Paul Newman: Lopez artistry turns Super Mario surly

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The Independent Online

They said a Spanish left-hander with flowing locks and a bandana might make an impact here, but nobody thought he would be playing classic serve-and-volley tennis. More importantly, nobody expected him to be called Feliciano Lopez.

They said a Spanish left-hander with flowing locks and a bandana might make an impact here, but nobody thought he would be playing classic serve-and-volley tennis. More importantly, nobody expected him to be called Feliciano Lopez.

Rafael Nadal, Lopez's doubles partner, departed in the second round, unable to adapt the game that swept all before him on Europe's clay courts to the demands of grass. Lopez, in contrast, has the perfect style for Wimbledon, as Mario Ancic found to his cost yesterday. The No 10 seed was blown away 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 40 minutes.

Lopez, who now takes on Lleyton Hewitt in the quarter-finals, is ranked 33 in the world. He has an outstanding serve (only five players bettered his total of 558 aces last year), volleys sweetly and hits crisp groundstrokes on both sides.

While he may not quite know his way round SW19 without an A-Z in hand - last week he had trouble finding the exit after playing on No 1 Court - Lopez has reached the fourth round twice and third round once in his three previous appearances.

Yet if you were looking for an outsider to win this year it would have been hard to ignore Ancic, the last player to beat Roger Federer on grass, in the first round here three years ago. Last year the Croatian reached his first Grand Slam semi-final, beating Tim Henman here before going out to Andy Roddick, while he won his first title this summer, on grass at 's-Hertogenbosch.

Yesterday, however, we saw Surly Mario rather than Super Mario. If there is something of his compatriot, Goran Ivanisevic, in his big-serving game, Ancic also shares the 2001 champion's volatile temperament. He appeared ill at ease from the start. Maybe there is something in Lopez's unflappable demeanour that brings hotheads to the boil, Marat Safin having sent the mercury rising when he lost to the Spaniard in the previous round.

Fifteen double-faults did nothing for Ancic's mood. Two cost him his serve in the fifth game of the first set and another three handed Lopez the first game of the second set. The Spaniard's one poor service game allowed Ancic to break back immediately, only for two more double-faults to hand the initiative back to Lopez.

It all proved too much for the world No 17, who hurled his water bottle at his chair and then slammed his racket into the ground. Poor Ancic even had trouble breaking his racket, succeeding (and earning a code violation from the umpire) only after a ball-boy had handed it back to him. At the end of the match Ancic handed his new racket to a bemused ball-girl, Lopez having eased to victory by breaking serve twice in the third set.

Lopez is the first Spanish man to reach the quarter-finals since 1972, when Manuel Orantes went on to reach the last four. "I know I'm not a typical Spanish player," he said. "I do like playing from the baseline as well, but I know that one of my best weapons is to come into the net and to serve and volley."

Andy Roddick maintained his progress in the bottom half of the draw, beating Guillermo Coria 6-3, 7-6, 6-4. Roddick forced break points in the Argentinian's first six service games, converting two of them. Coria rallied at5-2 down in the second set, but Roddick won the tie-break 7-1. The No 2 seed took the third set and the match with his 12th ace.

Next up for Roddick is his friend and practice partner, Sébastien Grosjean, a semi-finalist here for the last two years. The Frenchman reached the last eight by beating Dmitry Tursunov, the conqueror of Tim Henman, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

The man who shot Bambi had blood on his hands again. Forty-eight hours after ending Britain's interest in the singles by defeating Andy Murray in five dramatic sets on Centre Court, David Nalbandian removed the last teenager when he beat France's Richard Gasquet in straight sets.

The Argentinian refused to be drawn into any debate over the respective merits of Murray and Gasquet. "Two different players, two different scores, two different countries, two different matches," he said. And two different futures? "Depends," the wary Argentinian said. "You never know."

Nalbandian now plays the 30-year-old Thomas Johansson, who is the oldest player left in the men's singles. The Swede, seeded No 12, beat Max Mirnyi, of Belarus, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

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