2016 Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios vs Feliciano Lopez

NKFLO

Two players coming off very different five set wins on Friday will have the short turnaround on Saturday as Nick Kyrgios and Feliciano Lopez vie for a spot in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Lopez beat the Aussie twice in 2015, once on clay and the other indoors on a hard surface.

(15) Nick Kyrgios vs (22) Feliciano Lopez
The 15th seeded Aussie survived an entertaining affair with Dustin Brown in the second round. Brown jumped out to an early lead, before Kyrgios fought back for a 6-7 (3), 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory. The match itself was an anomaly in that it took just two hours and five minutes in between rain delays. It was Dustin Brown who tallied more winners (78 to 55) and more unforced errors (30 to 16) than his opponent. Both Kyrgios and Brown had it with umpire Jack Garner over one missed call and another questionable one. In the end though, it was Kyrgios’ serve that proved a difference maker with 27 aces and just five break points allowed compared to 15 for Brown. The most frustrating part for Kyrgios was missing so many opportunities as he broken Brown just four times.

Lopez faced a different task as he fell behind Fabio Fognini two sets to love. The Italian was locked in with 26 winners in the first two sets. His unforced error count was just two in the opener, but started to grow in the second with 14. The lefty from Spain wasn’t playing poorly, it was simply #FabMode working. Fognini’s level would drop the rest of the way with 36 unforced errors and noticeably less effective serve as Lopez surged 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 over the final three sets to complete the comeback in just over three hours. The 22nd seed wound up with 27 aces and a stout win percentage of 80 on his first serve points. He had 61 winners to 42 unforced errors. He would break Fognini eight times on 21 chances, while suffering four breaks of serve on nine chances.

The match included controversy with Fognini refusing to shake hands with Lopez. Fognini’s coach Jose Perlas also seemingly incited Lopez’s turnaround after shouting something inflammatory in Spanish at Lopez after the lefty won the third set. Lopez said it helped him play with some anger over the last two sets.

As for Kyrgios vs Lopez, this will be the third time the two have met. Lopez won both prior meetings in 2015. He beat the Aussie on clay in Rome 6-4, 7-6 and then later in the season indoors in Kuala Lumpur 7-6, 7-6. In both matches, Lopez’s serve was better. Kyrgios managed just a single break in each match. Lopez broke Kyrgios once in Rome and then twice in Kuala Lumpur.

Kyrgios is 8-4 against lefties in his career, just 2-2 this year. The Spaniard’s serve could again give him trouble in this one in quick conditions. You can expect plenty of Lopez’s serve and volley game as well to force Kyrgios to the net where he is less comfortable. This one figures to feature more short points like we saw in the Kyrgios-Brown match. At his best, the 15th seeded Aussie serves big and then goes for the knockout punch with his forehand as quickly as he can. Kyrgios scored 19 ground stroke winners on his forehand to just eight from his backhand. Lopez too tallied more winners with his forehand against Fognini, but also tallied the most unforced errors off that same wing.

I don’t think Kyrgios really goes in with a game plan to attack a certain stroke, so I think his mind will be set on just finishing points quickly. For Lopez, he will probably use a bit more game planning on Kyrgios and likely would not mind putting a lot of the net pressure on Kyrgios’ backhand side. The Aussie possesses a good ground stroke from that side with the ability to hit winners, but volleying can be a bit dodgy.

The other factor in this one is mental strength. Kyrgios went through what he said was a “circus” atmosphere against Brown, where some of his own blowups were masked by the gamesmanship and flair of Brown. That won’t be the case here. If Kyrgios loses his cool, it will be page one again. His biggest need is not to focus on the two previous losses to the Spaniard. Lopez’s issue figures to be recovery time. He was on court for an hour longer than his opponent, who is 13 years his junior. The plus side is that Kyrgios’ aggressive style should not require him to exert as much energy as he did in the Fognini match, giving him a good shot to stick around in this one.

Kyrgios’ power game has shown that it is well-suited to grass, but the proving point on Saturday is if he can match a serve and volley style from a player who has a stout serve. He didn’t face that same pressure against Radek Stepanek in round one. Simply, this one could come down to a few key points in the latter stages of the sets played. Tiebreaks by the numbers would favor Kyrgios who is 15-5 this year, but dropped bot he has played this week in London. Lopez has split a pair and remains just a shade over .500 at 12-11 this season.

Lopez definitely can cause trouble here for Kyrgios, but it feels like a quick start is needed to avoid falling into the mode where you have to dig out of a hole again. Kyrgios must have his serve booming to keep Lopez from setting up well on return. Kyrgios’ serve has been good, but not great this week. The Spaniard will have some hope, but must match at-minimum what the Aussie brings to the table. In the end, I just don’t think the 22nd seed will have quite enough.

Prediction
Kyrgios wins in four sets

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