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Murray & Konta lead British challenge in third round

Andy Murray

Murray has yet to drop a set after two straightforward wins

Andy Murray and Johanna Konta will hope to further their title ambitions as four Britons take part in Wimbledon third-round action on Friday.

Defending champion Murray plays Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the third match on Centre Court at about 17:00 BST.

British number one Konta is now rated as the favourite with some bookmakers, and she faces Maria Sakkari of Greece on Court One at about 15:00.

Heather Watson and Aljaz Bedene bolster the British challenge on day five.

Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep and Venus Williams are among the other leading names on the schedule, with another warm, dry day forecast.

Watson takes on two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, recently back on the tour after the birth of her son Leo, in the opening match on Centre Court at about 13:00.

Bedene must counter the serve-and-volley skills of Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller in the first match on court two at about 11:30.

It is the first time since Tim Henman, Mark Petchey, Greg Rusedski, Andrew Richardson and Karen Cross made the third round in 1997 that at least four Britons have reached that stage.

Murray faces step-up in class

Fabio Fognini<!–

Fognini beat Murray on clay in Rome two months ago

Two of Murray’s more chastening defeats of recent years have come at the hands of Fognini, but this time the Scot has the surface and home advantage on his side.

The pair, both 30, first played each other when they were 12 and share a 3-3 record as professionals.

Fognini played superbly to beat Murray in the Davis Cup three years ago and at the Italian Open two months ago, but those contests were on the clay of Naples and Rome.

“If I play like that, could be interesting,” said Fognini.

The Italian has never been past the third round at Wimbledon and will make his Centre Court debut on Friday.

“Of course, he’s the favourite,” Fognini added. “I know my game. I know how to play against him. We know each other really well. I’m ready.”

Murray said: “He’s always dangerous. He’s a shot-maker and he’s very solid off his forehand and backhand side, but he can also hit winners from both sides.

“He has good hands up at the net. He moves extremely well on the other surfaces. I don’t know how well he moves on the grass.”

Britons target breakthrough

Johanna Konta<!–

Konta won a thrilling match against Donna Vekic on Wendesday

After a gripping three-hour win over Donna Vekic in the previous round, sixth seed Konta will hope for a quicker passage into the second week against Sakkari.

The 21-year-old from Greece is ranked 101st and has made it through to the third round of a Grand Slam for only the second time.

Konta, 26, thrilled the crowd in her first ever Centre Court win on Wednesday and gave further evidence that she could be a title contender.

“I guess I keep sounding like a broken record, but for me, pressure is a very self-imposed thing,” said the Briton.

“I’m approaching this event like I am every other event. I’m coming here to do the best that I can, to compete the best I can.”

Watson is enjoying a real return to form after slipping outside the world’s top 100 this year.

The 25-year-old reached the semi-finals in Eastbourne last week, and thrashed 18th seed Anastasija Sevastova in round two.

She is now one win away from reaching the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time.

“It’s been one of my goals forever,” said Watson.

“I made those big goals years ago. Making the second week of a Slam would be huge for me.”

Bedene, 27, is another player on the verge of breaking new ground by earning a fourth-round place at a Grand Slam tournament.

The world number 58 lost to Muller at a grass-court tournament in the Netherlands last month, but it was three tight sets.

“He loves grass,” said Bedene. “He’s won Hertogenbosch. He played semis at Queen’s. He loves serve-and-volley play. He’s quite aggressive.

“I played him a few weeks ago so I know, I wouldn’t say his weaknesses, because there aren’t many, but if I play my game, I’ve got a chance.”

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