Mercury Rising!

-Nadal, Serena, Federer lead the charge

LONDON, (Reuters) – The mercury was rising at  Wimbledon yesterday as the serial trophy hunters gathered in  the last 16 with defending champions Rafa Nadal and Serena  Williams leading the charge and Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic  not far behind.   

Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic added a new face to the  second week of a grand slam when he produced the biggest shock  of the men’s tournament by beating Swedish fifth seed Robin  Soderling in straight sets.   

Nadal was in miserly mood as he finished off Luxembourg’s  Gilles Muller 7-6 7-6 6-0 on Number One court.   
Williams, seeded seventh after her return from 11 months of  serious health problems, made her most emphatic statement yet by  blasting Russia’s Maria Kirilenko 6-3 6-2.   

Rafael Nadal

“I was a little more consistent and I played my game more,”  she said. “Wasn’t as tight and nervous and uptight. I was able  to relax more today,” the 13-times grand slam champion.   

Maria Sharapova, the 2004 winner, took her customary place  at the business end of a major as the fifth seed overpowered  Czech Klara Zakopalova 6-2 6-3 on Court Two.   

The scheduling of the top women’s players on what is the  club’s third court has been a bone of contention this week after  Serena Williams, five-times winner Venus Williams and world  number one Caroline Wozniacki have all made their way through  the walkways to the sunken bowl.   

Wozniacki, still waiting to join the elite club of grand  slam champions, enjoyed her upgrade on Centre Court for an easy  win over 27th seed Jarmila Gajdosova.   

She then made way for the club’s most decorated member to  strut his stuff in the sunshine.   
Swiss maestro Federer, his eyes fixed on Pete Sampras’s  record seven Wimbledon men’s titles, produced another  masterclass to dismantle David Nalbandian 6-4 6-2 6-4 despite  making a complete hash of a smash on his first match point.   

The most absorbing action was saved to last, however, as  Djokovic and smiling Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis produced a  prime-time sizzler that had Centre Court fans roaring their  approval.   
 

Maria Sharapova

Djokovic won 6-4 4-6 6-3 6-4 in a match full of sensational  rallies and one of the best racket demolitions seen on the  famous arena as the Serb second seed vented his frustration in  the second set.
  
“I was hanging in there and fighting,” Djokovic, who next  faces Frenchman Michael Llodra in his bid for a first Wimbledon  title, told reporters.  
 
“Playing here last five years there were not many moments  when I saw practically all the stadium on their feet. It was  incredible.”   
After a stop-start tournament so far, the 125th  championships are now simmering nicely with all the ingredients  in place for a tasty second week.  
 
“Monday will be kind of cool when all the men play at the  same time,” said 29-year-old third seed Federer, who faces  Russian Mikhail Youzhny.  

Nadal returned to Court One a set up after rain stopped play  on Friday and after more dogged resistance from wildcard Muller,  the last man to beat him at Wimbledon other than Federer, Nadal  roared through.   

“Seems like the best players are all playing well,” the  25-year-old told reporters. “I don’t know if I gonna win my next  round. Probably the rest of the players thinks the same.   
    
   UNFORCED ERRORS

Serena Williams

Nadal, who committed just three unforced errors against  Muller and is yet to drop a set, had reason for caution as his  last 16 opponent is 2009 U.S. champion Juan Martin del Potro who  beat Frenchman Gilles Simon.  
 
“I’m not lucky to play against Del Potro in the round of  16,” he added. “But that’s what it is, and I have to be playing  my best tennis to try to win.”   

Left-hander Muller was still very much a threat until 5-5 in  the second-set tiebreak when one lapse was seized upon  ruthlessly by the 25-year-old Mallorcan.  
 
“The third set, two sets to love, I am able to play with  less pressure,” Nadal said. “I started to return unbelievable  and to play at very high level.”   

Tomic, the youngest player in the men’s draw who is poised  to end Lleyton Hewitt’s 11-year reign as Australian number one,  won the first four games and twice French Open runner-up  Soderling crumbled to a 6-1 6-4 7-5 defeat.    

Sixth seed Tomas Berdych, the man Nadal beat to claim his  second Wimbledon crown last year, is also looking a threat again  after an easy third-round win over Alex Bogomolov Jr., a result  that left Mardy Fish as the sole American male survivor.   
“It’s lonely. It doesn’t feel great. And that’s not the  goal,” 10th seed Fish, who faces Berdych next, said.

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