Roger Federer has often been the spectators’ darling on Centre Court for two decades but the eight-time Wimbledon champion will have to cede that role to British opponent Cameron Norrie on Saturday.
Federer’s clinical performance against Richard Gasquet on Thursday contrasted to an error-strewn one by Australia’s women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty.
The 25-year-old will bid in her third round match on Saturday to reassure her fans she can win the title on the 50th anniversary of fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s first Wimbledon crown.
Victory over 64th-ranked Katerina Siniakova, who is in the last 32 for the third time in her career, could pitch her into a fourth round clash with French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
Federer, at 39 the oldest player to make the men’s fourth round in 45 years, won’t care too much about the crowd’s loyalties so long as he progresses to the last 16.
“I hope the crowd will get into it regardless of whether they are for him or me for the last 20 years,” said Federer.
“Cam is a good guy and is having a wonderful year. He has done well here but it’s time for him to go out!”
Norrie has played Federer in singles once before — “He absolutely whacked me” (6-1, 6-1) — and recalls the surreal atmosphere at the 2018 Hopman Cup.
“I remember when I walked out, it was all dark,” said Norrie.
“I walked out first. Then I remember looking back, and he was walking out with like the whole stadium was blacked out and dark, and the spotlight was on him.
“He was coming out to play me. I felt like I was in like a video game, going to play Roger Federer,” added Norrie.
Federer’s half of the draw looks more treacherous than defending champion Novak Djokovic’s with two of the younger generation Daniil Medvedev and Germany’s Alex Zverev potentially lurking further down the line.
– ‘To go big’ –
Second seed Medvedev faces 2017 Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic whiled Zverev plays big-serving Taylor Fritz.
Fritz has performed wonders to even be competing as only weeks ago he left the French Open in a wheelchair due to a knee injury.
Both Medvedev and Zverev have yet to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
The match of the day on the men’s side though may well be between stylish Canadian 16th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and fiery Aussie entertainer Nick Kyrgios.
Auger-Aliassime has from an early age been compared to the late American legend Arthur Ashe and with a second round win at Halle over Federer there are signs the 20-year-old may be coming to terms with such a weight of expectation.
“Nick is a great player, a great entertainer,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I think he’s good for tennis.”
Barty is quite the opposite to her compatriot rarely showing her emotions on court however she is playing.
She takes the positives from her ability to scrap it out and win against Anna Blinkova in the second round.
“You have those days where some days you feel like you’re eight-foot-tall and can’t miss the box,” she said.
“Other days you feel like you’re three-foot-nothing, just getting over the net is a bit of a battle.
“That’s half the battle in sport, is being able to find a way when it’s not feeling all that great.”
Were Barty to stay in three foot mode then either Coco Gauff or 2018 champion Angelique Kerber could benefit.
Gauff and Kerber are slated to meet in the last 16 but the American must beat Slovenian Kaja Juvan while the German faces Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
Gauff who basked in the revival of ‘Coco Mania’ on Centre Court on Thursday admits at 17 she needs to rein in a natural instinct for attacking tennis.
“I think sometimes the best shot is just putting it in the court compared to going for the line or something,” she said.
“That’s something that I have to fight myself on because my instinct is to go big.”