Nine has struck Wimbledon pay dirt tonight with the “Mensa” sponsored men’s centre court clash of two of the tennis world’s most enigmatic and frustratingly underperforming giants.
In the green and gold corner, Mark Philippoussis matches booming serves and mental gymnastics with fifth seeded Marat Safin, in what promises to be a spectacularly entertaining “clash of the clods” if they both bring their A game. While Safin may no longer treat grass as a foreign substance and will start nominal favourite, the Scud can do himself and Lleyton Hewitt a major favour by dispatching the volatile Russian.
As for the reliably combative Hewitt, he’s consigned again to court one, where he should comfortably beat Czech Jan Hernych in a second round clash.
Both Aussie men will also be mindful of court conditions that don’t favour faster, traditional grass court tennis, following Tim Henman’s comments earlier today: “I struggle in those conditions – the courts have changed so much over the years – it was heavy, slow and the balls weren’t coming through.” However, this is likely to handicap Safin as much as the free swinging Scud.
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Henman only narrowly escaped the kind of national disgrace the UK media reserves for the Australian cricket team, when he shakily climbed back from two sets down to overcome Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in five sets.
Wayne Arthurs also reminded us he’s a potential danger to anyone on grass when he dispatched number 32 seed Filippo Volandri 6-3 6-4 6-4, while Nicole Pratt turned history on its head by coming from one set down to defeat Ludmila Cervanova 3-6 6-3 6-1, after losing her last seven opening round matches at Wimbledon. For her troubles, she now meets former two-time champion Venus Williams in the second round.