24th seed Kei Nishikori will face world #184 Bernard Tomic in his second round match up, but advancing won’t be as easy as the rankings might suggest. Tomic has previously been ranked as high as 17th in the world, and his current ranking is a product of a poor 2017 and brief hiatus from tennis. He is more than capable of matching it with the better players in the world and reached the last eight at Wimbledon in 2011. Who will come out on top?
Nishikori and Tomic have played one another on four occasions in their careers, and have split the wins in those matches. Arguably their highest profile match was the first time they met, at the London Olympics in the first round back in 2012 with Nishikori winning a tight one 7-6 7-6. It was three years later when they faced each other again, this time in Brisbane, and again Nishikori got the job done with a 6-0 6-4 victory in the quarterfinals.
Since then, however, Tomic has won both matches. He got his revenge in Brisbane in 2016 with a 6-3 1-6 6-3 win, again in the quarterfinals, before winning later that year in Cincinnati 7-6 7-6. Their match at the London Olympics, when the All England Club hosted the tennis tournament, was the only time the two have met on grass. This will be the first time they have faced off in a best of five sets encounter.
Path to the second round
Nishikori arrived in Wimbledon looking for an upturn in form after defeat in the fourth round in Paris to Dominic Thiem and a 2-6 2-6 hammering taken at the hands of Karen Khachanov in Halle in the second round. He had what looked to be an easy first round against world #198 Christian Harrison. But Harrison played well, and Nishikori appeared to be in trouble in the third set. But he hung tough to win 6-2 4-6 7-6 6-2 in a little over two and a half hours.
Tomic's tournament began in the qualifying where he looked sharp in defeating Matteo Donati and Tomislav Brkic to reach the final round. There, however, he was dismissed by Ruben Bemelmans, and was fortunate to reach the main draw as a lucky loser. He began against 21-year-old Hubert Hurkacz, the world #122, and looked solid as he won 6-4 6-2 7-6 in an hour and 37 minutes, picking up his first Grand Slam match win since January last year.
How do they match up?
Tomic and Nishikori have vastly differing game styles, making for an interesting match up. Nishikori's game is not particularly unique, although his execution of it sets him above the overwhelming majority. The foundation of his success is his consistency from the baseline and an ability to up the ante with powerful groundstrokes, particularly on his backhand side. He is also an excellent returner, and though his own serve isn’t the most powerful on Tour, it is usually reliable.
In contrast, Tomic is almost as unique as they come. He relies on slow groundstrokes, often hitting forehand slices, to force opponents to create their own pace on the ball. He is, however, extremely powerful when he gets the opportunity to unleash, and is a particularly adept counter-puncher. He is also a better server than Nishikori, with his 6'5" frame allowing him the opportunity to place his serve more accurately than the smaller Japanese.
This will be an entertaining match up, and it wouldn’t surprise to see Nishikori seriously challenged. Tomic appears to be returning to some decent form, and when he is on he is capable of taking it to the best players in the world. Nishikori’s consistency, however, will see him get over the line against the Australian, who lacks the match sharpness to take out a player of Nishikori's calibre. Expect the Japanese to advance to the third round a winner in four sets.