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Martin Rogers

Wimbledon Slice, Day 8: Time to step up

Busted Racquet

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FIRST SERVE

Just two days removed from Wimbledon's official rest day, Tuesday felt like another one.

After Manic Monday, it was Snoozy Tuesday as the tournament fell asleep for much of its eighth day, with the women's quarterfinals providing little in the way of excitement.

Nothing should be taken away from the excellence of the Williams sisters on the London grass, but their sheer dominance has done nothing for the spectacle of the event.

For that, the blame must lie solely at the feet of the rest of the women's field. So many of the women who want to be considered stars of the game have simply failed to take steps to understand this intricate and increasingly rare surface.

To watch Venus Williams (pictured above) in action makes you wonder if the combatants are playing two different sports. Her latest victim, Agnieszka Radwanska, was never in the hunt on Tuesday and was bullied off court in double-quick time.

As Venus chases a sixth title, it has been an embarrassingly easy path. It is hard to see how world No.1 Dinara Safina, who served 15 double faults in her victory over Sabine Lisicki, stands any chance in their semifinal match.

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Serena Williams (at right) is not as suited to grass as her big sister, but she still had far too much imagination for Victoria Azarenka, one of the players, it was hoped, who could put up a challenge.

Part of the reason why this day seemed so dull was the planning policy of this tournament. Whereas tournaments such as the Australian Open split the men's and women's draws in half deep into the second week, Wimbledon works on a ladies-first system from the second Tuesday onward.

From this point forward, unless there are significant rain delays, women and men will play on alternate days. Sadly, because of the paucity of interest on the women's side this year, that has led and will lead to some dead days.

Compare Tuesday's offering to what awaits Wednesday, men's quarterfinal day:

Andy Roddick's mouth-watering clash with Lleyton Hewitt doesn't even make it onto Centre Court, as Roger Federer and Andy Murray are also in action. The lowest-profile quarter, Novak Djokovic vs. Tommy Haas, has generated virtually no attention but should still be a high-quality and intriguing clash.

The outdated imbalance in the men's and women's prize money was rectified a couple of years ago, and rightly so for this day and age. But it is time for the women, with two very notable exceptions, to start earning it.

DROP SHOT

Boris Becker, in his role as pundit for the BBC, failed to deliver much insight when asked how Safina might improve her play ahead of her semifinal against Venus. Becker's interpretation as to why Safina had struggled with her serve in the quarters: "Her shirt was too tight."

CLEAN WINNER

Hewitt's return to the main stage of men's tennis has been accompanied by the screaming support of the Fanatics, a yellow-clad group of Australian sports nuts. Hewitt rewarded the supporters by taking them out for beers after his comeback against Radek Stepanek, and handing over Wimbledon towels and souvenirs as a show of his gratitude.

RAISING THE ROOF

There was no repeat of Monday's indoor excitement, with more bright sunshine as England wilted under the glare of a rare heat wave.

MATCH OF THE DAY

The women's quarterfinals didn't produce much drama, but Safina's comeback against Lisicki was the most entertaining contest of a bleak day.

WEDNESDAY PREDICTIONS

Men's quarterfinals: Federer beats Ivo Karlovic; Haas beats Djokovic; Hewitt beats Roddick; Murray beats Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

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