Day four of Wimbledon did not quite produce the upsets or classic matches the competition craves, but still proved tantalisingly entertaining – and perfect for several Brits.
The evening match between number three seed Rafael Nadal and Aussie wild boy Nick Kyrgios had all the ingredients to produce that marquee moment: A famous previous defeat for double Wimbledon winner Nadal five years ago when he was number one in the world and a 19-year-old Kyrgios was ranked 144. Then there was the barely-concealed enmity between the two which polarised an enthralled Centre Court crowd.
It so nearly touched the heights of a genuine classic because Kyrgios, so often careless and lacking in focus in some of his matches, looked as if he really wanted to beat the man he calls his ‘polar opposite.’
Yes, there was still the odd hot-dog shot and some underarm serving. Typically there was a code of conduct violation too after a spat with the umpire (isn’t there always where Kyrgios is concerned?). But there was still purpose and far less of the wayward, haphazard play that often undermines this uncommonly talented player.
Unfortunately for him, Nadal’s heckles also seemed have been raised by the presence of the man across the net. There were punches into the air and leaps of joy at key moments in the match and more than once he turned to exhort the crowd into giving him even greater backing, which they willingly did.
Kyrgios rallied well after quickly being broken and dropping the first set 6-3. He hit back in kind, holding on after making an early break in the second set to level it at 6-3.
After that, it was a war of attrition, with neither man yielding. Both served ferociously and accurately to ensure there would be no breaks of serve.
It meant tie breaks in both the third and fourth sets and both times, Nadal found the extra punch to claim the set. A match which was begging for a fifth stanza suffered something of an anti-climax, albeit after a highly watchable three hours and four minutes.
No upset then, and none on Court One either, where Jay Clarke’s moment in the sun gave way to the cold reality of playing eight-times champion Roger Federer in uncompromising mode.
Clarke was swept aside 6-1 in the opening set, but settled down to enjoy some good moments in the second set, serving impressively. He took it all the way to a tie break before finally being edged out and that was that. Federer wrapped it up 6-2 in the third.
Clarke, only 20, knows he will have chances again and can use his experience at SW19 to lift himself above his current world ranking of 169.
No shock in Serena Williams’ clash with Slovakian Kaja Juvan either, as the seven times singles winner at Wimbledon recovered to win after dropping the opening set.
And no shock on Centre at the start of the day, when experienced number eight seed Kei Nishikori brushed aside a game Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4, 6-0. Norrie’s first round win had been his first triumph on the immaculate lawns of SW19 but he did not have the guile to unsettle his Japanese opponent.
Johanna Konta was one of three Brits advancing to the third round. The number 19 seed beat Czech Katerina Siniakova in straight sets on Centre Court, but her routine win was eclipsed by the excellent display from Harriet Dart on Court 12, who overcame Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-6, 3-6, 6-1 to earn a match-up with number one seed Ashleigh Barty in the next round.
And Dan Evans has a date with Joao Sousa of Portugal to look forward to after beating the conqueror of James Ward, Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6.
At the close of the day, Andy Murray’s first appearance for two years delighted a lingering Court One crowd. And it ended well as he and doubles partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France beat Marius Copil and Ugo Humbert in four sets.