The 2013 Wimbledon Championships took a sabbatical on Sunday, allowing us (and the players) a welcome respite and a chance to ponder what we'll see going forward.
Six days into the tournament, the men's singles draw has officially reached the fourth round. A most precarious round in the tournament, these matches separate players from the "main draw" and the quarterfinals. Sort of like advancing past the group round of the World Cup, winning one more match here at Wimbledon pushes players past an important threshold in the tournament.
Doing so won't be easy, though, and every round past this one is proportionally harder. For each and every player in the draw, that means their form needs to be proportionally more impressive.
Here are three players, in particular, who need to step up their games going forward.
(4) David Ferrer
Ferrer benefitted from a fortunate draw at Roland Garros, advancing to the final of the French Open against Rafael Nadal—the first final he's made at a major tournament. He blew that chance, though, whimpering out in straight sets to Rafa, and it appeared it would be quite some time before he ever, potentially, got handed such an auspicious route to a major championship.
And then Wimbledon 2013 happened.
With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both out of the field, Ferrer is one of the three best remaining players in England. And even though he has Novak Djokovic looming should he make the semis, even advancing that far gives Ferrer a better chance than he expected.
How he's played at Wimbledon, however, has left a lot to be desired. His form has been slapdash at best, forfeiting at least one set in each of his three matches. He needed a tiebreak to avoid going down 1-2 to Roberto Bautista-Agut in Round 2, then needed five sets to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov (who actually did get him down 1-2) in Round 3.
That type of performance does not bode well going forward, and as the competition improves, so must Ferrer's game. Otherwise this could be another opportunity wasted.
(8) Juan Martin del Potro
JMDP, as he's affectionately called, has yet to lose a set this tournament, winning 3-0 in matches versus Albert Ramos, Jesse Levine and Grega Zemlja.
But now things start to ramp up.
Those three unseeded opponents give way to (23) Andreas Seppi, a man coming off a hard-fought (and impressive) comeback upset over Kei Nishikori. And though del Potro holds a favorable record in their past meetings, this will be the first time they ever meet in a best-of-five-set tournament.
Del Potro hasn't been as dominant as his 9-0 set record suggests, either. He's had to win seven games in three of those sets (one in each match) and needed tiebreaks to win set two in his two most recent bouts.
Wimbledon success has eluded the 24-year-old del Potro, who has never advanced past the fourth round in this tournament. It's the only major he's never made at least the quarterfinal in, and his resume even includes an unlikely win at the U.S. Open in 2009.
He's playing well, but if JMDP wants to buck that trend, he'll need to step up his game. Otherwise his first seeded opponent at Wimbledon could be his last.
(2) Andy Murray
Murray's situation isn't as dire as those of the two men listed above him, but I would be remiss to leave him off this list.
Because nobody, nowhere, in no tournament is facing more pressure than he is right now.
Murray's form has been fine thus far at Wimbledon, winning all three of his matches in straight-set fashion. And even though he needed a seventh game in set three of the last two, that hardly diminishes how impressive he's looked.
Still, from this point forward, everything Murray does will be placed under a microscope. Every serve, every return, every error will, potentially, be a front-page headline in England the following day. That's how much they care about this tournament, and with Federer and Nadal both eliminated, that's how much they're counting on Andy to win it.
No British player, as we all well know, has won at Wimbledon in the past 77 years. If Andy can step his game to yet another impressive level, this might finally be the year he puts that to an end.
It's hard to imagine him ever getting a better chance.