LONDON, (Reuters) – Andy Roddick’s dream of winning Wimbledon is on hold for another year after he was out-gunned by a left-handed Spaniard yesterday, not reigning champion Rafa Nadal but Feliciano Lopez whose tennis lived up to his nickname.
With Nadal relegated to Court One for a third-round clash against Gilles Muller that was suspended by rain with the defending champion a set up, Lopez, nicknamed “Deliciano”, gleefully stole the limelight from his close friend with a handsome 7-6 7-6 6-4 victory.
Britain’s last man standing Andy Murray was spared the worst of the English summer when the fourth seed moved into the last 16 with a 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-6 victory over Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic under Centre Court’s gleaming roof lights.
Long after darkness had descended outside, Murray gave the 15,000 full house, and hundreds watching on a screen over on Court One, a fright when he malfunctioned serving at 5-4 in the fourth set but held his nerve to win the tiebreak.
The 24-year-old, bidding to end 75 years of hurt for British men in grand slams, next faces in-form Frenchman Richard Gasquet who outclassed Simone Bolelli in one of only six men’s singles matches completed on day five because of more bad weather.
Women’s second seed Vera Zvonareva was sent packing by Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova in a repeat of last year’s semi-final. The Russian lost 6-3 6-2, blaming a foot injury.
“I was stupid to try and carry on,” last year’s runner-up said.
Pironkova gets another shot at five-times champion Venus Williams who conserved energy with a menacing 6-0 6-2 win over Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Williams was beaten by Pironkova in last year’s quarter-finals.
World number one Caroline Wozniacki is still lagging a round behind after getting snagged by rain delays but the Dane made up for lost time by thrashing Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano 6-1 6-3, committing just one unforced error in the match.
Tetchy Maria Sharapova kept her eye on a second Wimbledon title although the fifth seed was far from her best against British wildcard Laura Robson, falling 4-1 behind before battling back to reach the third round with a 7-6 6-3 win.
Lopez, he of the Hollywood looks, was simply irresistible as he served and volleyed eighth seed Roddick to pieces.
American Roddick has become a fixture at Wimbledon where his grass-scorching serve and all-action style have fired him to three runner-up finishes at the hands of Roger Federer.
But he had no answer against the net-prowling Lopez who had lost all seven of their previous clashes and has never been past the quarter-finals here despite a style purpose-built for Wimbledon’s skiddy lawns.
Roddick, whose most recent final was a marathon defeat by Federer in 2009, had no complaints.
“This year’s a lot easier to deal with than last year where I feel like I gave it away,” the 28-year-old said, referring to his 2010 fourth-round defeat by Lu Yen-hsun.
“I got beat. He came out. He served about as well as someone has. He played an outstanding match.”
Roddick, who chucked a racket into the crowd as left the court to a generous ovation, insisted he will be back fighting his corner in 12 months despite admitting he had not played well for a year.
“I figured it was just going to go to waste like a doorstop or something,” a jovial Roddick said of his post-match gesture. “I figured a seven-year-old boy would probably get more use out of it than my grasscourt bottoms.
“I’ll keep moving forward. I don’t feel horrible going into the summer by any means.”
With Centre Court open to the elements again after Thursday’s drizzle had kept the roof closed the sun occasionally burst through the clouds and Roddick responded with a string of early aces, one clocked at 143 mph.
It was Lopez who held the trump cards though as his superior all-round game enabled him to easily win tiebreaks at the end of the first two sets. One break in the decider was enough for the Lopez to set up a last-16 meeting with Gael Monfils or Lukasz Kubot.
“To beat Andy in this court is very special, of course. I would say maybe the best (win at Wimbledon) probably,” the modest Lopez, who crashed 57 outright winners, said.
“I was surprised that I didn’t miss anything. Overall I think I played an unbelievable match.”
Sharapova found herself 4-1 down against wildcard Robson, the 17-year-old world number 254 still trying to live up to the hype of her Wimbledon junior title in 2008.
The Russian fifth seed got increasingly irritable as the crowd sensed a huge shock was in the making.
She fought back, however, won the tiebreak with the help of a narrow Hawkeye decision at 5-4 and surged ahead in the second set to put Robson back in her place.
“I don’t think she had anything to lose,” a relieved Sharapova told reporters.
“I think that brings out the best in someone when they go out and they play free and they just go for the lines.”
Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka, who rivals Sharapova in the power and ‘grunting’ department, reached the fourth round with a 6-3 3-6 6-2 win against Daniela Hantuchova while eight seed Petra Kvitova also sealed a spot in the last 16.