Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray's preparations ahead of Wimbledon were far from ideal. The world number one's participation was in doubt as he was hindered by a hip injury. The Brit lost in the first round at the Queen's Club, therefore, he has played way into form. Murray has to try to defend his Wimbledon title, and the world number one ranking at the same time. If he fails to reach the final, coupled with world number two Rafael Nadal progressing a round further than him, the Spaniard will be in the driving seat to regain the top spot.
Nonetheless, Murray has failed to defend a Grand Slam singles title as he lost in the quarterfinals on both previous occasions. He lost to Stan Wawrinka at the US Open in 2013, and Grigor Dimitrov sent him packing on Centre Court in 2014. Moreover, the top seed has played himself into form and he takes on the mercurial Benoit Paire in the fourth round.
The 28-year-old is participating in the second week of a Grand Slam for just the second time in his career. He advanced to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows in 2015 but he lost to compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Paire famously said in 2014 after his loss to Lukas Rosol, "I hate Wimbledon and I'm glass to leave it as soon as possible". The Frenchman achieved his career-high ranking of 18 back in January last year. The Frenchman is currently ranked at 43 in the world, and he has reached the semifinals in Chennai, Montpellier, Marrakech and in Stuttgart.
Paire has a disastrous record against top ten players, recording a 6-27 all-time record. He defeated Kei Nishikori in the first round of the US Open in 2015 which was a remarkable victory at the time as the Japanese player was the defending finalist from the previous year, and he saved match points.
Murray's route to Manic Monday
There has been a consistent theme in Murray's progression to the fourth round at SW19. All of his opponents have been unpredictable but he has dealt with all three of them well. The top seed was up against lucky loser Alexander Bublik on Centre Court, and he defeated the Kazakh, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 advancing to the second round. Murray's second round clash was with Dustin Brown. The Brit had to be wary against the dreadlocked German as he defeated Nadal in the same stage two years ago on Centre Court. Nonetheless, Murray was too good for Brown, sending him packing, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to continue his title defense. However, Murray's toughest test was the 28th seed Fabio Fognini. The unpredictable Italian had defeated the top seed in Rome. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old saved five set points in the fourth set to avoid a five-set clash. Murray rallied from 2-5 down in the fourth set to defeat Fognini, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 to reach the fourth round once more.
Paire's route to Manic Monday
The Frenchman has taken advantage of seeds who fell by the wayside in his mini-section of the draw. Paire defeated Brazil's Rogerio Dutra Silva in four sets in the first round. In the second round, he was supposed to play against the 20th seed Nick Kyrgios. Both players are entertainers, and that clash would have had fireworks. Instead of Kyrgios, it was his countryman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who defeated the Australian after he retired due to injury. The world number 43 sent his compatriot out of the tournament in straight sets. In the third round, Paire recorded a remarkable victory over 2013 semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz. Both players have had their fair share of injury problems over the years but once again Paire took down the big Pole in a comprehensive fashion.
Who reaches the quarterfinals?
The former top 20 player has some weapons that could trouble the defending champion. Paire is a very good server, and he does not hesitate by coming forward to finish off some points. Furthermore, his forehand is the weaker side of his game and his backhand can do the trick. However, the problem for Paire is that he is facing Murray. The Brit relishes the challenge of playing someone like Paire, Murray can return well and generate passing shot winners against the Frenchman. The world number one won their previous encounter in Monte Carlo last year which was the turning point in Murray's season as he defeated Paire, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a tough three-set encounter.
Murray will be hoping to have a good serving day himself and although his second serve has slightly improved, it is still attackable. Finally, the world number one has a lot to play for, and Murray fans can expect their man to be playing in his 10th consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal on Wednesday. Murray has a good chance to reach the semifinals as his projected quarterfinal opponent Stan Wawrinka fell in the first round. The winner will face 24th seed Sam Querrey or Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Murray in straight sets