from the baseline. It's just a matter of trying to weather what he's bringing."

But Roddick is a much better competitor.

Prediction: Roddick in four

No. 3 Andy Murray vs. No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka

Since struggling against American showman Robert Kendrick in the opening round, Murray has sizzled -- making a miniscule five unforced errors against Latvian underachiever Ernests Gulbis (who didn't allow Murray to make errors, it should be pointed out) and predictably dismantling Serb Viktor Troicki.

The hype surrounding the Great British Hope is sure to intensify if he progresses to the quarterfinals. Wawrinka, a chum of Murray's, can light it up in spells, but grass isn't his favorite surface: The Swiss No. 2 warmed up for the world's most prestigious tennis tournament by contesting a clay-court challenger. Yes, really.

"To play him here at Wimbledon is gonna be a nice match," said Wawrinka, without a Grand Slam quarterfinal on his résumé.

Prediction: Murray in four

No. 7 Fernando Verdasco vs. No. 22 Ivo Karlovic

Isn't it about time Karlovic gets some credit? Sure, the Croat's a serving machine, but the big serves were getting him nowhere three-plus years ago. His volleys have improved enormously, he can thump the forehand and is showing more drive in his backhand.

Karlovic thumped 46 aces -- nine off the record he set at the French Open -- over surprisingly sore loser Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round and is riding high, as evidenced by his exuberant postmatch celebration.

Verdasco, Spain's lefty hope in Rafael Nadal's absence, has been consistent, without taking the next step, since landing in the Australian Open semifinals.

Prediction: Karlovic in four

No. 4 Novak Djokovic vs. Dudi Sela

It's not hard to root for the diminutive Sela. The guy is listed in the ATP media guide at 5-9 (he says 5-8 is more like it) and admitted he took a toilet break between the third and fourth sets of his third-round win over Spaniard Tommy Robredo to waste time: Sela was ticked at having to wait for a racket that needed stringing. The 24-year-old intended to have a beer to celebrate reaching the fourth round, the first Israeli man to reach the last 16 at a major since Amos Mansdorf (listed at 5-9, too) in 1992.

Sela will need more than just crowd support. The Serb, happy to be under the radar in southwest London, played his best match of the tournament against U.S. No. 3 Mardy Fish in the third round.

Prediction: Djokovic in three

No. 8 Gilles Simon vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero

Hard to believe, but Wimbledon has been former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero's most productive Grand Slam in recent years. Forget the clay.

Coming off a semifinal showing at the warm-up AEGON Championships in London, the much respected 29-year-old overcame Chilean shot machine Fernando Gonzalez in five wonderful sets Saturday. Ferrero, the 2003 French Open titlist, was outside the top 100 as recently as a month ago. (He's now 70th.)

Simon, a jovial sort with a game similar to Murray's, produced a morale-boosting win over Victor Hanescu -- the Romanian humbled the Frenchman in the third round at Roland Garros.

As much as he's slumped this campaign, a win for Simon gets him into a second Grand Slam quarterfinal in 2009.

Prediction: Simon in four

No. 23 Radek Stepanek vs. Lleyton Hewitt

Something's gotta give.

Stepanek reached his only major quarterfinal at Wimbledon three years ago, and Hewitt, the Wimbledon winner in 2002 and former world No. 1, reached his last major quarterfinal three years ago.

The Aussie is brimming with confidence after his first top-10 win at a Grand Slam in four years, and the talented Stepanek is dealing with a knee injury.

"If you're not 100 percent fit, then [Hewitt] is going to make you run like a horse," said the colorful Czech, who, speaking of animals, performed the Worm after topping Spanish bulldog David Ferrer on Saturday.

Prediction: Hewitt in three

No. 29 Igor Andreev vs. Tommy Haas

Haas' resurgence persists.

The 31-year-old German kept it together mentally to ward off upstart Croat Marin Cilic in the tussle of the tournament so far, prevailing 10-8 in the fifth after squandering two match points in the fourth. He had to save two match points in the finale.

The signs were there: The oft-injured Haas doggedly battled Federer in Paris and won his first grass-court title at home, in Halle.

Andreev, he of the big forehand, and big windup on the forehand, had never before advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon. A nice draw helped.

Prediction: Haas in four


No. 3 Venus Williams vs. No. 13 Ana Ivanovic

It's good to see that Ivanovic isn't overawed by facing the queen of grass, Venus Williams, in the pick of the women's encounters Monday.

"She's a very dangerous opponent, but I think have a great chance," Ivanovic said.

Ivanovic flopped after winning the French Open, her lone major, in 2008. Seeded 13th -- a year removed from being the world No. 1 -- the glitzy Serb has no pressure whatsoever.

Williams, seeking a sixth title and third straight, looked mostly sharp in demolishing Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro -- her conqueror at the Australian Open -- on Saturday, while still wearing a strapping on her left knee.

Williams leads their head-to-heads 5-1, including a straight-sets job in the Wimbledon semis two years ago.

"This is a good surface for her," Williams insisted.

Prediction: Williams in two

No. 2 Serena Williams vs. Daniela Hantuchova

The rain came to Williams' aid when these two met at the same stage of the tournament two years ago. Late in the second set, Williams having taken the opener, collapsed to the turf with cramps in her left calf.

The skies opened up in the tiebreaker, giving Williams a chance to patch up, and even though the statuesque Hantuchova forced a third, the Slovak buckled.

Call it another example of Williams' mental toughness.

She didn't look convincing in her third-round triumph over Italian Roberta Vinci, but that doesn't really mean much given her ability to step on the gas at any time.

Unseeded at Wimbledon for the first time in a while (injuries), Hantuchova can swing freely.

Prediction: Williams in three

No. 11 Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Melanie Oudin

Lo and behold, an American woman not named Williams is into the second week. Melanie Oudin, a 17-year-old qualifier from Georgia, is the Williams' unlikely accompaniment. Oudin, at 5-6, is one of the smaller players on the circuit and used her court smarts -- and strokes -- to edge former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in about three hours Saturday. Jankovic (surprise, surprise) had injury concerns and struggled in the intense heat.

As a 7-year-old, Oudin gained inspiration from watching Venus and Serena on TV at Wimbledon.

"I was like, 'Mom, I really, really want to play there one day,'" said Oudin, the owner of a backhand slice, uncommon among teens.

Radwanska is similarly clever, and she catches a break by not facing a huge hitter. The Pole is seeking a spot in the quarters for a second straight year, and Oudin must be pooped.

Prediction: Radwanska in two

No. 1 Dinara Safina vs. No. 17 Amelie Mauresmo

Safina, bothered by knee tendinitis, got just what she wanted the first week: a cushy draw, which gave her a chance to saunter into the fourth round for the first time. Two of the Russian's foes were ranked 100th or lower, and the other clocked in at 72nd.

Unlike Safina, France's Mauresmo, the 2006 champion, loves competing on grass (and away from the pressure cooker that is Roland Garros). Mauresmo, turning 30 the day after the women's final, is 4-2 against Safina and extended her to three sets in Moscow last fall.

She fended off nine of 10 break points Saturday versus feisty Italian Flavia Pennetta.

Injuries, a loss of form and loss of desire have meant Mauresmo hasn't reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since the 2006 U.S. Open.

"Throughout the last few months I had, it's been much better, and I was enjoying myself a lot more than the last couple of years," Mauresmo said.

Prediction: Mauresmo in two

No. 8 Victoria Azarenka vs. No. 10 Nadia Petrova

Azarenka is part of the I'm-a-grunter-and-I-don't-care union. Too bad the Belorussian's shrieks attract just as much attention as her powerful game.

Jeered in Paris (she booed the fans back) and not the crowd favorite against blossoming Romanian Sorana Cirstea on Friday, the 19-year-old lacks fear and competes hard. We're talking about a certain Grand Slam winner in the near future.

Petrova, the Russian whose best days are behind her, has to serve huge if she wants a repeat of last year's 7-6 (11), 7-6 (4) win in Wimbledon's third round.

Prediction: Azarenka in three

No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sabine Lisicki

Lisicki, the present -- and future -- of German women's tennis, couldn't play her best at the French Open. She suffered from appendicitis in the build-up and lost in the first round.

Weeks earlier, the 19-year-old overcame her pal, 18-year-old Wozniacki, who singlehandedly represents Danish tennis, and Venus Williams en route to capturing the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C.

Possessed with a mighty serve, the 41st-ranked Lisicki turned giant killer again Saturday, upsetting an out-of-form Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Wozniacki's progression continues, though she was fortunate to beat Japan's Kimiko Date Krumm in the first round. A set and 3-1 to the good, the 38-year-old succumbed to fatigue and departed in three.

Prediction: Lisicki in two

No. 4 Elena Dementieva vs. Elena Vesnina

One of the hottest players on the tour the first part of 2009, the understated Dementieva cooled off and was upset by Aussie Samantha Stosur in the third round of the French Open, where she once reached the final.

Dementieva, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2008, subsequently worked on her fitness and began her grass-court prep a week-and-a-half ago.

Vesnina, like Dementieva, is one of 11 Russians in the top 50. She manufactured 21 break points in eliminating plucky Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, a semifinalist at the French. Vesnina landed in the fourth round of a major for the second time -- achieving the feat in her maiden Grand Slam three years ago.

Prediction: Dementieva in two

No. 26 Virginie Razzano vs. Francesca Schiavone

For the neutral fans, it was unfortunate that Schiavone, the workmanlike Italian, defeated 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli on Friday. Bartoli refused a postmatch handshake with Razzano at a tuneup in Eastbourne, England, last week, because Razzano earlier said her French compatriot lacked sportsmanship. A rematch would have made for great cinema.

Schiavone, a former world No. 11, reached her first grass-court semifinal in Rosmalen, Netherlands, this month and is bidding to attain a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the third time, first since 2003 at the U.S. Open. Razzano, never a quarterfinalist at a major, is on a roll, too, advancing to the Eastbourne final after a fourth-round appearance in Paris.

Prediction: Schiavone in three

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.