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If Kei Nishikori is a quiet achiever of men’s tennis, he’s by no means an underachiever.

The US Open finalist in 2014 and an 11-time champion on the ATP Tour, the former world No.4 is the highest-ranked man in Asian tennis history – and he seemed determined to underline that fact as he defeated Nick Kyrgios 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-4 to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round.

While this will mark Nishikori’s third appearance in the second week at the All England Club it was perhaps the most unlikely. For while the No.24 seed has never quite brought his best to the grass court major, never going past the fourth round, Kyrgios, the 2014 quarter-finalist and No.15 seed, was expected to thrive.

There was also much to be read in the pair’s contrasting recent form. After sitting out Roland-Garros as he continued to recover from an elbow injury Kyrgios made a stunning return to form as a semi-finalist at Queen’s. Nishikori, meanwhile, lost in the second round at Halle.

Nishikori, though, hadn’t lost to Kyrgios in three career meetings – and while this was the pair’s first match on grass and their first at a Grand Slam, Japan’s top player wasn’t about to stop here. Even though their match started close to 7.30pm, local time having followed two No.1 Court marathons, Kyrgios didn’t seem quite prepared.

Sporting mostly-blue shoes that needed changing before the pre-match warm up, he was still re-gripping his racket just before the match began. Nishikori, however, was quick to knuckle down and opened with a steady service that was in sharp contrast to that of Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios
A series of errors that gave Nishikori a service break and a 2-0 advantage suggested that Kyrgios would simply take time to find his rhythm. But he dropped another service break in the sixth game and Nishikori ran away with a 16-minute first set.

The Australian had earlier described the Japanese player as a “nightmare” match-up and he seemed increasingly desperate to wake up. There were signs of that happening as a grittier Kyrgios recovered from a service break to force a second set tiebreak. That critical stage featured the usual Kyrgios flair – including one of 13 aces – but a missed backhand gave Nishikori three set points. He converted easily to take a two-set lead.

As light gradually faded Nishikori saw the ball as brightly as ever, claiming a final break of serve in the 10th game to record one of the most important victories of the 10 Wimbledon main draws he’s played in one hour, 37 minutes.

“I was talking to Nick before the match (and said) no way we were going to finish the match today,” said Nishikori, who will meet Ernests Gulbis in the fourth round. “It’s a little bit surprise that we were able to finish today but I think I play great tennis.”

Indeed, with efficiency and a superbly-executed game plan, it was something of a master-class from Nishikori, whose 27 winners far outnumbered his 11 errors. Kyrgios, by comparison, hit a costly 28 errors alongside his winner count of 31.

“I was able to return really well so that’s why I was able to win today,” said Nishikori. “My serve was doing really well, and my return was doing really well. That was maybe the best (grass) match of my life.”

Source: Vivienne Christie|| Wimbledon

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