In a clash that pits one of the game’s most exciting, and at times frustrating talents against the defending champion, Nick Kyrgios takes on Feliciano Lopez for a place in the Queen’s Club semifinals. Kyrgios, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2014, is a dangerous player on all surfaces, but none more so than grass. So too is Feliciano Lopez, whose old school net-rushing tactics have earned him success on surface throughout his career. But who will come out on top?
Kyrgios and Lopez have met four times so far in their careers in a head-to-head that is tied at two wins apiece. Lopez got the first of them, back in 2015 in Rome, defeating Kyrgios on the clay 6-4 7-6. He backed that up with another win later that year in the Kuala Lumpur semifinals, defeating the Australian 7-6 7-6. Kyrgios had his revenge in 2016 at Wimbledon in the third round, winning 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-4. He levelled the head-to-head last week in Stuttgart, beating Lopez in three 6-4 3-6 6-3.
Path to the quarterfinals
Kyrgios began his campaign for a first Queen’s Club title against a man with five in his trophy cabinet, former world #1 Andy Murray. The Scot was playing his first match in over 340 days, and gave a good account of himself, but Kyrgios ultimately proved too strong, winning 2-6 7-6 7-5. He backed that up by ending the British challenge with a three-set victory over British #1 Kyle Edmund, who fell 6-7 7-6 3-6 in an entertaining clash between two fine shot makers.
Lopez opened his title defence against the fourth seeded David Goffin, who has been enduring a difficult few months after a freak eye injury sustained in Rotterdam. Lopez added to his troubles by taking a hard-fought three-setter 6-3 6-7 6-3 to reach the second round. There he was due to face Canada’s Milos Raonic, who reached the final in Kensington in 2016. But the former world #3 was forced to retire, sending Lopez into the quarterfinals without having hit a ball in anger.
How do they match up?
In a not-uncommon theme in grass court tennis, this match may well be decided by which man has a better serving day. Both men are amongst the best in the game when stepping to the line, with Nick Kyrgios having hit an impressive 50 aces across his two matches so far, including 32 against Edmund, who managed just ten in reply. Lopez struck 11 in his victory against Goffin, and will back himself to add to that tally against Kyrgios.
Much of the play in this match will likely be in the forecourt, which will be a test of Kyrgios’ hands and his movement. So far this week, the Australian has demonstrated impressive feel, particularly in executing a hot dog lob against Edmund. But he has not yet faced a player with Lopez’s quality in and around the net, and it will be crucial that the Australian hits his passing shots with the intention of beating Lopez rather than entertaining the crowd.
Whilst Kyrgios’ is often criticised for his on-court extravagance, at this point in his career it is surely an unalterable part of his game. And when he is pulling off his trick shots as he has done this week, it is usually a sign that he is mentally focused rather than the opposite. He has, in fact, shown impressive battling qualities to overcome the challenges of Murray and Edmund, which suggests he is ready for Lopez. Expect it to be tight, but for Kyrgios’ quality to shine through in the crucial moments.