And so we reach the second week of Wimbledon with two nearby residents still in contention. Andy Murray and Laura Robson have survived the standard bonfire of the Brits to make it to the fourth round: it is the first time since 1998 the home nation can boast such an enlarged representation. Never mind that half the pair was born in Melbourne - it is enough to give Sue Barker a nose bleed.
What’s more, in this most bizarre and unprecedented Championship, it is possible the duo could progress together further.
Far be it from me to risk a prediction after suggesting that Roger Federer was nailed on for the title barely hours before he was knocked out, but you never know.
In terms of seeds falling in the early stages, this is the most reputation-strewn Grand Slam in history. Of the top ten men’s and women’s seeds, only half made it to the third round. It has been carnage. And this is the golden rule of Grand Slam tennis: where there is mess, there is opportunity.
The first big name to tumble was Rafael Nadal. In a sense, his was the most foreseeable fall. His body exhausted by his power game, he looked to have spent himself in pursuit of the French title. With no time to prepare for the grass court season, and with his knee currently resembling an old dishcloth, retrospectively no-one will have been too surprised at his rapid removal.
Which is not what can be said about what happened on Wednesday. First Maria Sharapova, doing the splits on number two court, then Roger Federer, undone by his own renown, disappeared from the draw way before time.
Although there was a huge amount of post-rationalising in the wake of Federer’s departure – apparently half the sentient population of the world could see the Swiss was in terminal decline – the truth is his defeat by Sergiy Stakhovsky was genuinely astonishing. That it happened on Centre Court, the arena that has come to define him, made his demise all the more poignant.
Whatever the ludicrous scale of the Federer ego, he is a man who has long graced the game, whose skill and style have always brought uplift. The truth is, any championship is the better for his continued presence. Now he has gone, Wimbledon is not the same.
Every cloud. With Federer and Nadal gone, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrawing injured, the path to the final has now opened up invitingly for Murray. Though he is playing with such accomplishment, such confidence, such a combination of steel and silk, it is perfectly possible he would have made it anyway, even if his two long-time vanquishers had remained in the competition. Here’s how poised Murray has become since he won his first Grand Slam last autumn in New York: he has not dropped a set in this first week.
Mind, if he does, as expected, step through the wreckage of spilt seeds to the final, he is likely to meet Novak Djokovic. And the Serb has looked imperious on court this week, a thrashing machine of uncompromising power. This could be the new pattern of the men’s game emerging. Could it be after the big four of recent years, we are reduced to a big two slugging it out for the titles?
Still, at least that is one more contender than on the women’s side. There things remain as predictable as they were at the start. Whoever falls en route, as long as Serena Williams is around we know the identity of the Wimbledon winner.
Robson is on course to meet her in the quarter-final and is likely to suffer the same fate as that meted out to everyone else who comes in the way of the American: she will be bamboozled by the astonishing power, ending up looking like a moth in the hands of an avid entomologist, pinned to the back boards.
Williams played veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm in the third round on Saturday. Here is a mark of the difference between the two. Before the match, the Japanese’s fastest serve was timed at 86mph. Williams mishits slices faster than that. Her service can go as quickly as 125mph. In terms of power, there is none to touch her.
Indeed, now that two of the big four are apparently entering the twilight of their competitiveness, maybe there is a way to up the volume at the top of the men’s game and add interest to the women’s. Murray seems keen on a match-up with Williams. Frankly, watching her spatchcock opponents on Centre Court, there is no certainty as to who would win that encounter.