Wimbledon third round preview: Rafael Nadal vs Karen Khachanov

Two-time champion Nadal could have his first real test of the Championships against the talented young Russian, who is making his debut appearance at the tournament.

Wimbledon third round preview: Rafael Nadal vs Karen Khachanov
Rafael Nadal and Karen Khachanov face off for the first time on Centre Court tomorrow (Getty Images)

One of the most anticipated third round clash on Friday sees fourth seed Rafael Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon champion, face talented 30th seed Karen Khachanov, who is making his first ever appearance at SW19.

This will be the first meeting between the two, and it could be a highly interesting encounter, with both men arguably in or close to the best form of their respective careers. The match will take place on Centre Court, and the winner will face either unseeded Aljaz Bedene or 16th seed Gilles Muller in the fourth round.

So far at Wimbledon

On the grass of Wimbledon, it has been Nadal who has been the far more comfortable of the two so far, with the Spaniard having a much more comfortable run than the talented young Russian.

The fourth seed started his campaign against John Millman, and, in his first match since his French Open triumph, stormed past the Australian for the loss of just six games to get his campaign off to a good start. Things were a little more tricky in the second round against the potentially dangerous Donald Young, though Nadal once again impressed as he saw off the American in straight sets.

Rafael Nadal following his first round win against John Millman (Getty/Ashley Western)
Rafael Nadal following his first round win against John Millman (Getty/Ashley Western- Camera Sport)

Things haven’t been easy for Khachanov on his Wimbledon debut. The 30th seed started against compatriot Andrey Kuznetsov, battling past his fellow Russian in a five-set encounter. He didn’t have a much easier time in the second round, though came from a set down to battle past Thiago Monteiro in a tight four set encounter, to reach the third round in a second consecutive major.

Analysis

It will undoubtedly be interesting to see what sort of the impact the surface makes in this match. Nadal has undoubtedly struggled on grass in the past few years, not making the last eight at the tournament since 2011, and can be vulnerable on the surface, and though Khachanov has had some success on the surface this year, he is extremely inexperienced on the surface and may not have enough to exploit some of the Spaniard’s slight weaknesses on the surface.

Karen Khachanov must look to be aggressive as possible in this encounter (Getty/David Ramos)
Karen Khachanov must look to be aggressive as possible in this encounter (Getty/David Ramos)

So far at Wimbledon, Nadal has been extremely successful as he has been willing to completely dictate play as much as possible. He should look to do this against Khachanov, who himself is powerful, especially on the Russian’s second serves. Also, the fourth seed should look to defend well, as Khachanov can become frustrated and make errors if he is unable to finish the point quickly.

Khachanov is undoubtedly the underdog in this encounter, though does have the weapons to potentially trouble Nadal. The Russian must look to be aggressive as possible, though must balance this with patience as he cannot afford to commit too many errors. Furthermore, the 30th seed must also look to serve well, as he cannot allow the Spaniard to take control of the rallies early on.

Assessment

This undoubtedly could be an interesting encounter, and it will be interesting to see how both Nadal and Khachanov handle this generation clash. The Russian does have the weapons to potentially challenge Nadal, though the Spaniard has been in supreme form so far and he should be too strong in this match-up.

Prediction: Rafael Nadal in straight sets