ROGER Federer and Rafa Nadal took centre stage on the second day at Wimbledon as it seems they have since time immemorial. But if there was one man who really stole the show in South West London yesterday it was Nick Kyrgios.

The erratic, exuberant Australian doesn’t always hit the mark – some days his act wears more than a little thin – but you couldn’t quibble with the entertainment value this 24-year-old from Canberra served up in an absorbing-all Australian battle against Jordan Thompson over three-and-a-half absorbing hours on Court No.3 yesterday. This was like a throwback to the John McEnroe era, and not just because his opponent was sporting the kind of moustache not seen since Magnum PI or those 118 men.

In no particular order, Kyrgios’ highlight reel included a tweener into the tramlines as he won a first-set tie-break, an underarm serve when a set point up in the third – another point he ultimately lost. There was a jubilant half lap of the court back to his towel when setting up set point in the tie-break which he won 12-10, a fourth set which he lost 6-0 in just 18 minutes before recovering to take the decider 6-1. Both players received a warning from the umpire – Kygrios for hitting a ball in anger clean out of the stadium, Thompson for racket abuse – took issue with some poor line calls and weren’t too happy about a steward loudly telling people to get to their seats. But these junior doubles partners walked off arm in arm at the end of this 7-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6 (10), 0-6, 6-1 thriller.

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The time couldn’t be better for Kyrgios to play his way into form, considering who awaits in the next round. That man is Nadal, in a re-run of a famous 2014 last 16 match here. In fact, Kyrgios has won three of the pair’s six meetings, including their only meeting this year in Acapulco. There is no love lost between the pair, not least due to a recent interview claiming the Mallorcan is “super salty”, a legacy of comments from Nadal’s Uncle Toni that Kyrgios “lacks education”. Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, the bad blood makes for a popcorn match-up when the pair meet on Thursday.

“Um, I’m not sure that me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox and have a beer together,” said Kyrgios. “I don't know him at all. I know him as a tennis player. That's just how it is. I get along with people, some people I don't get along with. I mean, we have a mutual respect, but that's about it I think.

“I mean, I've looked back on that moment [2014]. That's never going to leave my tennis career. It was one of the most special moments I've ever had. I have to come with the right attitude, I have to be willing to fight. If not, it's going to be butter for him. But I can't wait. As soon as the draw came out, I was super happy that I saw him in my section.”

It takes more than trash talk to knock an 18-time Grand Slam winner out, of course, and Nadal was having none of it as he came through 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 against Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita. A bit like his great rival Roger Federer, the Spaniard was a tad sluggish to start, firing four unforced errors as he surrendered serve in his opening service game, then having to save two more break points to avoid a double break. But he gathered himself and ultimately had far too much about him to avoid becoming another of the fallers at this year’s Wimbledon, a group of disgruntled young guns which yesterday claimed Roland Garros runner-up and No.5 seed Dominic Thiem and much-hyped Canadian wonder kid Denis Shapovalov.

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“I’m too old for all this stuff, no?” said Nadal in response to Kyrgios’ comments. “Too many years on the tour.”

Federer’s start was even more sluggish, even surrendering his first set of the championships, the first he had dropped in the opening round here since 2010. As he admitted afterwards, it didn’t take him long to dig deep into his bag of tricks to find the solution to finish things off in a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 scoreline. Next up for him, Britain’s Jay Clarke.

“It was a combination of a few things,” said Federer of his misfiring start. “My legs weren’t moving and things weren’t happening. But with my experience I stayed calm. I know I have other things in my back that I can come up with, other tricks.”