By Kieran Jackson

  • Nick Kyrgios [15] vs Kei Nishikori [24]
  • Angelique Kerber [11] vs Naomi Osaka [18]
  • Alex de Minaur vs Rafael Nadal [2]
WIMBLEDON, UK – As week one draws to a close, we take a look at the three matches to look out for on middle Saturday at the All England Club.

 

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Nick Kyrgios [15] vs Kei Nishikori [24] | H2H: Nishikori leads 3-0

This match has the potential to be a classic. The entertaining, much-maligned Australian Nick Kyrgios has had an overwhelmingly successful few weeks on the grass following his elbow injury which forced him to pull out of the French Open.

After losing to Roger Federer in the semi-finals at the Stuttgart Open in a final-set tie-break, he also reached the semis at Queen’s, where he hit an astonishing 98 aces over four matches. The 23-year-old overcame Denis Istomin in four sets in the first round, before beating Robin Haase in straight sets in the second round.

Former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori has played well since his return from a wrist injury at the beginning of the year. The 28-year-old reached the final of the Monte-Carlo Masters in April, and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros before losing to eventual finalist Dominic Thiem.

Despite beating Christian Harrison and Bernard Tomic so far this week in four sets, in the first round and second round respectively, Wimbledon is Nishikori’s worst performing major, having not gone past the fourth round here before.

Kyrgios’ booming serve and inspiring, eccentric style of play will be difficult for even a player of Nishikori’s returning quality to deal with. The Japanese star will have to stay solid behind his serve and hope to win the crucial points in what will be a close affair.

Prediction: Kyrgios in four sets

 

Angelique Kerber [11] vs Naomi Osaka [18] | H2H: Kerber leads 2-1

Angelique Kerber in the second round of Wimbledon 2018

Angelique Kerber in the second round of Wimbledon 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

With the draw opening up in this top-half quarter, both Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka will see this as an excellent opportunity to progress deep into the second week. Two-time Grand Slam champion Kerber has had a solid year so far, and has pedigree on grass, having reached the final at Wimbledon in 2016 and winning the title in Birmingham in 2015. Kerber, 30, has only dropped one set so far this week – in the second round against last year’s girls singles champion, Claire Liu.

The German’s opponent in the third round has been one of the rising stars on the WTA tour this year; 20-year-old Osaka has had a breakthrough year, and is currently standing at her career high ranking of 18. The Japanese player won the title in Indian Wells in March, beat Serena Williams in Miami a week later and is looking to go one better than last year and make the second week at Wimbledon. She has looked ruthless thus far, making light work of Monica Niculescu and Katie Boulter.

This match has the potential to be a tight affair. In their three clashes so far – all of which took place on hard courts at the back end of last year – every match has been won in straight sets. With both players high in confidence, that trend could be broken.

Prediction: Kerber in three sets

 

 

Alex de Minaur vs Rafael Nadal | H2H: First meeting

The past month has been hugely significant in the careers of both Alex de Minaur and Rafael Nadal. Whilst Nadal won his 11thFrench Open, De Minaur conquered the top 100 in the world during the same week, at the Surbiton Challenger event. A week later, the 19-year-old from Sydney won his first ATP Challenger title in Nottingham, beating Brit Dan Evans.

With two-time Grand Slam winner and Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt a constant presence in his corner, De Minaur upset French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato in the first round, before beating doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert in two impressive four-set victories. Nadal, on the other hand, has come through his opening two matches comfortably against Dudi Sela and Mikhail Kukushkin.

De Minaur’s athleticism and fighting spirit means the youngster will undoubtedly head up the rankings in the near-future, and he has already achieved his best result at a Grand Slam. Yet Nadal’s experience and consistency will be a step too far for the Aussie on Saturday, in what is his first meeting with the World No. 1.

Prediction: Nadal in three sets

Play gets underway at 11:30 BST on the outside courts, and 13:00 at BST on Centre Court and Court No. 1.

 

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