World #18 Nick Kyrgios is closing in on his highest ever ranking, and advancing to the fourth round of Wimbledon would go a long way to helping him achieve that after a first round loss last year. In his way, however, is an extremely opponent in the form of Kei Nishikori. Nishikori, the 24th seed at this year’s event, has been a consistent performer throughout his career, and despite recent struggles with injury looks to be in good form. Who will come out on top?
Kyrgios and Nishikori have met three times in the past, in a match up Kyrgios has not enjoyed. In Shanghai in 2015, Kyrgios blasted through the first set only to fall 6-1 4-6 4-6. The following year, they clashed in Miami, and again it was Nishikori who got the win, this time in straight sets 6-3 7-5. A few weeks later the clay courts of Madrid hosted their most recent match up. The surface seemed to have no impact on the final result though, as Nishikori won his third in a row against Kyrgios, 6-7 7-6 6-3.
Path to the third round
Kyrgios faced a difficult first round match against the dangerous Denis Istomin, but in a match punctuated by tiebreakers, managed to get over the line. In just over two and a half hours of play, the Australian ran out a 7-6 7-6 6-7 6-3 winner to earn a place in the second round. There, he faced Dutchman Robin Haase, the 43rd ranked player in the world, and despite some typically colourful debates with the chair umpire, earned himself a straight sets 6-3 6-4 7-5 win.
Nishikori was pushed by American world #198 Christian Harrison in the first round, but ultimately advanced with a 6-2 4-6 7-6 6-2 victory. In the second round, he faced the man who even Kyrgios can't compete with as an enigma, the talented but frustrating Bernard Tomic of Australia. As expected, the former Wimbledon quarterfinalist proved a challenge, but Nishikori’s reliability shone through as he won 2-6 6-3 7-6 7-5.
How do they match up?
In terms of power, Kyrgios has Nishikori covered in this match. Standing at 6'4" tall, he has an extremely dangerous serve, as precise as it is powerful, to go with a booming forehand and solid backhand. He will likely be doing much of the attacking. His volleys, despite his commendable willingness to come into the net, are not a strength, however, and the Australian’s concentration can fail him even on what should be comfortable volleys.
Nishikori is more than capable of blasting opponents off the court himself, but he generally relies on a more consistent approach. He has no obvious weaknesses for his opponent’s to exploit and defends superbly. Few counterpunch better than Nishikori, which is something Kyrgios will no doubt be well aware of after taking three losses to the Japanese. Nishikori is also renowned for his returning, something he will need to utilise against Kyrgios.
This should be an exciting and entertaining match to watch. Neither player has a significant edge over the other, and both are in pretty good form. This is the kind of third round match up where the loser will feel he has been eliminated before his time, and on this occasion that man will be Nishikori, though he won’t go down without a fight. In an extremely tight and tense match, Kyrgios' serve will carry him through after five gruelling sets.