Kei Nishikori – Lleyton Hewitt
Main selection: Kei Nishikori to BEAT Lleyton Hewitt @ 1.80 (4/5) Boylesports
Side bet: Total Sets – Five @ 3.50 (5/2) SkyBet
Those seeking some thrills-a-minute tennis should always keep tabs on former World Number 1, Lleyton Hewitt. The Aussie ace not only brings with him to these Championships a barmy following of fans from Down Under, but also a reputation for being one of biggest entertainers on a grass court – arguably his favourite surface.
At his peak, Hewitt was a menace. He would have given the likes of Djokovic, Federer, Murray and even Nadal a run for their money, that’s for certain.
We’re talking about a former US Open and Wimbledon champion here. More importantly, a proper character on the court, and that is why his personal following is huge.
If the Brits thought Andy Murray was a determined sort, they haven’t seen nothing yet. Hewitt is a true battler in every sense of the word, unquestionably the most dogged tennis player that I have ever seen. And that is why he remains a major threat each and every time he takes to the court, despite a lethal combination of age and injuries spoiling the twilight of a glittering career.
His last two to three years on the tour have been plagued by niggling injuries, but that hasn’t stopped the 30-year-old in his tracks – it will take a lot more to keep this particular Aussie down.
The ability which saw him clinch the 2002 Championship remains, but that sharpness in his play has dropped considerably, while there isn’t as much juice in those ground strokes any more. Nevertheless, he’s more than a match for most and should hand Japanese youngster Kei Nishikori a testing First Round encounter.
21-year-old Nishikori has nearly a decade on his opponent, so his fresher set of legs definitely give him the advantage – especially as reports suggest that Hewitt will require painkillers in order for him to even compete at this year’s grass court show-piece. Hence why every firm has the Japan Number 1 as favourite for this contest, and I wouldn’t disagree.
That said, he has yet to make it past the opening round at Wimbledon – failing miserably in 2008 & 2010 – but caught the eye in making the semi-finals at Eastbourne recently; a grass court tournament where he beat fellow Wimbledon 2011 competitors Rainer Schuettler and Radek Stepanek – two players who are similar to Hewitt in that they are definitely on the wane at 32 and 35-years-old respectively.
There are so many positive and negatives to weigh up… Nishikori clearly has more energy at nine-years Hewitt’s senior but the Aussie is a dogged sort who gives his all at the major events, in particular Wimbledon, where he loves to play his tennis and where he has pushed the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro and Novak Dokovic, beating the former in straight sets in 2009 but losing in four sets to Serbian Djokovic the following year.
I reckon this could be a cracker. The longer it goes on the more you would have to fancy the younger model, especially with Hewitt’s injury concerns, but I could never rule out the Aussie in most match-ups, particularly when his opponent isn’t all that great, if truth be told, but has a gigantic advantage in the conditioning department.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori is currently ranked 52 in the world, with his semi-final appearance at Nottingham last week – a grass court tournament – lifting him up seven places.
The 21-year-old’s best display at a major was reaching the Fourth Round at the 2008 US Open. He has never bypassed the opening round in two previous Wimbledon appearances.
A former World Number 1, Lleyton Hewitt has dropped down to 130 in the world, retiring through injury in his last event.
Grass is arguably the Aussie’s best surface, with the 30-year-old a former Wimbledon champion back in 2002.