TOP class tennis players like Andy Murray do not like to look too far ahead in the draw.

But that doesn't mean others can't do it for them.

While the Scot's path through the latter stages of this competition appeared to get a little bit less congested yesterday, that impression was rather illusory considering all the seeded players closest to him made it through unmolested.

Loading article content

It was at least worth pointing out that Kevin Anderson and Fabio Fognini, the two immediate permutations he would face should he overcome Roberto Bautista Agut tomorrow, were both victorious the last time they met the Scot.

But there were some high-profile fallers on the day, none more so than a prospective Murray quarter-final opponent, David Ferrer. The Spaniard, nicknamed the Little Beast for his energy levels and all-round nuisance value, had been rated the No.7 seed at this year's competition. While he is widely dismissed on grass, he had made the quarter-finals here in each of the last two years.

But he more than met his match on Court No.2 yesterday in the form of Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia. The 2009 Junior Wimbledon champion, the conqueror of Britain's Dan Evans in the last round, performed the not inconsiderable feat of outrunning the Spaniard. His 6-7, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory was his first career win over five sets.

A philosophical Ferrer, the elder man by nine years, refused to make excuses about the stomach problems which have dogged him since Roland Garros. "I lost this match because my opponent was better," said Ferrer. "I think I played a good game. But he surprised me and he played very good. He hit a lot of winners and was more aggressive than me in the important moments. Of course I am sad. But what can I do? I tried my best. I lost. It's not the end of the world."

Kuznetsov, by comparison, could hardly keep the smile off his face. The Russian goes on to face Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, ahead of a possible last 16 shoot-out with another Junior Wimbledon winner in Grigor Dimitrov. "Of course I'm pretty happy, it was probably the biggest win in my career," he said.

So-called Baby Fed, who captured the Queen's Club title earlier this month, was arguably the biggest beneficiary of Ferrer's demise. His straightforward 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Australian qualifier Luke Saville - another Junior Wimbledon champion - moved him into the third round at SW19 for the first time in five visits. It was also the first time he had graced Centre Court. From Murray's perspective, he looked worryingly at home there.

Afterwards, the 23-year-old paid tribute to the coaching work of fabled Australian task master Roger Rasheed and said he was confident enough to look forward to a potential last eight meeting with the Scot.

"In a way I don't need to fear anyone," Dimitrov said. "The younger generation, we all want to push through those slams and start winning a few, which I believe is around the corner for any one of us. Of course it [playing Andy] would be an exciting challenge for me. That's why I'm competing, to get into that phase of a tournament and play against an opponent like that.

"I give Roger a lot of credit for everything, for digging that part of me that was obviously missing, especially when I need it the most," he added. "He's one of the reasons why I'm definitely doing better. But we're still at the beginning. There's a lot to be accomplished."

The other big loser of the day was Ernests Gulbis, the talented if wayward Latvian who made it all the way to the semi-finals at Roland Garros, then by all accounts spurned a chunk of his €500,000 winnings in a Riga casino shortly afterwards. The Latvian went down 4-6, 3-6, 6-7 to Sergiy Stakhovsky, then questioned exactly how much of his Paris prize purse had been squandered.

"That's bull***t," said Gulbis. "Of course I went to play blackjack, but there was no word how much I won or how much I lost. Maybe I'm a little bit crazy, but I'm not stupid."

Even the big guns potentially waiting for Murray in the semi-final were being made to work. Bernard Tomic gave Tomas Berdych the fright of his life, forcing two tie-breaks and aggravating an ongoing hip injury before going down 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-1, while Novak Djokovic, last year's beaten finalist, was being tested by veteran Radek Stepanek.

The Serb lost one breaker and had to endure another before clinching his 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5) win. "I am officially in the tournament now," said Djokovic.

Also still in the tournament, for now at least, was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman was locked 9-9 in the fifth set with Sam Querrey of the USA when the gloom fell.