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Alcaraz shines as Murray hints Wimbledon days numbered

Carlos Alcaraz moved a step closer to a potential Wimbledon title showdown with Novak Djokovic on Friday as two-time champion Andy Murray hinted his All England Club days may be numbered after suffering a heart-breaking defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

World number one Alcaraz defeated 84th-ranked Alexandre Muller of France 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3.

“This was my second match on Centre Court. I lost here last year, so I’m happy to win on this beautiful court,” said 20-year-old US Open champion Alcaraz.

Despite victory, 41 unforced errors will be of concern to the Spaniard, who was playing his second-round match a day later than scheduled due to the heavy rain earlier in the week.

Alcaraz will face Chile’s Nicolas Jarry for a spot in the last 16.

Murray admitted he doesn’t know if he will be back at Wimbledon after going down 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (2/7), 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 to fifth-ranked Tsitsipas in a four-hour 40-minute epic.

The 36-year-old has not made the second week of a Grand Slam since reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2017.

“I don’t know,” said former world number one Murray when asked if he would be back in 2024.

“Motivation is obviously a big thing. Continuing having early losses in tournaments like this don’t necessarily help with that.”

Tsitispas fired 90 winners past Murray and goes on to face Laslo Djere of Serbia for a place in the last 16.

“It’s never easy against Andy. Everyone loves him here,” said the 24-year-old Greek.

‘Duel of veterans’

Murray had been ahead when the match was halted on Thursday due to a local 11:00 pm tournament curfew.

However, he was unable to maintain the momentum on Friday despite not dropping serve in the match until the third game of the decider.

World number two Djokovic, who is bidding for a record-equalling eighth Wimbledon and 24th Grand Slam title, faces three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka, two years older than him at 38, for a place in the last 16.

“It’s the duel of the veterans,” said Djokovic.

The two have met 26 times over their 17-year rivalry but never on grass.

Wawrinka has won just six times but two were in Grand Slam finals, at the 2015 French Open and the US Open, 12 months later.

38-point tie-break

Men’s third seed Daniil Medvedev returned to complete his second-round clash against Adrian Mannarino, the Frenchman who defeated him at Wimbledon five years ago.

The mercurial Russian was two sets and 4-4 ahead when play was halted on day four but quickly wrapped up victory in a third set tie-break.

Danish sixth seed Holger Rune reached the third round for the first time, brushing aside Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

Seventh seeded Andrey Rublev of Russian and Italian eighth-seed made the last 16 with wins over David Goffin and Quentin Halys respectively.

World number one Iga Swiatek, the US Open and French Open champion, went through to the last 16 with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Petra Martic and next faces 14th-ranked Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

Victory in that clash will give the 22-year-old Pole a place in the quarter-finals for the first time.

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka recovered from a set down to beat Varvara Gracheva, who recently switched nationality from Russia to France, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Victoria Azarenka, twice a semi-finalist, made the last 16 when she brushed aside Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.

She will face Elina Svitolina who will again refuse to shake hands with her Belarusian rival in protest at the country’s support of Russia in the invasion of Ukraine.

“For me it’s a big motivation and for my country as well. A lot of Ukrainians will be watching, will be supporting me. I will go out there and put the fighting spirit on,” said Svitolina.

Fellow Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko triumphed in the longest-ever tiebreak in a Grand Slam women’s singles match.

The deciding breaker stretched to a record 38 points as the 34-year-old defeated Ana Bogdan 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (20/18) having saved five match points and converting a seventh match point of her own.

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu came back from 2-5 down in the final set to defeat Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (10/7). The Canadian will face last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur.