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Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.
Deja vu? Murray, Baghdatis face off again
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
They've been here before: In a match reminiscent of Wimbledon's third round, Andy Murray is set to face off against Marcos Baghdatis in the same round in the same place at the Olympics.
Their match Wednesday will be an Olympic crowd-pleaser between connoisseurs of grass, and a study in emotional contrasts.
Murray's run to the Wimbledon final and tear-choked speech afterward warmed him to a home crowd that, by his own admission, had found it hard to back him because of his glum demeanor on the court. Baghdatis transformed the 2006 Australian Open into a tennis festival with his cheerful, unexpected run to the final. Both men lost to Roger Federer, who is in the other half of the Olympic draw.
"Certainly won't be taking anything for granted there," Murray said of Baghdatis. "It's going to be a very, very tough match. He's a very, very good grass court player."
Murray, seeded third, advanced Tuesday by beating Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-2, 6-4. Andy Roddick was outclassed by Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 6-1.
Baghdatis beat No. 21 seed Richard Gasquet of France, 6-4, 6-4, and marked the victory by looking skyward and kneeling to kiss the grass. He looked sharp, serving three aces to close out the first set.
As Murray ascended in the rankings over the years, he came under increasing scrutiny in Britain, which is anxious for the first British winner of a Wimbledon men's title since Fred Perry in 1936.
The Wimbledon crowds have gradually embraced him as one of their own after initial misgivings, possibly due to his origins in Scotland, where a movement for independence from Britain brews. His dour on-court conduct - even he admits that he hasn't looked "particularly happy" in matches - contrasted with debonair Federer, self-assured Djokovic and the swashbuckling Rafael Nadal.
Murray, who has yet to win a major, shed some spectator ambivalence at Wimbledon, where he failed to stop Federer from winning a record-tying seventh title but fought hard and then wept, just as Federer has on some big occasions, and said: "I'm getting closer."
Baghdatis, meanwhile, is quick to flash a smile and bounces the ball between his legs before serving. He comes from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, and his world ranking has drifted to 44th since a career-high eight in 2006, when he also reached the semifinals of Wimbledon. At the Australian Open this year, he smashed four rackets in quick succession during a second-round loss.
Murray beat him in four sets at Wimbledon this year, with the Centre Court roof closed and the lights on. The match ended at 11:02 p.m., four minutes past the latest previous finish at the All England Club.
Also Tuesday, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus advanced by beating Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain 6-2, 6-1. Venus Williams also charged into the third round, winning 15 of 16 points when she reached the net and beating Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada, 6-1, 6-3.
Maria Sharapova, who won the French Open in June, defeated Laura Robson of Britain, 7-6 (5), 6-3. On Wednesday, the No. 3-seeded Sharapova plays Sabine Lisicki of Germany, who won when they met in the fourth round at Wimbledon a month ago.
"An extremely difficult opponent," Sharapova said. "I hope I'll change a few things around in order to change the result."
The longest set in Olympic history was played when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France defeated Milos Raonic of Canada 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in the second round. The contest also had the most number of games - 66 - in a best-of-three-set match at the Olympics.
Tsonga leaped and roared when he won on his fourth match point with a drop volley. The match lasted three hours and 57 minutes, not including a rain delay of several hours.
"It's good because this is the only way, you know, for me to write my name in history at the moment," Tsonga said with a smile. "With Rafa, Roger and Novak, even Andy, you know, it's tough to go through big tournaments."
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