Former champions Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic powered into Wimbledon week two in strong fashion on Saturday.
Nadal booked an 8th Wimbledon fourth round appearance by blowing out 19-year-old Alex De Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. The young Australian put up a fight early and late, but Rafa out-muscled the Hewitt protege.
Nadal on Monday will take on Czech big man Jiri Vesely who won in four sets over Italian veteran Fabio Fognini.
Novak Djokovic was back on Court 1 against the final Brit in the singles draw, Kyle Edmund. Fresh off watching England advanced in the world cup, and inspire Edmund took the opening set, but couldn’t hold off the 3-time champion. Djokovic advanced 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
“[He is] probably playing the tennis of his life in the past 12 months. He won our last encounter. You could see he came out on the court, played better than me for a set and a half. He was really, really playing well, hitting the ball clean from both ends,” Djokovic said. “It was a high-quality tennis match, to be honest. It was very, very, very intense. [It] just was a couple points here and there.”
Next for Novak is the tower 6-foot-6 Karen Khachanov. The 22-year-old Russian came from two sets down to beat a wilting Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-1. The 20-year-old Tiafoe looked well on his way to a first Grand Slam second week until he lost the third set breaker. Khachanov, who had just beaten Marcos Baghdatis in five, stepped on the gas and ran away with the match behind 33 aces.
Juan Martin del Potro overcame a break down in the second to beat Benoit Paire in straight sets 6-4, 7-6, 6-3. He’ll face another Frenchmen in Gilles Simon on Monday. The 33-year-old Simon is back in the Wimbledon fourth round after ousting Aussie Matthew Ebden in four.
Ebden’s countryman Nick Kyrgios has an even worse day. He dumped the opening set against Kei Nishikori in just 16 minutes, then made it a bit of a match but the Japanese was never troubled in a 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-4 win.
“I was struggling. I didn’t serve well. I didn’t feel good from the ground. I almost couldn’t move. My footwork was terrible. Just a bad day, I guess,” Kyrgios said. “He played well, though. He returned really well. Most guys aren’t getting a racquet or putting balls back in off my serve most of the time. He was returning well.
“I felt great this morning. Hit the ball fine. As soon as I got out there, I just didn’t feel good. I don’t know what it was. I mean, he played well. I always find it tough playing him,” Kyrgios added. “I was pretty uptight. A lot of nerves. I just struggled with a lot of things today. I just never settled. Obviously getting broken [in the] first game didn’t help me. I just kind of panicked. Everything just went south.”
Nishikori’s draw opened up as he’ll now take on qualifier and former Top 10 Ernests Gulbis. The Latvian 29-year-old has been finding his top form of late. He qualified at the French and qualified at Wimbledon, and today eliminated the No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev in five sets 7-6(2), 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0.
Gulbis has now won three five set matches this week!
“I’m proud of qualifying here. I’m proud of winning three five-set matches. Of course, in this match in particular because I was two sets to one down,” said Gulbis. “I’m proud of just hanging in there and not giving up after also losing the third set, when I was serving for the set. I’m really happy about it.”
Meanwhile, Zverev, who had been so tough in five set matches, cited continued stomach issues for the loss.
“I felt fine. I was tired from probably having a stomach bug, not eating for over 24 hours. That probably had something to do with it,” said Zverev, who vomited after the second set of his match against #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz on Thursday. “I showed in Paris and other matches that I don’t really get tired in five-set matches. Today I definitely did. It felt like somebody just unplugged me in the middle of the fourth set. There was no going back there for me.”
Milos Raonic also finished off Dennis Novak in four sets.
The tournament has a day off Sunday before everyone returns on Monday for the fourth round.
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