LONDON – Kei Nishikori admitted he had made a perfect start to his Wimbledon campaign as the 10th seed moved into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of American qualifier Denis Kudla on Thursday.
Nishikori has never gone past the third round at the All England Club in five attempts, but the world No. 12 looks a good bet to end that frustrating run this year.
He was far too strong for Kudla, hitting 40 winners to just 14 from the 136th-ranked, and hasn’t dropped a set in his opening two matches.
The 24-year-old will face Italy’s Simone Bolelli for a place in the last 16.
“It’s been almost perfect first and second rounds for me,” Nishikori said.
“This year after the clay-court season I gained more confidence. My tennis is changing, more consistent, and everything is going well.
“Even on grass, my serve is getting better. Also I can be more aggressive from the ground strokes now. I try to come in more on grass especially. I feel really comfortable.”
Nishikori had expected to face a tough test from German 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last 32, but instead he has a winnable tie against Bolelli, the world No. 132 who only qualified for the tournament as a lucky loser, defeating Tatsuma Ito in the first round before shocking Kohlschreiber.
Nishikori, whose best run at a Grand Slam came in 2012 when he reached the Australian Open quarterfinals, has lost in the Wimbledon third round for the last two years.
But his pre-Wimbledon grasscourt practice sessions with coach Michael Chang appear to be paying dividends already.
Following that intense training period with former French Open champion Chang, Nishikori reached the Halle semi-finals on grass.
He was never threatened by Ukraine-born Kudla, a 21-year-old who looked out of his depth as the Japanese star cruised to victory in 88 minutes on Court 18.
Asked if he feels ready to make a long run at Wimbledon, Nishikori’s upbeat response spoke volumes.
“Hopefully I can go win the next one and make a big jump here,” he said.
“It was almost a perfect game for me. I was able to break his serve early in each set and that meant I could relax. I was able to attack his ground strokes. Also I returned well today.
“He didn’t have a big serve, so I was able to put some pressure on his service game. Everything worked well today.”
Two years after being knocked out in the second round of Wimbledon by Lukas Rosol, Rafael Nadal found himself one point away from falling behind two sets to love to the same player on the same Centre Court in the same round.
It looked like another huge upset was in the making.
But the Spaniard ripped a forehand winner to erase the set point and Rosol double-faulted two points later to give Nadal the set. With that sudden shift in momentum, Nadal rallied for a 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-4 victory that sent him into the third round at the All England Club.
“The difference maybe is one point,” the two-time champion said. “Maybe if I lose that set point in the second set, if that forehand down the line went out, maybe (I) will be here with a loss.
“But that’s the sport. That forehand was a perfect forehand for that moment.”
Things were much easier for seven-time champion Roger Federer, who served 25 aces — including three in a row in the final game — to cruise past left-handed qualifier Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.