Strive to survive
Barry Cowan blogs on a scare for Roger Federer and the tricky test that awaits Andy Murray.
Last Updated: 30/06/12 9:56am
The reverberations from Rafael Nadal's exit were still ringing around Wimbledon when Roger Federer found himself two sets down to Julien Benneteau in another incredible match.
At that point Benneteau was probably thinking what everyone else was thinking - 'if it can happen to Rafa, why can't it happen to Roger?' Another seismic first-week shock was a real possibility.
Nadal, Federer and Novak Djokovic have dominated Grand Slam tennis for so long that Lukas Rosol's stunning victory on Thursday was bound to inspire other players on Tour.
It's like when an underdog beats a top football team - suddenly their aura is dented and other sides start to spot potential vulnerabilities in their game.
Benneteau definitely played like a man in that mood last night. He followed Rosol's example and looked to dictate by taking the game to Federer.
He managed to do that for two sets before his level dropped in the third, but I thought the fourth set was one of the best sets of tennis of the whole week. It was absolutely brilliant.
Federer once again looked the player we know he is, while Benneteau produced some of his most impressive tennis to conjure up an enthralling battle.
The World No 3 eventually came through and by the end of the fifth looked a lot stronger than Benneteau but that's hardly surprising given that barely two months have passed since he went over on his ankle and broke his elbow while playing Andy Murray at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Heather Watson's match against Agnieska Radwanska was far more clear cut, but I'm certainly not going to criticise the British number four in any way for losing 6-0 6-2.
Heather has done supremely well to reach the third round and will have learnt a lot about what it takes to play at the very highest level.
What I like about Heather is that she shows a genuine passion for the game and while she won't have enjoyed the margin of her defeat yesterday, she still enjoys her tennis and plays in the right way.
I sincerely hope she can get amongst the top 50 further down the line because with her attitude, athleticism and shot-making ability she still has plenty of potential to fulfil.
Fellow Brit Murray is back on Centre Court today, against world number 43 Marcos Baghdatis.
The pair's head-to-head record stands at 3-3 but they've only met at Wimbledon once - back in 2006, a match Baghdatis won when he was enjoying the best spell of his career and Murray was an emerging force.
Murray will start as favourite this time but it won't be a comfortable match for his fans because Baghdatis has been playing well this year without getting the little bit of luck that he needs.
There should be a great atmosphere on Centre Court, particularly if the roof is closed which seems likely with showers forecast to be around later this evening, and we know that Baghdatis is well-capable of producing inspired tennis.
Murray is going to have to play very, very good tennis if he is going to get through to the second week; quite frankly, I doubt if a 7/10 performance will cut it today.
Nadal's exit has naturally opened up that half of the draw and Murray is now the favourite to reach the final but he's going to have to play some of his best tennis at Wimbledon to do it because there are still some great tennis players in his path - the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - who have enough power to force the Brit on the back foot.
As we've seen over the years that's when Murray is at his most vulnerable.
Each day during the Wimbledon fortnight, Barry will be serving up his views. Check out his latest blog entry every morning on skysports.com