LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) - What should have been a dream showdown between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal has turned into the battle of Poland as Lukasz Kubot and Jerzy Janowicz unexpectedly find themselves in Wimbledon’s quarter-final mix along with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
The shock exits of seven-times champion Federer and Nadal during a topsy turvy opening week at the grasscourt major paved the way for Kubot to set up the unlikeliest of quarter-finals against 6-foot-8 countryman Janowicz.
“Whatever happens one of us will be in the semi-finals which makes history for Polish tennis. We are happy about what’s going on right now - it’s magical,” said a beaming Kubot, who has entertained the crowds with his high-kicking celebratory can-can routine.
The two friends are poles apart in the rankings, with Kubot a lowly 130th while world number 22 Janowicz has been tipped as the next big thing in tennis.
On the eve of Poland’s match of the century, though, the two stood side-by-side draped in their country’s red-and-white flags as the world’s media bombarded them with questions.
While Kubot and Janowicz are two new faces at what the players call the ‘business end of a grand slam’ Murray and Djokovic are old hacks.
Top seed Djokovic, in pursuit of a second title at the All England Club, will be contesting his 17th consecutive major quarter-final against 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych.
The Czech beat six-times grand slam winner Djokovic in their only previous clash on grass - at Wimbledon in 2010 - and in their most recent meeting, but the Serb will be more eager to rely on the overall 13-2 win-loss record he holds when the two lock horns on Wednesday.
Djokovic’s expected final date, second seed Murray, has made it through to his sixth successive quarter-final here and having won all 12 sets he has contested in the tournament, he is shaping up well to go one better than his runner-up finish to Federer last year.
Fernando Verdasco will be eager to end the U.S. Open champion’s hopes of becoming the first British man in 77 years to hold aloft the Challenge Cup.
However, the clay-loving Spaniard might find his debut quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon a daunting prospect as he will also have to deal with Murray’s 15,000-strong fan club.
Much was made of Verdasco’s fellow Spaniard David Ferrer being installed as the fourth seed above 12-times major winner Nadal but the 31-year-old proved his worth by reaching his second success quarter-final here.
He will take on gentle giant Juan Martin Del Potro, who broke into the big time when he won the 2009 U.S. Open but has not made it to the final four of a slam since.
The Argentine is still feeling the effects of an on-court collision with a chair during his third-round match and hopes his battered knee will stand up to the test of taking on the inexhaustible Ferrer.
“The ankle is good and the knee is not good. The knee is bothering me a lot. I couldn’t extend the knee 100 percent,” said Del Potro, who is no stranger to injury woes after his 2010 season was wrecked by a wrist problem.
”I’ve had many injuries in the past. But this time I don’t have luck, and that’s it. I was winning so easy the third round. Just for run a dropshot, I twist my ankle and hyper extended my knee. I will do all the treatments to see if I can be better.
“Winning here on grass for one Argentinian guy could be very, very special.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)