LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) - Experienced Russian Mikhail Youzhny appeared on Andy Murray’s radar after the 20th seed beat Viktor Troicki in straights sets to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon on Saturday.
Youzhny’s clash with the Serb on a sun-drenched Court Two was one of four men’s third round matches in the lower half that had been held over from a rain-hit Friday.
In the others, Spain’s Fernando Verdasco reached the last 16 for the fourth time, defeating Latvian Ernests Gulbis with ease, while Poland’s Lukasz Kubot and Frenchman Kenny De Schepper also reached the fourth round.
There was disappointment, though, for a legion of Japanese fans watching 12th seed Kei Nishikori who went down in five sets to Italian Andreas Seppi after twice being in front.
Number 23 seed Seppi has now prevailed in his last seven five-set matches.
Japan’s hopes in the singles now rest on the ageing legs of 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm who has the formidable challenge of trying to stop defending champion Serena Williams later.
Former women’s champion Petra Kvitova avoided becoming yet another high seed to perish as she completed a third round victory against Ekaterina Makarova over two days.
The eighth-seeded Czech, champion in 2011, returned to court 2-1 down in the final set after bad light and drizzle stopped play on Friday and revelled in Saturday’s warmer temperature to take the deciding set 6-3.
American Sloane Stephens moved away from the abyss against Czech Petra Cetkovska to reach the fourth round at the All England Club for the first time where she will face Puerto Rican Monica Puig.
In a match that was also completed over two days, the 17th seed lost eight games in a row after winning the first set on Thursday in a tiebreak, but from 2-0 down in the deciding set she pulled herself together to win the decider 6-4.
Another American tipped for a bright future, teenager Madison Keys, was also seeking a last 16 berth although she was up against Poland’s fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Youzhny served notice that Murray’s expected charge into the final for a second consecutive year will not be the cakewalk some have predicted in the wake of a rash of upsets and injuries in the bottom half of the draw.
The Russian won 6-3 6-4 7-5 but inevitably most of the questions in his news conference revolved around his battle with Murray, who is bidding to become Britain’s first male winner here since Fred Perry in 1936.
“Don’t worry, I will sleep normal,” Youzhny said, when asked if he was worried about being public enemy No.1 on Monday.
Top seed Novak Djokovic, the man seen as the biggest hurdle to Murray, faces Frenchman Jeremy Chardy later on Saturday having not dropped a set in his first two rounds. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris)