Lopez goes distance to set up Murray tie
Tuesday 28 June 2011
Feliciano Lopez survived two match points to book himself a place in the quarter-finals and a whole lot of media interest yesterday, for by beating the Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot in an epic match lasting four hours and 18 minutes, the 29-year-old Spaniard now becomes the man Andy Murray must overcome to reach the last four.
The left-handed Lopez was given a much stiffer test by Kubot than he had been by his previous opponent, Andy Roddick, whom he beat in straight sets. Indeed at two sets and a break up the Pole looked by far the likelier winner, which would have been one for the record books following the earlier victory of the Australian teenager Bernard Tomic. Never before in the history of these championships had two qualifiers reached the quarter-final stage.
Lopez, twice a Wimbledon quarter-finalist, eventually ensured with a 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-5 win that the record endured. He must have fancied his chances against a man with a much better record as a doubles player, who was also on a six-match losing streak against lefties, but Kubot gave him a tremendous scare.
Lopez, who remarkably after his energy-sapping match was soon afterwards playing mixed-doubles, should in theory present less of an obstacle for Murray than Richard Gasquet, the Scot's victim yesterday. In four previous meetings, Murray has won every time. Meanwhile, Tomic is the first qualifier in 11 years to reach the last eight. In beating Xavier Malisse 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 he also becomes, at 18 years and 156 days, both the youngest man left in this year's singles draw, and the youngest to reach the quarter-finals since Boris Becker in 1985.
Unlike the little-known Kubot, Tomic is already firmly on the radar. The management group IMG signed him when he was just 13, and junior Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open in 2008, then the US Open the following year, cemented his burgeoning reputation. He also has a reputation for healthy if occasionally jaw-dropping arrogance, declining Lleyton Hewitt's invitation to hit with him at Wimbledon two years ago on the basis that "Lleyton's not good enough".
Nonetheless, Roger Federer, no less, has tipped Tomic as one of three young players likely to make a big impact on the game over the next few years, and Novak Djokovic suggested a few weeks ago that he could be this year's surprise package at Wimbledon. The mighty Serb, a straight-sets winner against Michael Llodra yesterday, will hope that his prescience does not rear up to bite him on the backside; the second seed now plays Tomic for a place in the last four.
Also into the quarter-finals are Mardy Fish, who beat last year's runner-up Tomas Berdych 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who overcame David Ferrer 6-3, 6-4, 7-6.
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