© Ella Ling

RG - Isner

Expect little from possible Isner-Mahut Part III


Five thoughts on the draw.

Go into Isner-Mahut Part III, if it happens, with the lowest of expectations. We are just a couple of results away from a possible third part of a John Isner-Nicolas Mahut trilogy at the All England Club. If their possible second-round match does happen, if Isner beats Colombia’s Alejandro Falla, and Mahut defeats Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi, it would be best if everyone went into it imagining that it is going to be poor entertainment. It was almost inevitable that last summer’s sequel, when Isner beat Mahut in the first round in just over a couple of hours, had none of the drawn-out, almost-operatic drama of the original in the opening round of the 2010 Championships. That was when Isner needed 11 hours, and a 70-68 fifth set, to get the better of the Frenchman.

Isner and Mahut have become firm friends since that first meeting – indeed, they had to cancel their planned practice match last year when the saw the draw and realised they had been paired together in the first round. Sequels are always a disappointment. Another bad match and the Isner-Mahut┬ástory could lose some more of its romance.

Andy Murray, 6ft 3in tall, is suddenly the Lilliputian of the All England Club. If Murray is to reach the quarter-finals and beyond, he will almost certainly have to work his way past a succession of giants. At least Murray doesn’t have to look up at his first-round opponent, Russian Nikolay Davydenko, who is a couple of inches under six foot. But, in the second round, he could play Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, who is 6ft 10in, and he has a projected third-round encounter with South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who is 6ft 8in. Should Murray reach the fourth round, he would expect to play Canada’s Milos Raonic, who is 6ft 5in, or Marin Cilic, who is 6ft 6in. If ever there was a draw to test the theory – often stated – that Murray is the best returner in the game.

So Venus (unseeded for the first time since the 1990s) and Serena (seeded sixth) avoided the possibility of an all-Williams first-round match. Venus plays Russia’s Elena Vesnina with the possibility of a second-round match with Agnieszka Radwanksa, Poland’s world No 3, while Serena starts against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic. The sisters are on different sides of the draw; if they are to play each other, it will have to be in the final.

Tennis fans, ghouls and detectives will doubtless be watching David Nalbandian’s match with Janko Tipsarevic, the world No 8 and a columnist for The Tennis Space. But it’s not even the most intriguing of the first-round matches in the men’s draw. Ten years after he won this tournament, Lleyton Hewitt has no protection in the draw, and the unseeded Australian plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the first match. It is a match that neither would have wanted, but it promises to be entertaining, just like Australia’s Bernard Tomic against Belgian wild card David Goffin. There’s also Novak Djokovic against Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former world No 1 and grand slam champion.

Laura Robson is capable of beating Francesca Schiavone, a former French Open champion, in the first round. On clay? No. On grass? It’s possible. The opening round will also feature a meeting of two former world No 1s, with Kim Clijsters to play Jelena Jankovic.