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Wimbledon Slice, Day 3: Wrong on schedule

Busted Racquet

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FIRST SERVE

Maria Sharapova's exit from Wimbledon on Wednesday was good for Serena Williams, those with sensitive eardrums and fans of the underdog, but it did little for the spectacle of a tournament that is rapidly developing a split personality.

While Gisela Dulko deserves huge credit for her nerve-jangling triumph on Centre Court, the fact remains that Sharapova's departure leaves a big hole in the women's draw. And with the way the draws and the scheduling have worked out this year, the event seems to alternate between action-packed days of drama and tepid sessions of far more standard fare.

The excitement of Sharapova's three-set defeat notwithstanding, Wednesday offered little else to get the punters salivating.

Roger Federer again looked majestic and magnificent, but even the Swiss star's most ardent fan would admit there has been little drama in either of his straight-sets wins so far.

No disrespect to Marin Cilic or Sam Querrey, but their matchup, while entertaining and hard-fought, was not the sort of star-studded spectacle normally associated with Centre Court.

Contrast that with Thursday's program, which will start with rising star Juan Martin del Potro and 2002 champ Lleyton Hewitt on Centre, with British hero Andy Murray joining the fun later on.

Five-time winner Venus Williams and Andy Roddick have been pushed onto Court One, with world No.1 Dinara Safina forced to play on the dreaded Court Two.

French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, former champion Amelie Mauresmo and last remaining British woman Elena Baltacha have not even managed to make it onto a major show court, such is the depth of high-quality contests on offer.

A little more thought from tournament referee Andrew Jarrett could have led to a more balanced schedule and built up a greater level of suspense in the first week. Instead, Friday could again be a day short on fireworks, especially with Sharapova out of the picture.

I realize that to criticize the world's greatest tournament is tantamount to tennis sacrilege, and that is not the intention here. However, Jarrett and the organizers owed it to the history of this superb event to make sure this year's incarnation does not lose momentum.

DROP SHOT

Once again, the murky specter of gambling in tennis raised its head, with American Wayne Odesnik unwittingly thrust into the spotlight.

Odesnik crumpled to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 loss to Jurgen Melzer on Day 2 and was stunned to learn his match had been the subject of what was apparently a spectacular betting coup.

More than $1 million was wagered online and in London betting offices on Melzer to prevail in straight sets. The ATP Tour is investigating.

CLEAN WINNER

Who knows what "Ioana Raluca Olaru" means in Romanian, but to Victoria Azarenka her second-round opponent translated into a quiet afternoon stroll. Azarenka delivered a double bagel (6-0, 6-0), quashing any doubts over her ability to adapt to grass. She is a serious threat in this tournament, no doubt about it.

RAISING THE ROOF

Finally the famous new Centre Court roof was pressed into action ... not a full closure to protect the precious turf from rain but a shift of a few yards to shelter the VIP section from the glaring sunshine.

MATCH OF THE DAY

Tommy Robredo's game doesn't exactly lend itself to the London turf, but his battle with Stefan Koubek was one of the matches of the tournament so far. The 15th seed looked dead and buried after going two sets down but fought back to win 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-1.

UPSET ALERT

Lucky loser Thiago Alves, who was handed a place in the main draw after Rafael Nadal's withdrawal, made the most of his reprieve by beating Andrei Pavel in the first round. Don't be shocked if the underdog Brazilian goes a step farther when he takes on Gilles Simon on Thursday; the French No. 8 seed is short on form and uncomfortable on grass.

Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Images

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