The much-anticipated showdown between rivals Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios lived up to the billing Thursday at Wimbledon. While Kyrgios’s results and ranking is well below Nadal’s standards, you can throw that out because the Australian gets up for big matches like this, and he did today.
Nadal cruised early and dominated the first set. Kyrgios snuck out a break and things got real interesting from there. Neither player could make any progress on serve in the last two sets and two breaker wins pushed the match in favor of Nadal for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-3(5), 7-6(3).
“Been a tough match obviously against a very tough opponent,” said Nadal. “Very happy the way that I hold the pressure. Very happy the way I played the tie-breaks with the right determination.”
Kyrgios was well-tempered and kept the antics to a minimum — he did win two underhand serves and failed to apologize for taking a rip at Rafa at the net. He did unload on the chair umpire early on after the dropping the first, eventual drawing a violation, but otherwise he was well-behaved and played well, mixing in a good amount of drop shots and big forehands.
“I’m always willing to go out there and try and put on a show. I know people that bought a ticket today probably had a great day,” said Kyrgios. “At times today, I was looking around: This is Wimbledon, playing Rafa. … But I’ll probably wake up tomorrow, there will be something negative about it, for sure.”
Nadal kept the focus and came out in front in a big test. Nadal will now have another against another power player in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who hasn’t dropped a set in two matches.
Earlier in the day, Roger Federer flew into the third round beating British wildcard Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-2.
“It was a good start to the match, which is always nice, especially after the last game, trying to do a better job there,” Federer said. “I was trying to be more aggressive than in my previous match. I was able to do that. Also the reaction was good again in the third [set]. Obviously was a bit tight in the second, but I was able to hold my nerve and serve well when I had to.”
Federer now gets Frenchmen Lucas Pouille on Saturday.
On this Fourth of July, American men had a mixed day. Last year’s semifinalist John Isner ran out of gas against Mikhail Kukushkin falling in five sets 6-4, 6-7(3), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
“It’s very disappointing to lose,” said Isner who was playing his first event since Miami. “I think my lack of preparation certainly showed today. I knew something like that was very possible. Unfortunately, that was the case today. The most important thing is my foot’s fine. My fitness definitely not there. There’s no doubt. I was just able to put weight on my foot about 10 days before the tournament, so this is the first time I was able to put all my weight on my foot. It had been a long time on the shelf.”
Tennys Sandgren and Steve Johnson did win five setters. Gilles Simon served for it in the fifth but gagged giving Sandgren a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 8-6 win. Johnson ousted Alex De Minaur 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. He’ll now face Kei Nishikori.
Sam Querrey looked real good in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Andrey Rublev.
Former finalist Marin Cilic poor season continued after a straight set loss to Joao Sousa.
2006 Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis called it a career after losing to Matteo Berrettini.
In a late doubles match, Andy Murray and Pierre-Hugues Herber made a successful debut winning in four sets over Marius Copil and Ugo Humbert.
On tap Friday for the start of the third round, big men Rielly Opelka and former finalist Milos Raonic collide. Novak Djokovic continues his title defense against his French Open first round opponent, Hubert Hurkacz.
Kevin Anderson resumes his comeback as he faces Guido Pella and 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime faces fellow youngster Ugo Humbert.
FRIDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT – SHOW COURT – 13:00 START
1 Kevin Anderson (RSA)  33 vs Guido Pella (ARG)  40
2 Simona Halep (ROU)  97 vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 102
3 Polona Hercog (SLO) 107 vs Cori Gauff (USA) 110
No.1 COURT – SHOW COURT – 13:00 START
1 Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE)  89 vs Karolina Pliskova (CZE)  96
2 Novak Djokovic (SRB)  1 vs Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 7
3 Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)  9 vs Ugo Humbert (FRA) 15
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