Wednesday at Rome was all about the seeds — and a young upstart named Nick Kyrgios.
All six Top 10 seeds advanced in second-round play, save one. No. 10 seed Milos Raonic was ousted 7-6(5), 6-3 by the unseeded Aussie Kyrgios, who took time off from his battles with the Australian tennis federation over the Olympics, and his brash predictions that he’ll soon be among the Top 3, to post a big win.
Kyrgios weathered a rain delay and some sporadic, uninspired play from Raonic, who at times seemed to be suffering abdominal or stomach issues. The Canuck went through his first six service games without an ace.
Top 10 seeds into the third round were No. 1 Novak Djokovic grinding past French qualifier Stephane Robert 7-5, 7-5, No. 2 Andy Murray beating Kazakh qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-3, No. 3 Roger Federer returning from injury to top rising German Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-5, No. 5 Rafael Nadal stopping Phillip Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-3, and No. 9 David Ferrer defeating Spanish countryman Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-3.
It was Kyrgios’ fifth Top 10 win of the year, second only to Djokovic. Nadal and Kyrgios will next square off in a blockbuster on Thursday.
The lightly-treading Federer was simply happy to be playing in Rome.
“Cautious, but extremely happy,” said Federer, who will next meet No. 13 Dominik Thiem, who was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Joao Sousa. “I was expecting to lose in straight sets today. That was the mind-set going in, so to win in straights is actually a really big surprise to me. I played cautious, and I only decided after the warm-up that I was actually going to play. So for me it was a big match on many levels.”
The Swiss had not competed since mid-April since suffering back issues.
“This was something [that] I feel like I needed to do to get a sense of where I’m at,” Federer said. “It would have been easy not to play and then just be unsure how I was going to feel in Paris. So at some point you have to go out there and see how it feels, and I’m happy I was able to play a full match without any setbacks.”
The world No. 1 Djokovic was forced to work against the 35-year-old French qualifier Robert, and will next meet another experienced clay courter in Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil, who beat Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-3.
“Today was an extremely difficult match for several reasons,” Djokovic said. “The conditions were very tough. The player that I played against was very unpredictable with his shots…He was going for some shots that were amazing, and with these windy conditions you don’t get too much rhythm. When it mattered the most, I managed to make him play an extra shot and pull this one through.”
The Madrid runner-up Murray navigated the conditions to set up a third-round meeting with unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who upset No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(6), 6-4.
“I did find it today difficult,” Murray said, reverting to Olde English. “It’s a big change in the conditions, but I did some things well today…I served very well today. It was just more a few mistakes from the back of the court, which it didn’t feel like I was making a few days ago. “It was a good win against a [qualifier] who has probably been here a week, played three matches in these conditions and beaten some good players, as well.”
No. 11 Richard Gasquet was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Italian homeboy Andreas Seppi, lining up a meeting with No. 6 seed Kei Nishikori.
Buckle your safety belts for matches Thursday in Rome including (3) Federer vs. (13) Thiem, (5) Nadal vs. Kyrgios, (1) Djokovic vs. Bellucci, (6) Nishikori vs. (11) Gasquet, (9) Ferrer vs. Pouille, (8) Berdych vs. (12) Goffin, and (2) Murray vs. Chardy.
THURSDAY ROME SCHEDULE
CENTER COURT start 12:00 noon
ATP –  R. Federer (SUI) vs  D. Thiem (AUT)
WTA –  S. Williams (USA) vs [Q] C. Mchale (USA)
Not Before 3:30 pm
ATP – N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
Not Before 7:30 pm
ATP –  N. Djokovic (SRB) vs T. Bellucci (BRA)
Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA – B. Strycova (CZE) vs E. Bouchard (CAN)
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
WTA –  C. Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs  T. Bacsinszky (SUI)
Not Before 12:00 noon
ATP –  R. Gasquet (FRA) vs  K. Nishikori (JPN)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP – [LL] L. Pouille (FRA) vs  D. Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 4:00 pm
WTA –  P. Kvitova (CZE) or M. Keys (USA) vs T. Babos (HUN) or  V. Williams (USA)
ATP –  T. Berdych (CZE) vs  D. Goffin (BEL)
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