Week two at a Grand Slam is moving week and when the stars usually shine.
Most Grand Slams have their share of upsets, but the first half of the 2012 fortnight seems to have more than usual. Gone before the first weekend are five-time champion Venus Williams, two-time champion Rafael Nadal and former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Roger Federer almost joined them. The all-time men’s grand slam champion had to rally from two sets down against Julien Benneteau to advance to the fourth round.
The middle Sunday at Wimbledon is traditionally a day of rest. Rain has forced the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet club to play three times on the first Sunday. The 1991, 1997 and 2004 tournaments have played on the middle Sunday which has been dubbed the People’s Sunday. With beautiful weather this week, there have been very few rain delays.
Week two will commence Sunday on the broadcast and cable networks with highlights, analysis and interviews. ESPN will air a three hour highlights show from 3-6 p.m. on ABC. The Tennis Channel will air Wimbledon tonight from 7 to 11 p.m. EDT. WatchESPN.Com and Wimbledon.Com also have the featured matches archived and available to watch on demand. As always, ESPN’s Court Cast will have the action from every court.
Play resumes on Monday with the fourth round (round of 16) in both the men’s and women’s draw.
With 16 matches involving most of the star players on both the ATP and WTA tours, ESPN and ESPN2 will provide a combined 17 hours of coverage. ESPN2 will begin the coverage at 6 a.m. Eastern and continue until 4 p.m. or whenever the last match is complete. ESPN will have seven hours of coverage from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.
In spite of the upsets, there is still plenty of star power remaining in the women’s draw. Second seed Victoria Azarenka will play former French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic. Defending Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova against another former French Open champion, Francesca Schiavone. Four-time Wimbledon Champion Serena Williams plays against Yaroslava Shvedova. Four-time grand slam champion Kim Clijsters against eighth seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany. Top seed Maria Sharapova will face Kerber’s compatriot Sabine Lisicki.
Djokovic and Federer both struggled in their third matches and needed comebacks to advance. Djokovic dropped the first set 6-4 before rallying to win 6-2 in each of the final three sets to advance. Federer dropped the first two sets before rallying to best Julien Benneteau of France. The Fed Express had to survive a fourth set tiebreaker before winning the deciding fifth set 6-1.
After playing two minutes past the Wimbledon curfew Saturday, Andy Murray advanced with a four set victory over Marcos Baghdatis. Murray’s fourth round opponent, Marin Cilic, outlasted American Sam Querrey 17-15 in the fifth. Brian Baker is the other American remaining in the draw. Baker and Fish have both staged remarkable comebacks to make it to the fourth round. Baker will next play 27th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
The Tennis Channel will air Wimbledon at 5 p.m. Eastern Monday to highlight what should be an incredible day of tennis.
Day nine of Wimbledon will feature the Ladies Quarterfinals. One match in each half of the draw will be anticipated if the favorites advance. In the top half, Maria Sharapova and Kim Cjisters will be favored to win their fourth round matches Monday. All four of Clijsters' Grand Slam victories have come on the hard courts of Melbourne and New York. Sharapova became just the fifth player in the Open Era to win the career slam when she won the French Open last month. The other intriguing match that could occur would match Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova.
ESPN and ESPN2 will cover all of the women’s quarterfinals. ESPN will be live from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern and ESPN2 from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday.
The loss of Rafael Nadal has not diminished the star power in the bottom half of the draw. Federer and Djokovic seem to be on a collision course in the top half. They are the only players with a single digit seed remaining in the top half.
The winners of the Ferrer-Del Potro/Cilic-Murray matches will be the spotlight match of the men’s quarters. The Tsonga-Fish fourth round winner will be a heavy favorite against the Kohlschreiber-Baker fourth round winner.
Should Baker and Fish advance, they would face each other on July 4. The Brits would have to love an All-American meeting on their soil on the fourth.
Like the women’s quarters, ESPN and ESPN2 will both provide coverage. ESPN will be on from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern and the deuce will cover SW19 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The women’s semifinals will take place on Thursday. ESPN will air a special one hour preview show Breakfast at Wimbledon preceding the women’s and men’s semifinals Thursday thru Sunday.
Breakfast at Wimbledon will air from 7-8 a.m. Eastern for the semifinals and 8-9 a.m. Eastern for both finals. ESPN will air the ladies semifinals from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. They could feature a pair of blockbusters if the favorites advance.
The winner of a possible Sharapova-Clijsters matchup would likely face third seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the semis. Radwanska has seemingly flown under the radar through the first three rounds. She has only dropped 11 games and has yet to lose a set. The other semi is likely to pit the Williams-Kvitova winner against second seeded Victoria Azarenka.
The Tennis Channel will continue with Wimbledon for day 11 from 5-9 p.m. Eastern.
Day 12 will feature the men’s semifinals. ESPN will carry the men’s semifinals live across the entire country for the first time. NBC had aired the French Open and Wimbledon semifinals on tape delay outside the Eastern time zone in the past. This is the first year that ESPN has the exclusive rights for Wimbledon.
The focus will be on the top half of the draw with Djokovic and Federer prohibitive favorites to advance.
In the bottom half of the draw, the favorites will be Murray and Tsonga. Although not the star power of the Djoker and Fed Express, it would still provide a great match. The immense pressure of Murray to get to the finals with Nadal eliminated from his half of the draw is great drama on its own. Murray owns a 5-1 career edge against Tsonga and has not lost to the Frenchman since 2008.
Saturday brings the quest for the Venus Rosewater Dish. TV networks across the entire globe have to silently rooting for a Sharapova-Williams finale. Although Kvitova and Radwanska are great players in their own right, neither would bring the star power and ratings of Sharapova vs. Williams. Williams has won the last seven meetings and has not dropped a set in their last three, spanning three years. The final will air beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern time on ESPN and will re-air at 3 p.m. on ABC.
The final the network suits have to be hoping for on the men’s side would be Murray against either Djokovic or Federer. Federer owns a 14-12 edge in his meetings with Djokovic. The Serbian has won six of the last seven meetings, with four of their matchups occurring in a Grand Slam. After overcoming a two sets to love deficit in the 2011 US Open, Djokovic has now won his last eight consecutive sets against Federer.
ESPN will air the Breakfast at Wimbledon special from 8-9 a.m. on Sunday before the men’s final starts at 9 a.m. Eastern. Like the women’s final, ABC will re-air the match at 3 p.m. Eastern time.