NINE MATCHES WITH BOTH PLAYERS SEEDED
By Matt Wilansky
Saturday at the All England Club is the final day before Wimbledon takes its traditional one-day hiatus on Sunday.
And the star of stars Saturday will be 36-year-old Andre Agassi, who plays the No. 2 player in the world Rafael Nadal, 16 years his junior.
With a loss, Agassi's career on the grass courts of Wimbledon will come to an end. Fourteen years ago, Agassi -- who was better known for his frayed jean shorts and his Image Is Everything mentality -- finally broke through, winning his first career Grand Slam title. After losing the first three Grand Slam finals he competed in, the former No. 1 player in the world fell to his knees in disbelief after holding off Goran Ivanisevic in five sets to win the 1992 final. For Agassi, the grass courts at the most prestigious tennis event in the world forever will be remembered as the venue that jump-started his career.
Daniel Berehulak/Getty ImagesIf Agassi wants to advance to the second week, he's going to have to beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
His match against Nadal won't be considered a passing of the torch as the Spaniard already has two French Open championships under his belt. However, this match will have a similar feel to the 2002 U.S. Open quarterfinal match between Pete Sampras -- who was nearing the end of his career -- and Andy Roddick, just 20 years old at the time. That match was slated as the "Old vs. the Young" and it was supposed to be a breakthrough for Roddick, the next American stud in the stable. Sampras wanted nothing to do with that and beat his compatriot in 90 minutes and went on to win the U.S. Open in what was the final match of his illustrious career.
Agassi knows what's in store. "Listen, [Nadal's] very confident and a great competitor," he said. "Needless to say, he's very talented and fit. So it's going be a hard match."
No one expects this to be a walkover for either one of them. ESPN's Pam Shriver said, "Well, I can tell you a lot of people will be watching. …Grass is Nadal's worst surface and Saturday is an opportunity for Agassi to pull a rabbit out of his hat and take it to him."
While Agassi and Nadal will showcase the day, not to be outdone will be the match all of Great Britain will be watching from "Mt. Murray," formally known as "Henman Hill." Great Britain's Andy Murray will test his game against Roddick, who's sure to be a crowd underdog. With Henman going out in an uninspiring match against Roger Federer in the second round, the English have turned their attention to Murray, 19. However, he will be playing on back-to-back days after completing his second-round match Friday.
The women will be highlighted by defending champion Venus Williams, the No. 6 seed, who survived a scare from veteran American Amy Frazier in the last round. She will next be tested against the No. 26 seed, Jelena Jankovic. Williams, who has had her share of disappointments at the All England Club, including a second-round loss to Karolina Sprem in 2004, feels surviving an early scare woke her up.
"My feet weren't moving as well as they should have and my return was off, but I improved my techniques which gave me confidence," she said.
After two more wins, Williams could play the No. 1 player in the world, Amelie Mauresmo. First the Frenchwoman must get by Nicole Pratt -- who's looking to get into the third round for the first time in her career on Saturday.
Frazier, the 32-year-old from St. Louis, will have her hands full against No. 4 Maria Sharapova -- who has had a routine time in her first two matches, dropping just six games. In 2004, Sharapova upset two-time defending champion Serena Williams to win the championship. However, when asked if her title here has given her confidence, the Russian did not sound certain. "I mean, it's all right, I guess. It's hard to say it's only going to get tougher from here," she said.
With all due respect to the U.S. Open, Day 6 at the All England Club will be a "Super Saturday," featuring a total of nine matches with seeded players facing each other.
HINGIS EXITS EARLY
By Greg Garber, ESPN.com senior writer
WIMBLEDON, England -- For virtually anyone else, Martina Hingis' comeback after a three-year semi-retirement would be a spectacular success.
But when you are a five-time Grand Slam champion, your standards can be a touch high and your perspective a tad skewed. Hingis lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to Ai Sugiyama on Friday in a third-round match.
After reaching the quarterfinals at the two previous Grand Slams -- losing to Kim Clijsters at both the Australian Open and French Open -- this was clearly a setback.
When Hingis was asked if her comeback had reached a plateau, she responded a little defensively.
"Well," she said, "I wouldn't say so. I mean, I won Rome. I was still moving up. At the French Open, I just really had a bad day of food. I didn't think there I did anything wrong. I was playing better as the tournament progressed. It's just Kim, you can't play her if you're not 100 percent."
Hingis' record on the WTA Tour is a respectable 37-12 and she is ranked No. 15 in the world. She would like to think she's moving forward.
"I still was close of winning this. I mean, not really close, but I had the momentum definitely," Hingis insisted.
"You know, definitely there are certain things I have to think about. I mean, usually in the past, losses made me stronger. I knew what I had to work on and continue to progress."
WIMBLEDON, England -- With England gripped by World Cup fever, attendance at Wimbledon has been down by more than 4 percent in the first week of the tournament after a rain-soaked start turned to blazing sunshine. But organizers do not blame soccer, believing instead that office workers have not been tempted down after work to catch evening tennis as they have in past years.
After a long drought, the opening day on Monday was a washout with only 30 minutes of play possible. Tournament officials gave out $1.83 million in refunds.
Since then, the sun has beamed but the attendance figures have not soared accordingly.
"The numbers have ranged from about 32,000 on Monday to 40,000 on Thursday but we are on average down about 1,700 a day. A lot of things have gone into the mix," said a spokeswoman for the organizers. "Much of our increased capacity is when people come down after work to get three or four hours of tennis in the evening."
Taking rain-drenched Monday out of the equation, the combined attendance for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was 118,837, compared with 124,013 over the same three days last year.
Organizers have decided they will not allow England's quarterfinal World Cup match with Portugal to be televised on the big screen outside Court One on Saturday.
Watching the tennis on the giant screen in warm sunshine on Friday, Wimbledon fan James Daly had no doubt about the attendances.
"It is down because of the World Cup. People are staying at home to watch the World Cup," he said.
Jamie Barton agreed: "Football matters more to most people."
World Cup fever has hit the tennis players too -- Argentina's David Nalbandian asked to play his match early so he could be off court in plenty of time to watch the
Argentina-Germany match on television. Organizers agreed and he lost to Fernando Verdasco in plenty of time for the kickoff.