Mikhail Kukushkin vs. (2) Rafael Nadal
With the early-round Wimbledon draw having suddenly opened up for Nadal, fans of the world No. 1 will not be quite as on edge as they were for opening tests against Martin Klizan and Lukas Rosol. Kukushkin–not Ivo Karlovic–awaits Nadal on Saturday and either Nick Kyrgios or Jiri Vesely–not Richard Gasquet or Gael Monfils–is a possible fourth-round opponent. Still, the two-time champion of this event will not have any kind of dip in focus after dropping first sets to both Klizan and Rosol. Nadal recovered both times and he is now 43-7 for the season, which includes a ninth career French Open title just a few weeks ago.
This will be the third career meeting between these to players. Both of their previous encounters have gone Nadal’s way in routine fashion; he prevailed 6-2, 6-3 four years ago in Bangkok and 6-1, 6-1 on the clay courts of Monte-Carlo in 2012. Kukushkin earned his place in the last 32 by taking out both Dudi Sela and Frank Dancevic in easy straight sets. Still, the 63rd-ranked Kazakh is a mere 8-18 at the ATP level this season. This is obviously a massive step up in competition and Kukushkin does not have the huge-hitting game like, for example, Rosol that has been known to trouble Nadal.
Pick: Nadal in 3 losing 11-14 games
Santiago Giraldo vs. (4) Roger Federer
Federer and Giraldo will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers on Saturday. Their only previous meeting came in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open, with Federer dominating 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. The Swiss is not quite in his prime three years later, but he is at least healthier and playing far better than he had been in 2011. With a 36-7 record this season, Federer suffered a tough fourth-round French Open loss to Ernests Gulbis but he won the Halle title and so far at the All-England Club has cruised past Paolo Lorenzi and Gilles Muller.
Giraldo crushed Daniel Gimeno-Traver in his opener then had a five-setter with Marcel Granollers carry over into Friday. The 35th-ranked Colombian finished off that match by winning the final set 7-5 to book his spot in the Wimbledon third round for the first time in five appearances (he previously had a 1-4 record at this event). With Giraldo likely fatigued and also playing on the worst possible surface for this matchup, Federer should have an especially routine day at the office.
Pick: Federer in 3 losing 8-10 games