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Big guns brace for ‘Manic Monday’

Tennis

LONDON (AFP) – For the first time since 2011, the top four men’s seeds have reached the Wimbledon last-16 with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal taking centre-stage on ‘Manic Monday’.

The four stars have shared the Wimbledon title since 2003 when Federer won the first of his seven trophies at the All England Club.

Djokovic has claimed three with defending champion Murray and Nadal winning two apiece.

It’s the kind of domination that looks unlikely to end Monday when the fourth round takes place.

Murray, who has battled hip pain, is the only one of the ‘Big Four’ to have dropped a set in the first week.

He faces unpredictable Frenchman Benoit Paire who is in the last-16 for the first time.

‘‘He has very good hands, moves well, takes a lot of chances, goes for his shots,’’ said Murray who has a 1-0 career lead over Paire.

Murray has not lost at Wimbledon before the quarter-finals since 2006.

Djokovic takes a 1-0 career edge over unseeded Adrian Mannarino of France into his last-16 clash, with that win coming at Wimbledon in straight sets in the second round last year.

Former coach Boris Becker praised Djokovic for his first week performances after fears that the Serb had lost his love for the sport after losing all four Grand Slam titles he held last year.

‘‘Boris knows me very well. So he’s right when he says that the passion is back,’’ said second seed Djokovic.

Federer bidding for a record eighth Wimbledon title, which would also make him the oldest champion at the All England Club, faces Grigor Dimitrov boasting a 5-0 record over the man once tipped as his natural heir.

‘‘It’s a great day to play. I would be happy to be a fan,’’ said Federer of a day when all last-16 matches in the men’s and women’s events are played.

Federer is playing in the fourth round for the 15th time.

Nadal, fresh from a 10th French Open title, faces fellow left-hander Gilles Muller, who is looking to make the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years.

Nadal has a 5-1 record over Muller although he will be wary that the Luxembourg grass court specialist beat him at Wimbledon in 2005.

‘‘He’s one of the toughest opponents possible on this surface,’’ said Nadal.

The title as well as the world number one spot are up for grabs in the women’s tournament which remains wide open in the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

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