Kei Nishikori whips Cameron Norrie, moves into third round at Wimbledon

Kyodo, AP

World No. 7 Kei Nishikori advanced to the third round at Wimbledon for the fourth straight year with a straight-sets victory over Cameron Norrie on Thursday.

Nishikori, the eighth seed, took apart the 55th-ranked Briton, who had reached the second round at his home Grand Slam for the first time, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 in 1 hour, 48 minutes.

“I had a good feel for things and went into the match with confidence,” Nishikori said. “As I made my way to Centre Court, I could feel more and more motivated.

“My final set was perfect. My service game was good and allowed me to attack his shallow returns.”

Although the left-handed Norrie converted both of his break points and had the match’s first break when he went up 4-2 in the first set, Nishikori broke back immediately, held serve and then won a marathon ninth game to break and take the lead before serving out the first set.

Neither player could hold serve in the second set until Nishikori held with a love game in the fourth to go 3-1 up and never looked back.

Nishikori had his best result here last year, when he reached the quarterfinals for the first time, and has now reached that stage in four straight Grand Slams.

In other action, Rafael Nadal was up near the Centre Court net when Nick Kyrgios smacked a booming forehand directly at the guy’s midsection — right at him, on purpose — and earned a lengthy staredown in return.

Kyrgios didn’t apologize, at the time or at his news conference — for that or for berating the chair umpire or for spending time at a local pub the night before the match.

Rarely does Kyrgios offer regrets, for much of anything. Instead, he tends to double down. He is nothing if not fascinating. He is talented, too. And yet it was Nadal who emerged from all of the tumult Thursday to beat Kyrgios 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3) in a second-round match boasting plenty of dramatics, a dose of animosity and delightful play by both men.

“I’m always willing to go out there and try and put on a show. I know people that bought a ticket today probably had a great day,” said Kyrgios, a 24-year-old Australian who is ranked 43rd. “At times today, I was looking around: This is Wimbledon, playing Rafa. . . . But I’ll probably wake up tomorrow (and) there will be something negative about it, for sure.”

Kyrgios is capable of being as entertaining and befuddling a player as there is and showed why throughout this three-hour plus contest that overshadowed everything else going on around the grass-court Grand Slam tournament on Day 4.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber was upset by Lauren Davis, an American who lost in qualifying but got into the main draw when someone else withdrew. Seven-time champion Serena Williams needed a comeback to win in three sets against an 18-year-old qualifier.

Williams’ partner for mixed doubles, two-time Wimbledon singles winner Andy Murray, won his first-round match in men’s doubles as he returned to the tournament for the first time in two years following two hip operations. Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open runner-up and a fan favorite, played what he says will be the last match of his career. Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion and a 2017 Wimbledon finalist, lost, too.

None of that really mattered, in the end.

Everything was rendered secondary to Nadal vs. Kyrgios.

Part of that is because a 19-year-old Kyrgios beat then-No. 1 Nadal at the All England Club in 2014.

Part of that is because they traded barbs away from the court recently in a spat that also involved Nadal’s uncle, Toni.

In the run-up to this meeting, Kyrgios joked that he didn’t think “me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox and have a beer together,” referring to a nearby bar where Kyrgios was spotted Wednesday night. The 33-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, observed that he was “too old for all this stuff.”

They could hardly be more different, something Kyrgios underlined after he lost despite producing a 58-44 advantage in winners, including 29 aces —plus a pair that he hit with an underarm motion.

These two couldn’t even agree on whether Kyrgios is capable of winning major championships.

Nadal’s take? “With his talent and with his serve, he can win a Grand Slam, of course.”

And Kyrgios’ self-assessment? “I know what I’m capable of. Just depends. I’m a great tennis player, but I don’t do the other stuff. I’m not the most professional guy.”