Wimbledon Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches
Saturday at The Championships, the first week of play will conclude, and we should be left with 16 ladies and 16 gentlemen in singles by day’s end.
With the departures of Venus Williams and Madison Keys on Friday, only two of the top 10 seeds remain in the ladies’ draw. One of those seeds is already through to the round of 16, as Karolina Pliskova has reached that stage for the first time at Wimbledon. The other is the world number one, who today will play a tricky third round opponent. In the gentlemen’s draw, we’ve also seen a fair amount of upsets, but many top names remain. They include Nadal, Djokovic, Del Potro, and Zverev, all of whom will take the court on Day 6.
Rafael Nadal vs. Alex De Minaur
The world number one and seventeen-time Major champion will open play on Centre Court. He’ll face this 19-year-old Australian for the first time. De Minaur jumped into the tennis pool and made a big splash in his home country six months ago. Alex notched seven total victories between his semifinal run in Brisbane, and his run to the final in Sydney. A familiar face has been in his player’s box: Lleyton Hewitt, one of De Minaur’s idols, has been coaching the young Australian. De Minaur’s style is reminiscent of Hewitt’s: quick movement around the court, flashy counterpunching, and plenty of pumping himself up. He’ll need to utilize every bit of those tactics against the all-time great on the other side of the net, though it likely won’t be enough to threaten Nadal unless Rafa has a day off. Even though Nadal’s had many of those in recent years at The All England Club, he’s looked fully comfortable in the hot and dry conditions thus far. This collision of generations should be fun to watch, and perhaps it’s a glimpse of a future star on Centre Court.
Simona Halep vs. Su-Wei Hsieh
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As the men’s number one plays on Centre, the women’s number one will start the day’s play on No.1 Court. Halep has weathered the upset storm in the ladies’ draw through two rounds. She has really solidified herself as the undisputed best player in the world, not only with her first Major title in Paris, but also with her consistency. Simona is now 15-2 at Grand Slam events this year, and has a great chance to improve on that record in a wide open draw. Grass may not be her best surface, but she’s made the semifinals at SW19 before, and has to be considered one of the favorites to win the title with so many other big names already out of the tournament. Her opposition on Saturday though, who is her third straight opponent from Asia, is no pushover. The 32-year-old veteran from Taipei is a former doubles number one, with two Grand Slam doubles titles to her name. She’s no slouch in singles either, as we saw at the Australian Open earlier this year. She pushed Angelique Kerber in a highly-entertaining fourth round battle. Hsieh plays with a lot of spin and slices, which of course can be highly effective on the grass. However, Su-Wei has never been farther than this round in singles at Wimbledon, and only twice beyond this stage in singles at any major. In their only previous meeting, on a hard court in 2013, Halep won in three sets. While the contrast in styles should provide entertaining rallies, Simona should prevail.
Angelique Kerber vs. Naomi Osaka
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The second match of the day on Centre Court will see a counterpunching lefty, and former Wimbledon finalist, against an up-and-coming righty who just bludgeons the ball. This is a rematch from the first round of last year’s US Open, the first time these two met. On that day, Osaka dismantled Kerber, dropping just four games in the process of the upset. They would play twice more at the end of 2017, with Kerber getting revenge in both of those matches. Osaka has really upped her game in 2018, most notably in her stunning tournament win at Indian Wells. The very next week in Miami, she thumped Serena Williams. Naomi already has 27 wins on the year, and now sits at a career-high ranking of 18th. A few weeks ago in Nottingham, Osaka showed she’s comfortable playing on grass by making the semifinals. The third round at Majors has been a bit of a road block for Osaka thus far in her career at Majors: she’s just 1-6 at this stage. Like Osaka, Kerber is also having a strong 2018. Angelique has 34 wins this year, and won the title in Brisbane. The German has made the quarterfinals or better at Wimbledon in three of the past six years, and has only done so in even years. Based on that numerology, she’s due for another deep run here, and that is entirely possible in a quarter of the draw which has already seen Garbine Muguruza eliminated. This may be the sturdiest test Kerber faces in returning to the semifinals at SW19. When Osaka is on, she can hit just about anyone off the court. Kerber will need to rely on her defensive skills as well as her experience on grass, while also using and the angles she’s so good at finding to move Osaka around and put her in uncomfortable positions. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this one plays out.
Novak Djokovic vs. Kyle Edmund
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This will conclude the day’s schedule on Centre Court, and will be the match Great Britain follows most closely. Edmund is now the British number one, and is also the only Brit remaining in either singles draw. I normally would not bring up the World Cup in a tennis preview, but England’s quarterfinal match against Sweden will likely conclude right around the start of this match. That result may impact the Centre Court crowd’s energy, and Edmund will be counting on them to be boisterous as he faces the three-time former champion. Don’t misunderstand that statement: Kyle has a real chance to win this match. He hasn’t just been handed the title of British number one in Murray’s absence: he’s earned it. His semifinal run in Australia was highly impressive, and included victories over two top 12 seeds. He even defeated a returning Andy Murray last week in Eastbourne. Edmund’s now ranked 17th in the world, a career high, and his ranking will likely improve regardless of today’s result. As for Djokovic, he’s shown signs in the last two months of regaining his mojo, but we’ve also seen him blink in pressure situations. This can be summed up in one word: Cecchinato. Djokovic holds a career 3-1 edge against Edmund, but Kyle won their last meeting exactly two months ago today in Madrid. This could easily turn into an extended, thrilling encounter on Centre Court. Edmund has a great one-two punch with his big serve and snappy forehand, and he may seriously complicate matters for Djokovic.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Kei Nishikori
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In the last match on No.1 Court’s schedule, it’s a big opportunity for a player with all the potential in the world to show he’s ready to step up. Nishikori is of course the more accomplished player, even though he’s currently the lower-ranked player after missing much of the past year due to injury. However, Kyrgios is the better grass court player, and the player so many are waiting on to realize that potential. Nick made the quarterfinals of Wimbledon as a 19-year-old in 2014, but has not gone any farther at any major in the last four years. Kyrgios didn’t play any singles matches during the European clay court season, and pulled out of Roland Garros citing an elbow injury. He returned to play on the grass of Queen’s Club, where he earned solid wins over Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund, and Feliciano Lopez before losing a close match to Marin Cilic in the semifinals. Unfortunately his dramatics on court have not subsided, even in relatively comfortable victory. Kyrgios found many reasons to complain to the chair umpire, the crowd, his box, and himself during a straight sets victory over Robin Haase on Thursday. It’s that negative attitude which may cost him against Nishikori. Kei is not back to his best form, and has never played his best on grass, but he’ll never defeat himself as Nick will. Nishikori is 3-0 lifetime against Kyrgios, though they’ve never met on grass. On paper, Kyrgios should win this match, but the result may rest on whether Kyrgios can meet this occasion. I’m not sure what we’ll see today: the Nick that played so confidently and won three tiebreaks over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Australia this year, or the Nick who too often gives off such bad energy on court. Until he consistently proves otherwise, I’ll expect the latter.
Order of play
Play starts at 11:30 BST on each court unless stated
Centre Court (from 13:00 BST)
1. Alex De Minaur v Rafael Nadal
2. Angelique Kerber v Naomi Osaka
3. Kyle Edmund v Novak Djokovic
Court 1 (from 13:00 BST)
1. Simona Halep v Su-Wei Hsieh
2. Ernests Gulbis v Alexander Zverev
3. Nick Kyrgios v Kei Nishikori
1. Juan Martin Del Potro v Benoit Paire
2. Dominika Cibulkova v Elise Mertens
1. Ashleigh Barty v Daria Kasatkina
2. Jelena Ostapenko v Vitalia Diatchenko
3. Jiri Vesely v Fabio Fognini
1. Alison Van Uytvanck v Anett Kontaveit
2. Carla Suarez Navarro v Belinda Bencic
3. Karen Khachanov v Frances Tiafoe
1. Gilles Simon v Matthew Ebden
2. Daria Gavrilova v Aliaksandra Sasnovich