Saturday Preview: Kyrgios Looks For First Win Against Nishikori
His play on court has matched his words in press. Nick Kyrgios entered The Championships, Wimbledon declaring that he was a contender for the grass-court Grand Slam title, that he belonged in the conversation among the players who could be the last one standing on the final Sunday at SW19.
Through two matches, he's shown little to the contrary, hitting 61 aces and winning six of seven sets against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin and Robin Haase of The Netherlands to make his fourth trip to the Wimbledon third round.
“I'm just in a lot better place than I was last year. I came into Wimbledon last year injured, pretty bad mental state. I was out of the game for two and a half months. So coming back, I've been excited. I've been winning a lot of matches,” Kyrgios said after his first-round win against Istomin.
“I'm in kind of like a happy place. I feel like I'm playing well... I have a different approach. I feel like I'm one of the guys that can cause a bit of an uproar at this event.”
His biggest test yet comes Saturday against 24th seed Kei Nishikori, who leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-0, although they've never faced each other on grass and haven't played since May 2016 at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Nishikori beat Christian Harrison of the U.S. and Aussie Bernard Tomic to set the Round of 32 contest. The Japanese right-hander will try to make his third trip to the Wimbledon fourth round, while Kyrgios will go for his fourth showing at the Round of 16.
“Grass is probably his least favourite surface. But he's capable on all surfaces. He's a nightmare. He's a great returner, takes time away,” Kyrgios said of Nishikori.
Kyrgios' countryman #NextGenATP Alex de Minaur will try to cause the upset of the tournament when he meets second seed and two-time champion Rafael Nadal. The 19-year-old Aussie is playing in his maiden Grand Slam third round, while Nadal is trying to reach the Wimbledon fourth round for the eighth time. The No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings has yet to drop a set through two matches, against Israel's Dudi Sela and Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev will play for the third consecutive day after finishing his second-round match against #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz on Friday. The contest was suspended because of darkness on Thursday with Fritz leading 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(0). But Zverev was a different player when the match resumed, racing through the final two sets 6-1, 6-2.
The 21-year-old German will meet Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis, who's trying to make the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time. Zverev is going for back-to-back trips to the Round of 16 to match his best Wimbledon showing.
Juan Martin del Potro, a 2013 semi-finalist, faces Frenchman Benoit Paire, and Paire's countryman Gilles Simon meets Aussie Matthew Ebden. If both Frenchmen can advance, joining compatriots Adrian Mannarino and Gael Monfils in the Round of 16, it will be only the second time in the Open Era that four Frenchmen have made the fourth round at the All England Club (2016: Gasquet, Mahut, Pouille, Tsonga).
Paire especially will have his hands full, though. Del Potro dominated three-time grass-court titlist Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round.
Kyle Edmund, Great Britain's last hope in the men's and women's singles draws, faces 12th seed and three-time champion Novak Djokovic, who doesn't mind spoiling the experiences of home fans. Djokovic is 21-1 against players at their home Grand Slam.
Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-1, but Edmund gained that victory earlier this year in Madrid.
#NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe will try to make it a trio of Americans playing on “Manic Monday” when he meets Russian Karen Khachanov, who competed at the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. Tiafoe's compatriots John Isner and Mackenzie McDonald clinched their fourth-round spots on Friday.
Fabio Fognini can make Italian history. If the 19th seed beats Czech Jiri Vesely, Fognini will become the first Italian man to reach the Round of 16 at all four Grand Slams. Fognini leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-0, including a straight-sets win at Wimbledon last year.