Arguably the biggest second round clash of Wimbledon this year sees Nick Kyrgios, one of the most unpredictable players on tour, take on third seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal for a place in the third round at the All England Club.
There is a lot of history between the two, with the two clashing both on and off court over the past few seasons and months. The head to head between the two is tied at 3-3, with Kyrgios winning their last meeting back in Acapulco earlier this year, and also won when the two met at this very tournament five years ago, in what proved to be the Australian’s breakthrough tournament. However, Nadal’s wins in the head to head have generally been more comfortable.
This match will take place on Thursday, with the winner of this match facing Ricardas Berankis or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round on Saturday.
So far at Wimbledon
Nadal came into the tournament as one of the favorites for the title, having reached the last four, though had not played since he won the French Open three weeks ago. The Spaniard looked slow to begin with, nearly falling a double break down in the opening set to Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita, though turned the opener around and eventually dropped just seven games in a comfortable first round performance on Court One.
Meanwhile, Kyrgios had a completely different type of match to reach this stage. The Australian had a tough encounter against his compatriot Jordan Thompson, and after being bageled in the fourth set, cruised through a deciding set to set up this encounter. Kyrgios looked poor at times in this match, and rather checked out of the match at times, but looked very sharp at other points, and will likely be fully engaged for this match up.
Nadal is someone who often requires rhythm in a match to feel settled and dictate player, and Kyrgios is the type of player who has disrupted the Spaniard’s game style in the past. The Australian will look to serve well and will likely serve and volley to try and rush the world number two, and will regularly approach the net on other occasions to try and force mistakes from his opponent. It also seems likely that Kyrgios will sometimes use the underarm serve to try and take advantage of how deep Nadal sits when he returns.
Perhaps the main thing for Nadal to do is to avoid getting distracted by whatever is happening on the other side of the net; it is impossible to tell how Kyrgios will react or what he will do at any point, but the Spaniard must not be bothered if the Australian does anything unusual. Furthermore, Nadal should also look to be aggressive on return and should naturally look to use his forehand to dictate play and push Kyrgios around court, as well as come into the net on occasion to kill off points.
This is a hard match to make a prediction for, mainly because it is impossible to know how Kyrgios will play in this match. The Australian certainly has a strong chance of winning this match, and it will not be a surprise if he does, though Nadal looked much better on grass last season and will be confident after another Roland Garros title. It won’t be easy, but Nadal should come through this.
Prediction: Nadal in four sets