Andy Murray has all the right moves to extend his Wimbledon march

Indisputably, the most competitive and attractive final this Wimbledon could have is a rematch of the past two grand slam deciders between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

The series is level after New York and Melbourne, and there is little between them in form and fitness after three matches here, with the Serb perhaps in front of the Scot.

The 16 players (seven of them unseeded) still standing in this falling-down contest on the slippery lawns will all reckon, with varying degrees of conviction, that they have a chance if they come through the fourth round, and they are into the second week on merit. Yet there is no denying the tumult of the first week has only made life easier for Murray, with Djokovic an interested observer on the other side of the draw.

The aftershock of Rafael Nadal's first-day exit, followed by that of Roger Federer, is still rippling through the championships, leaving the top two players in the world firm favourites, but they each have three more matches to win before reaching their third showdown in nine months.

On Monday Murray plays Mikhail Youzhny, seeded 20th, for the third time in their careers and the result should not be any different to the first two: victories for Murray on the carpet of St Petersburg six years ago and the hardcourt in Valencia two years later. No wonder the Russian struggled to remember them when asked on Saturday.

But Murray's coach, Ivan Lendl, knows all about Youzhny. "He played well in Halle [on grass last month], got a set against Roger, knows how to play on grass, is a former top-10 player, and you can't take anyone lightly. Anyone who has won three matches has done something right.

"But Andy is moving very well and when you move well, you hit the ball well. That's where it all starts. I don't know if he is hitting it the best; he is clearly up there."

And perhaps Youzhny remembers more about Murray than he is letting on. A highly strung, intelligent man, he wrote his university thesis on professional tennis, analysing opponents and how their games change. "It is very helpful," he says, "but in tennis everything changes a lot. Even if you played someone one month ago he will never play the same way again because he will also try to change something."

How true. And Youzhny is bound to have noticed Murray's improved backhand, the result of long hours with Lendl encouraging him to hit down the line, over the highest part of the net. Against Tommy Robredo on Friday, he left the Spaniard stranded with 10 clean winners off his backhand, all of them skirting the white line. "I have done this with Murray, yes," Youzhny admits. "It was a long time ago and I haven't looked at him at this Wimbledon so far. But I know how he plays, what he has changed, and it is really interesting what a new coach can bring to him. But I am not ready to talk about all of this right now – not before the match!"

Djokovic plays Tommy Haas, the 35-year-old seeking to be the oldest player to reach the quarters here since Tom Okker – when the German was one year old. Significantly, he has beaten Djokovic in their only two meetings on grass, in Halle in 2009 and in four sets in the quarter-finals here that year. He also beat him easily in Miami in March but lost in the more serious surroundings of Roland Garros, in three tight sets in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic has recovered brilliantly from the disappointment of losing to Nadal in the French semi-finals and shared two observations that ought to send a collective chill through the remainder of the men's draw. The world No1 reckons not only did he hit a pitch of perfection in embarrassing Jérémy Chardy in the third round on Saturday but that he is in even better shape than he was in 2011, when he won 70 of 76 matches, including 43 in a row, and three of the four slams.

He said of his straight-sets win (his 50th on grass), in which he gave the bewildered Frenchman barely a look on his serve: "That was incredible for me. I enjoyed every moment of it. When you play that well, obviously you feel great, you feel confident. This kind of performance came in the right time for me. Comparing the two seasons, of course 2011 is maybe more successful but this year I feel that I'm physically more fit, mentally just more stable and I'm able to endure on the court more."

If anyone is to disturb the Murray-Djokovic scenario, it may be Jerzy Janowicz. He and Lukas Kubot are vying to be the first Poles to reach the quarter-finals here since Wojtek Fibak in 1980. Janowicz, 22, started his 2013 Wimbledon campaign with a three-set win over the promising Briton Kyle Edmund and plays the world No37 Jürgen Melzer, of Austria, on Court 12. Janowicz has improved immeasurably since he reached the third round last year.

Although this is only his third tournament on grass, his power serving has won respect on the Tour and he is worth his 24 seeding. Murray knows Janowicz well. He lost to him in the Paris Masters 1000 last year and his team have been tracking the Pole's progress over the past week, as he is a potential semi-final opponent.

The long shot who may discomfort Djokovic, meanwhile, is Bernard Tomic, the turbulent young Australian who reached the quarter-finals as a qualifier in 2011 and has returned to something like that form lately.

While he faces a big task on Monday against the former finalist Tomas Berdych, the prospect of playing the seven-slam Serb is all the incentive he needs to trust his talent. "He is a very tough, very tricky opponent," Berdych said.

"Tough" might be stretching it. But few are trickier.

Powered by article was written by Kevin Mitchell at Wimbledon, for The Guardian on Sunday 30th June 2013 23.01 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © carine06