June 19, 2013
Wimbledon: Serena soars, Murray beats the clock
Serena Williams fired down a Wimbledon record 23 aces, Yaroslava Shvedova blitzed through a record 24 consecutive points and Andy Murray beat the clock in another night of late drama as the All England Club ushered in the AN - after Nadal - era today.
Forty-eight hours after brazen Czech Lukas Rosol turned tennis's world order on its head by bludgeoning Rafa Nadal out of Wimbledon and 24 hours after Roger Federer came within two points of falling through the same trap door, Murray waged his own battle under the floodlights - this time with the clock.
Wimbledon rules state that Centre Court matches must finish by 2300 local time and with the seconds ominously ticking down, it seemed as if Murray would be left hanging in no man's land till Monday to complete his third-round match against Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
As it was he survived a series of falls, was penalised for allowing a string of balls to pop out of his pocket in mid-rally but still managed eke out a nerve-shredding 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-1 win as the clock struck 2302 local time - the latest ever finish at the grass court slam.
Time was also an issue for his next opponent Marin Cilic.
The Croatian staggered past Sam Querrey 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-7 17-15 in fading light to win the second longest ever match at the All England Club.
Two years after John Isner won an 11 hour five minute duel against Nicolas Mahut, which featured 183 games and ended 70-68 in the fifth set, a similar battle played out on Court Two.
But at five hours 31 minutes, Cilic achieved his win in less than half the time it took Isner to put away Mahut in 2010.
Earlier in the day, it seemed as if four-times women's champion Williams was also on borrowed time.
The American's serve was on fire and she was never broken but she was lucky to escape unscathed as she subdued Zheng Jie's charge with a 6-7 6-2 9-7 third-round win.
It was little wonder that Williams arched backwards to let out an almighty roar of relief after punching away a backhand volley on her third match point to complete a 6-7 6-2 9-7 win in just under 2-1/2 hours on a blustery and baking hot Centre Court.
It was the same arena that Rosol had found to his liking on Thursday as his ferocious forehands and atomic aces destroyed Nadal's title hopes.
But 48 hours later, Rosol will be hoping he does not end up being a one-hit wonder as he headed back into obscurity after a less than spectacular 6-2 6-3 7-6 Court 12 drubbing at the hands of Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Kazakhstan's Shvedova will be looking to reach her second successive grand slam quarter-final when she takes on Williams on Monday but it is unlikely she will repeat the kind of run she enjoyed on day six of the grass court championships.