Andy Roddick and Sjeng Schalken are one round away from an extraordinary meeting in the quarter-finals of the men's singles after their victories yesterday. The two have more than a booming serve in common. Last month, the young American saved the lives of Schalken and his wife, Ricky, after a hotel fire in Rome during the Italian Open.
Both have spoken of the bond that now exists between them following the incident in which three people died. Roddick, 21, helped the couple, and other guests, down onto his balcony after they became trapped on the seventh floor. "Anytime you share an experience that's pretty traumatic, there's always something there," Roddick said.
Once the draw was made, they seemed fated to meet. The two practised together last week. If they do play each other it will be a tough, yet emotional, contest but no-one should expect too many disputed line calls.
Yesterday Roddick easily beat his fellow American Taylor Dent whose serve almost rivals his own for its ferocity. "I thought I lifted my game today," the second seed said after the 6-3, 7-6, 7-6 victory. "I had to. You know I was forced to." Dent is a different proposition on grass from when the men last met, at the Australian Open, and Roddick won with embarrassing ease.
Yesterday, the US Open champion, who holds the record for the world's fastest delivery at 153 mph, survived three set points in the second set tie-break but was never really in difficulty. However, his tennis is yet to reach the heights of last year and seems one-dimensional.
"Week one is over and I'm through, I'm alive" he said. "The whole tournament is a process. The first couple of rounds are always a little bit dicey.
"Once you're in the second week you start feeling like you're in the trenches. That's where I feel I am right now."
He added: "I didn't play as well as I wanted to in my first two matches. I feel I can beat anyone on grass with the way I'm playing now. If I serve well, I have a chance to beat anybody on any given day."
The second seed, who has lost just once in 18 contests with fellow Americans, clinched victory, holding five match points, with a vicious serve and will now meet 6ft 7in German Alexander Popp, who is unseeded but has reached the last eight in the past two years. That, because he has an English mother, led to embarrassing attempts to cultivate him as one of Wimbledon's own. Yesterday, he beat Denmark's Kenneth Carlsen 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
Meanwhile Schalken, typically, took five sets to defeat Thomas Enqvist. As with the European Championship it was another victory for the Netherlands over Sweden and also one which went all the way - with the number 12 seed winning 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 in two hours and 56 minutes.
Schalken will next play the American Vince Spadea who was perhaps a surprisingly easy winner over the eighth seed, Rainer Schuettler, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 but will now face a greater challenge. "It's going to be a physical battle," Schalken said. "He (Spadea) is a very talented player but he also grinds out results. That's my game as well so those people coming to watch should bring their picnic bags with them." Indeed.
Making quietprogress through the draw is the Belgian Xavier Malisse, unseeded but a semi-finalist in 2002, who yesterday beat Karol Beck 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. He now faces the Croatian Mario Antic, who beat Dominik Hrbaty 7-5, 6-3, 7-5. The Slovak became the 24th seed to fall.Reuse content