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Wimbledon Round Of 16 Preview: Murray & The Not-So-Usual Suspects

Wimbledon, England

Murray© Getty ImagesAndy Murray prepares for his match against Mikhail Youzhny.

When Wimbledon began, 2012 finalist Andy Murray, seven-time champion Roger Federer, two-time champion Rafael Nadal and two-time semi-finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all featured in what was widely touted as the ‘tough’ half of the draw. Fast forward a week, and Murray remains the only man standing of the four - in fact, the lone Top 20 representative in the bottom half.

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[2] Andy Murray (GBR) vs [20] Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 
FedEx ATP Head2Head: Murray leads 2-0

Murray will look to become the first player since Roger Federer in 2008 to reach the final without confronting a seed higher than No. 20. The British No. 1 faces the highest seed remaining in his half, Mikhail Youzhny, in the Round of 16. Murray leads Youzhny 2-0 in the FedEx ATP Head2Head, including a victory in the 2009 Valencia final, but this will be their first meeting on grass.

“He's a very good grass court player,” said Murray. “He was in the final in Halle. Had a very tight match with Roger there. He's been in the second week numerous times. He likes the courts. He's a very talented guy.”

The 31-year-old Youzhny, currently No. 26 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is appearing in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon for an eighth time. He reached the quarter-finals for the first time last year, becoming the third Russian in the Open Era to complete his set of Grand Slam quarter-final appearances. 

Youzhny’s 53 tour-level wins on grass is the fourth-best mark among active players, behind Federer (122), Lleyton Hewitt (116) and Murray (69).

Murray is currently riding a 14-match streak on grass, beginning with his gold-medal winning run at the 2012 London Olympics. He reclaimed the Aegon Championships title two weeks ago and has not dropped a set through his first three matches at Wimbledon. He has reached the quarter-finals the past five years at SW19. 

[24] Jerzy Janowicz (POL) vs Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
FedEx ATP Head2Head: First meeting

Jerzy Janowicz, playing in just his third grass-court tournament, shared his biggest issue with grass following his third-round win over No. 15 seed Nicolas Almagro: “I don’t have a chance to practise on grass because we don’t have any grass courts in Poland.” Despite that fact, the 22 year old and countryman Lukasz Kubot are just one stage away from setting up the first all-Polish match at a Grand Slam tournament. 

Janowicz will first need to get through 37th-ranked Jurgen Melzer, who knocked out Sergiy Stakhovsky in the third round. Melzer, 32, is attempting to become the first Austrian to reach the quarter-finals in the men’s singles draw. He also reached this stage in 2010, falling to Federer. Melzer achieved his best Grand Slam showing in 2010, when he reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros, and also tasted glory at the All England Club when he won the doubles title with German Philipp Petzschner.

The 6’8”  Janowicz reached the Wimbledon third round last year on his Grand Slam debut, and will be appearing in the Round of 16 for the first time at a major. He enjoyed a breakthrough in 2012, climbing 195 spots to No. 26 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He capped his season by reaching the final at the BNP Paribas Masters, posting a pair of Top 10 wins over Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic (l. to Ferrer).

Lukasz Kubot (POL) vs Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
FedEx ATP Head2Head: First meeting

Kubot and Frenchman Adrian Mannarino have respectively dropped just 16 and 18 games going in the Round of 16, beneficiaries of Steve Darcis’s withdrawal and John Isner’s retirement in the second round. Kubot’s 16 games is the least dropped by any player in the Open Era entering the fourth round. 

The 31-year-old Kubot defeated No. 25 seed Benoit Paire on Friday to equal his best Grand Slam result. He also reached the Round of 16 at the 2010 Australian Open (l. to Djokovic) and as a qualifier here in 2011 (l. to Lopez). Kubot will also feature in third-round doubles action on Monday, taking on No. 4 seeds Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek alongside countryman Marcin Matkowski

Mannarino had entered Wimbledon winless in tour-level action since January 2012 and on a six-match losing run at majors. He ended those streaks with victory over Pablo Andujar in the first round, equalling his best Grand Slam result. Mannarino defeated Dustin Brown in the third round Friday, one day before his 25th birthday. 

The winner between World No. 130 Kubot and World No. 111 Mannarino, both former Top 50 players, will become the lowest-ranked man to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final since a No. 158th-ranked Bernard Tomic in 2011 at Wimbledon

Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs Kenny De Schepper (FRA)
FedEx ATP Head2Head: First meeting

Fernando Verdasco and Kenny De Schepper meet in a clash of left-handers. 

Verdasco is looking to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time on his 11th straight tournament appearance. He fell in the Round of 16 on three previous attempts, in 2006 (l. to Stepanek), 2008 (l. to Ancic) and 2009 (l. to Karlovic). The former World No. 7 entered this year’s championship with a ranking of No. 54, with his best result this season a quarter-final showing on grass at the Aegon International (l. to Lopez). 

The 29-year-old Verdasco, an Australian Open semi-finalist in 2009, defeated Xavier Malisse, No. 31 seed Julien Benneteau and Ernests Gulbis in his first three matches to reach the last 16 at a major for the first time since the 2011 Australian Open

De Schepper joined countryman Mannarino in the Round of 16 after posting the best win of his career against a 20th-ranked Juan Monaco. The 26 year old recorded consecutive tour-level wins for the first time when he reached the third round of the Aegon Championships earlier this month, pushing his ranking to a career-high No. 80 coming into Wimbledon.

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