LONDON: Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Nick Kyrgios in a blockbuster clash at Wimbledon on Saturday, with the winner likely to be the main obstacle in Rafael Nadal’s path to the final.
Fourth seed Tsitsipas is the only other top-10 player left in Nadal’s side of the draw, while fiery Australian Kyrgios is a match for anybody on his day.
Tsitsipas’s confidence is sky-high after he clinched his first grass-court title in Mallorca last week and he now has an 8-2 record on the surface this season.
The Greek player is facing a man he has beaten just once in four matches.
Kyrgios, who came out on top when the two players met in Halle last month, has been making waves at Wimbledon on and off the court.
His opening win over Britain’s Paul Jubb was marred by his admission that he spat in the direction of fans, whom he accused of being disrespectful, and he also took aim at officials.
The 27-year-old, who was fined $10,000 over Tuesday’s incidents, has been also in a testy mood in his post-match press conferences but he remains bullish.
“I just feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin,” the 40th-ranked player said after his straight-sets win over Filip Krajinovic.
“Some people love to just tear me down. It’s just not possible anymore.”
Tsitsipas, who reached the fourth round in 2018, said he was “thrilled” to be facing Kyrgios, who beat Nadal on his way to the quarter-finals in 2014.
“I respect him a lot, on the court, what he’s trying to do,” he said. “Although he has been a little controversial in the past, I think he’s playing good tennis.”
A win for Kyrgios on Saturday will give him a season-leading 10th victory on grass this summer.
Second seed Nadal, chasing a calendar Grand Slam, is aware he has not yet hit the heights at the All England Club after two scrappy performances so far.
“I didn’t play much on grass in three years,” the 22-time Grand Slam winner said following his four-set win against Ricardas Berankis.
“It gives me the chance to keep going, so very happy for that.
“I need to improve. The fourth set was much better…. I have to keep working, be humble, even when things are not going well.”
Jenson Brooksby and Alex Molcan can make the last 16 for the first time when they face Cristian Garin and Taylor Fritz respectively.