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Martin Rogers

Wimbledon Slice, Day 6: Williams sisters followed Jackson's lead

Busted Racquet

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FIRST SERVE

It takes a truly iconic figure to permeate the ancient walls of the All England Club and replace backhand slices and net cords as a focal point of discussion during Wimbledon fortnight.

Michael Jackson was just such a character, and his death this week has resonated deeply in this corner of west London.

The concept of race is an unspoken one here. There is none of the stereotypical murkiness that has run through other sporting establishments laced with tradition and status, like Augusta.

Yet it is still a surprise here to see black faces, whether in the crowd or among the match officials or on the walls where the portraits of champions hang for eternity.

Few athletes at these championships can have been as deeply affected by Jackson's passing as Venus and Serena Williams.

Tennis' most famous sister act were acquaintances rather than close friends of the singer, but the trailblazing links that encompass all three still exist.

Jackson was the first black singer to have a record played on MTV, crashing through social barriers with his flashing feet and delicate tones.

The Williams sisters have smashed through barricades of their own, becoming the first black women to win Wimbledon in the Open era and reaching the pinnacle of a sport that was the bastion of the white middle-classes.

They are among that elite band of international sportspeople immediately identifiable by their first name alone and have changed the face of women's tennis.

Venus' comfortable sweep of Carla Suarez Navarro on Saturday meant both sisters will progress to the second week and will remain the top two favorites for the title.

Jackson's death has provoked many reactions. At Wimbledon, it is a timely reminder that for two other black icons, the most important victory of their careers has already been won.

DROP SHOT

British no-hoper Alex Bogdanovic got a hammering in the London press for losing in the first round for the eighth straight year after being given another wildcard by the tournament organizers. But things still got worse for Bogdanovic when he was aggressively heckled by fans while taking a toilet break during a second-round doubles match.

CLEAN WINNER

Andy Murray's clinical disposal of Serbia's Viktor Troicki deprived the British crowd of the kind of thrills and spills so often provided by Tim Henman's early-round dices with danger. But Murray's 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win provided further evidence that the Brits have something far more exciting to behold - a genuine title contender.

RAISING THE ROOF

Dark clouds hovered over London and the ground-staff was poised and ready to rush on with the covers before cranking the new roof into action. Yet for the sixth day in succession barely a drop of drizzle fell from the skies and there was no interruption to play.

GAME OF THE DAY

Apologies to those complainers who insist this segment should be called Match of the Day - that name is already taken and heavily copyrighted by a popular British television program. In any case, no one except Jelena Jankovic fans could complain about the brilliant performance of 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin, who fought back from a set down to dump former world No.1 Jankovic out of the tournament.

UPSET ALERT

Ivo Karlovic (22nd) is seeded 15 spots below Fernando Verdasco, who he meets in the fourth round on Monday. But in real terms the giant Croatian must be considered a big favorite to win the match.

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