Serena Williams laughs off challenge from Andy Murray

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LONDON (AP) — At the moment, no woman seems capable of providing much of a challenge to Serena Williams on a tennis court.

She’s won 33 matches in a row, and 76 of her past 79. If she wins five more this fortnight, as almost everyone expects, Williams will earn a second consecutive Wimbledon title and 17th Grand Slam championship overall.

So how about playing an exhibition match against a man? Andy Murray, for example?

After Williams beat 100th-ranked qualifier Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round at the All England Club, the first question at her news conference Thursday concerned a suggestion by Murray — prompted by a fan’s Twitter post — that the pair of reigning Olympic and U.S. Open champions play each other.

“Really? He wants to play me? Is he sure?” Williams responded, laughing heartily. “That would be fun. I doubt I’d win a point, but that would be fun.”

It might draw some attention, too, given the combined star power of Williams in the U.S. and Murray in Britain. Currently, she is No. 1 in the WTA rankings; he’s No. 2 in the ATP rankings.

“He’s probably one of the top three people I definitely don’t want to play,” Williams said. “But maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown. That would be fine. I get (to use the doubles) alleys. He gets no serves. I get alleys on my serves, too.”

In a piece posted on on Thursday morning, Murray refers to the original tweet in which someone mentioned he should face Williams.

“I’d be up for it, why not?” Murray said. “I’ve never hit with her but she’s an incredible player and people would be interested to see the men play against the women to see how the styles match up.”

On Friday, Murray will stick to trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry, 77 years ago. Murray was scheduled to face 32nd-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain on Centre Court, where the roof might be closed if the forecast for rain is accurate.

The only other British singles player still in the tournament, 19-year-old Laura Robson, was also supposed to be in the main stadium, playing Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia in a match postponed Thursday because of the first drizzle of Week 1.

Others slated to play Friday, weather permitting, included French Open runner-up David Ferrer, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and 17th-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States.

While Williams, Stephens and others keep the Stars and Stripes flying in the women’s draw, it’s a different story in the men’s singles, where for the first time in 101 years, zero men from the United States reached Wimbledon’s third round. And the last time it happened, way back in 1912, no Americans even entered the oldest Grand Slam tournament.

It’s a low moment for a country that produced Bill Tilden and Don Budge, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

By the end of Thursday, all 11 U.S. men in the 2013 field at the All England Club were gone, with top-seeded Novak Djokovic accounting for the last one by beating 156th-ranked qualifier Bobby Reynolds 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-1. Earlier in the day, former top-five player James Blake lost to Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, while qualifier Denis Kudla was beaten by Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-1, 7-6 (4), 7-5.

That trio joined 18th-seeded John Isner, 21st-seeded Sam Querrey, Ryan Harrison, Steve Johnson, Alex Kuznetsov, Wayne Odesnik, Rajeev Ram and Michael Russell on the way home.

“It’s a tough stat to hear, but I still believe, right now, where U.S. tennis is, not too many guys are in their prime,” said Kudla. “That’s why the numbers are like that. A lot of guys are in the tail end of their careers and a lot of guys are coming up. “Maybe next year, or the year after that, things could change. You have to go through a little bit of a struggle to get some success.”

With 27 of 32 third-round spots in men’s singles settled, 18 countries were represented, including Latvia, Ukraine, Croatia and South Africa. Five countries had multiple entrants left, led by four each for Spain and France.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.