Kei Nishikori won his 100th career Grand Slam match on Wednesday to ease into the second round at Wimbledon with a straight-sets victory over Australia’s Alexei Popyrin.
Nishikori, ranked 53rd in the world, needed just under two hours to defeat the No. 67 Australian. The 21-year-old Popyrin blasted 10 aces but failed to win a single break point in the 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 match.
“I was able to keep him under pressure even with my stroke play and grab the initiative. It went amazingly well,” said Nishikori, who was facing the 192-cm player for the first time.
Although he occasionally lost traction on the grass, Nishikori handled the low bounces off the fast surface and appeared to have little trouble with his forehand despite some anxiety about an old right wrist injury during a pre-tournament match.
“I felt almost no pain,” he said.
In other action on Wednesday, Andy Murray rolled back the years to stage a thrilling rally, while defending champion Novak Djokovic played almost flawless tennis to reach the third round for the 15th time.
Murray, the 2013 and 2016 champion, battled back to defeat German qualifier Oscar Otte 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 under the roof of Centre Court.
The British star, playing in the singles event for the first time since 2017, and ranked a lowly No. 118 after suffering hip and groin injuries, avoided what would have been his earliest exit from the tournament.
“What an atmosphere to play in at the end,” the 34-year-old Murray said after seeing off his 151st-ranked opponent.
“I needed everyone’s help tonight. I did a great job, played some top shots at the end but it was a tough match.”
Murray, who became the latest player to slip and fall on the Centre Court surface, will face Canadian No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov for a place in the last 16.
World No. 1 Djokovic, who is chasing his sixth Wimbledon and record-equaling 20th Grand Slam title, eased to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over 102nd-ranked Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
He fell on at least five occasions on Centre Court, one day after Serena Williams suffered a tearful, tournament-ending injury due to similar slips.
Djokovic, 34, cruised to victory over the man he defeated in the 2018 final without facing a single break point and committing just six unforced errors.
“I have a nice connection with the crowd,” said Djokovic.
“I also seem to be having a really nice connection with the grass. I don’t recall falling so much in the first two matches at Wimbledon.”
Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios, ranked 60th, but a quarterfinalist in his debut in 2014, won his first match since the Australian Open in February, defeating French No. 21 seed Ugo Humbert before declaring: “Not bad for a part-time player”.
Kyrgios triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 9-7 in a match held over from Tuesday evening when the final set was level at 3-3.
“Ugo is an incredible kid and I knew I was a massive underdog,” Kyrgios said after firing 23 aces and 51 winners past the Halle champion.
Kyrgios also shrugged off an ugly-looking fall in the 13th game of the final set when his right knee buckled beneath him.
On Tuesday, he was overheard muttering that Court One was “a joke.”
As the tournament played catch-up after two days hit by rain, recriminations continued over the state of the All England Club courts.
Williams said she was “heartbroken” to have had to withdraw as her pursuit of Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles was thwarted again.
Her fall came not long after French player Adrian Mannarino slipped and hurt himself on the same part of Centre Court on Tuesday.
He too had to retire with his match against Roger Federer with their match level at two sets apiece.
Despite the criticism, the All England Club insisted the courts are up to standard.
“The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years,” the club said in a statement.
“The grass plant is at its most lush and green, which does result in additional moisture on what is a natural surface.”
Fourth seed Sofia Kenin was knocked out in the second round, losing 6-2, 6-4 to fellow American Madison Brengle.
Kenin was undone by 41 unforced errors as the 82nd-ranked Brengle claimed her first top 10 win in four years.
Fifth-seeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada was also eliminated, losing 6-2, 6-1 against France’s Alize Cornet in the first round.
Andreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, has yet to win a main draw match at Wimbledon, having lost in the first round as a qualifier in 2017.
Italian No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini, the champion at Queen’s and tipped to go deep at Wimbledon, edged Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.
Spanish wildcard Carlos Alcaraz, the youngest player in the men’s draw, marked his debut by defeating Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
The 18-year-old faces Russian No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev for place in the last 32.
Belarus No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka defeated 219th-ranked British wild card Katie Boulter, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to make the third round.
Ukraine No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina, a semifinalist in 2018, beat Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Venus Williams, the 41-year-old five-time winner, was beaten in the second round by Ons Jabuer in straight sets.
Jabeur is the first Tunisian woman ever to reach the third round at Wimbledon.
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