Rafael Nadal faces his toughest test of the fortnight so far on Saturday, taking on the young Australian Alex De Minaur for a spot in the last 16. It would be just his third fourth round in six attempts should he win, having suffered a number of surprise losses early at Wimbledon in years gone by. Nadal will also secure the No.1 spot in the rankings with victory, even if Federer defends his title.
De Minaur is a former boys finalist, having lost back in 2016 to Denis Shapovalov. The Australian has begun to make waves on the tour and was originally awarded a wildcard for the tournament only for his ranking to eventually get him in directly. He made back-to-back Challenger finals in Surbiton and Nottingham, losing the former but winning the latter to move him into the top 80. In making the third round here, he won four setters over Pierre Hugues Herbert and French Open semi finalist Marco Cecchinato.
Nadal has had little trouble through two rounds, beating Dudi Sela and Eastbourne semi-finalist Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets to make it this far. The only drama in his round two victory over Kukushkin came in the form of the several time violations he received throughout the match. He had hinted at conditions turning in his favour after his second round victory and may be hard to stop before the final unless Juan Martin Del Potro is firing on all cylinders in their potential quarter final meeting.
Whether he can trouble Nadal is doubtful but this match offers De Minaur the opportunity to test himself at the highest level and should be a good experience for a player on the up.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets