Rafael Nadal and Mikhail Kukushkin will meet in the third round of the 2014 Wimbledon.
Nadal’s best surface has never been grass, and he’s already showing it early in the tournament, as he needed four sets to top Lukas Rosol. That’s back-to-back four setters for Nadal, and Rosol was a point or two away from stealing the first two sets, which may have sealed the match. While Nadal hasn’t had much success in the Wimbledon since he reached the finals in 2011, he still looked pretty solid in his last match. Nadal didn’t have many unforced errors and his service game was top notch. Nadal admitted after the match that every win at this tournament means a lot to him given his history on grass and his lack of success recently at the Wimbledon.
Kukushkin hasn’t lost a set in his first two matches against Dudi Sela and Frank Dancevic. In fact, Kukushkin looked better in his recent match than his first, playing no more than nine games in the three sets. This is the furthest Kukushkin has ever been in the Wimbledon, so there may be plenty of nerves on hand. Kukushkin isn’t a hard hitter or overpowering player, he more so relies on groundstrokes and letting the game come to him due a lack of aggressiveness.
These two have met twice in the past and Nadal has won both quickly in straight sets. Their most recent meeting was at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2012, and this will be the first time they’ve played one another on grass.
While I guess Nadal’s struggles at this tournament do leave the door open a bit for Kukushkin to make it interesting, I just don’t see it. Kukushkin doesn’t do anything particularly well that can expose Nadal.
I see a quick match like the first two meetings between these two have been, which is why I like Nadal to win his first match in three sets.