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Kyrgios On Nadal Clash At Wimbledon: 'You Want To Play The Best Players'
Aussie seeks second victory over Nadal at The All England Club
It’s no secret that Nick Kyrgios likes facing big players on big courts. After a five-set opening-round win on Tuesday over fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson, he earned the right to face two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in a match where all eyes will be on him.
But while some players might be disappointed to meet the World No. 2 early in a tournament, Kyrgios said he relishes the opportunity.
“As soon as the draw came out, I was super happy that I saw him in my section. It’s more exciting,” said Kyrgios. “When you're a kid, you want to play the best players in the world on [what] I think is the best court in the world. This is something that I can't take for granted. There's no guarantee I'm going to be here again in this position. I’m going to grasp it with both hands, go out there and give it my best shot.”
But given his 11-9 record this season, he knew better than to look past Thompson. Kyrgios arrived at the All England Club with a title run this March in Acapulco that included wins over Nadal, John Isner and Alexander Zverev in the championship match. But the Aussie has gone 4-6 since then and required more than three hours against Thompson to pick up his first five-set victory Wimbledon 2016 (d. Brown).
“I knew that Thommo has been playing very well. He was more than capable of winning today,” said Kyrgios. “There were a couple moments that if they went his way, he could have easily been the one in this chair.”
Kyrgios and Nadal are even in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry at 3-3, but the Aussie won their most recent clash this year by saving three match points in an epic second-round battle in Acapulco. Four of their six previous matches have taken place before the quarter-final stage, when the Spaniard is arguably more vulnerable before he sinks his teeth into the business end of tournaments.
The 24-year-old also prevailed in their lone grass-court meeting five years ago at Wimbledon. A teenage Kyrgios made full use of his wild card by shocking Nadal in the fourth round. The win made him the first male debutant to reach the quarter-finals at this event since Florian Mayer in 2004 and it remains one of his fondest memories.
Read More: Great Wild Card Runs At SW19
“I've looked back on that moment. That's never going to leave my tennis career,” said Kyrgios. “It was one of the most special moments I've ever had.”
Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon 2014
Despite his previous success against Nadal, the Aussie is downplaying expectations for another major upset. He declared the Spaniard the favourite based on his track record of success and said anything less than his best tennis would result in defeat. But given his love for the spotlight, it's safe to say that win or lose, Kyrgios will put on a show.
“He's one of the greatest tennis players of all time. I go into that match as an unbelievable underdog. I know if I play the right type of tennis, I can have success against him,” said Kyrgios. “I have to come with the right attitude and be willing to fight. If not, it's going to be butter for him… I need to rest and recover. I have a day out, then I want to go out there and have some fun.”
Nick Kyrgios v Rafael Nadal: The grudge match with an actual grudge?
Rivalries in sport are more often than not, just that - sporting rivalries.
Off the field of play, athletes are civil, courteous and even in some cases, mates.
However, the antagonism between 18-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal and the so-called "bad boy of tennis", Nick Kyrgios, seems to go a little deeper.
The pair will face each other in the second round at Wimbledon on Thursday in the must-watch tie of the men's draw so far (and the third match on Centre Court).
But where did the rivalry come from, and why do these men really not get on?
Back in 2014 at Wimbledon, Nadal faced the fresh-faced and a little gangly 19-year-old Kyrgios in the last 16.
The Australian was already gaining his 'swaggering showman' reputation and had earned a wildcard spot at the tournament.
Ranked 144 in the world, Kyrgios stunned the Centre Court crowd hitting a staggering 37 aces, and became the first man outside the top 100 to beat a world number one at a Grand Slam since 1992.
Watch Nick Kyrgios's 'shot of the year'
The Aussie even pulled off the precocious 'hot-dog' lob, on his way to defeating Nadal 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.
Now, we may be making assumptions here, but that particular move - humiliating the great Nadal, and showing little regard for his then 14 Grand Slam titles - was perhaps what set off the chain reaction for their future rivalry.
After bursting onto the scene in that entertaining style, Kyrgios has faced Nadal five times since.
The wins have been shared equally between the two men but controversy just keeps on coming.
A Mexican stand-off
The latest was down in Acapulco in February 2019, where Nadal was incensed by Kyrgios' cheeky underarm serving.
After their second-round match at the Mexico Open, in which Kyrgios beat Nadal 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, Nadal accused Kyrgios of lacking respect.
"He is a player who has enormous talent," said Nadal having played his part in what appeared to be a frosty handshake with his opponent at the net.
"He could win grand slams and fight the top positions of the ranking, but there is a reason why he is where he is [then at a world ranking of No. 72]."
"Don't doubt yourself, there are plenty of people who will do that for you. I can smell the blood when I play this dude", he wrote.
During a 'No Challenges Remaining' podcast interview published a few weeks later, Kyrgios also had this to say about the two-time Wimbledon winner:
"He's my polar opposite. Literally my polar opposite. And he's super salty.
"When he wins it's fine, he won't say anything bad, he'll credit the opponent - 'he competed well today, he's a great player' - but then as soon as I beat him, it's just like 'he has no respect for me, my fans and no respect to the game'. I'm like 'what are you talking about? I literally played this way that I beat you the other previous times and nothing changed'."
Nobody can argue the players have opposing temperaments - Nadal's measured, clinical and perfectionist ways seem the polar opposite to Kyrgios' unpredictability - not to mention his trademark short fuse.
Already in 2019, Kyrgios has had to hand over a few chunks of his earnings in the form of fines.
During the second round of the Italian Open, he was in the deciding set when he was given a game penalty, reportedly for swearing.
Kyrgios had a heated discussion with the chair umpire at Queens, suggesting his hat looked "ridiculous".
He then kicked a bottle, threw down his racquet, hurled a chair on the court, picked up his bag and walked off.
He was fined 20,000 euros (£17,461) for unsportsmanlike conduct and also lost his prize money.
Just a few weeks ago at Queens Club, he was once again fined £13,766 ($17,500) for unsportsmanlike conduct.
He accused a line judge of "rigging the game" and mocked the chair umpire for his headgear.
"It's a joke, man. It's a serious joke," he said. "Like your hat looks ridiculous, also. It's not even sunny."
Kyrgios told the press he had been looking forward to this match-up since the draw was made last week.
"I was super happy that I saw him in my section. When you're a kid, you want to play the best players in the world on the best court in the world."
Nadal however, was a little less than pleased with the All England Club's draw policy, which takes into account player's performances on grass, as opposed to following the world rankings.
The world number two, who is seeded third behind Roger Federer (world number three), has said it "doesn't seem fair" as it means he has a tougher run to the final.
No love lost between these two? Nadal last beat Kyrgios in the final of the Beijing Open in 2017.
Asked in his post-match news conference on Tuesday, if he had a "good relationship" with Nadal, Kyrgios said: "Uhm, not sure that me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox (a pub in Wimbledon Village) and have a beer together."
"I don't know him at all. I know him as a tennis player. I just don't - no, I don't know him very well."
Asked if he found it easier to talk to other players on tour, he added: "Yeah, 100%. That's just how it is. I get along with people, some people I don't get along with. We have a mutual respect and that's about it I think."
We will have to wait and see how "mutual" that is when they face each other on Thursday.
Last edited by Grossefavourite on Jul Thu 04, 2019 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wimbledon 2019: Rafael Nadal beats irate Nick Kyrgios in entertaining clash
Rafael Nadal allowed the tennis to do the talking against an irate Nick Kyrgios, who twice served underarm, to progress to the Wimbledon third round.
Australian Kyrgios spent much of the match audibly questioning Nadal's speed of play as the world number two prevailed 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3).
His constant arguing saw him handed an official warning by the chair umpire, who he later called a "disgrace".
Nadal will play Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round.
"He was a tough opponent," Nadal told BBC TV. "When he wants to compete, he's one of the toughest opponents you can face.
"It was an important victory for me, sometimes it's tough to see a couple of things on court. It's amazing how good he is able to play, so if he is able to forget all these things, he's potentially a Grand Slam winner."
Victory was two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal's 50th match win at the All England Club.
Kyrgios frequently remonstrated with the chair umpire
It started at a canter for 18-time Grand Slam champion Nadal, holding to love in the opening game before immediately breaking Kyrgios who had already failed to pull off a "hot dog" lob between his legs.
Barely 15 minutes had been played when Kyrgios, who had been spotted in a local pub after 23:00 BST on Wednesday, started to show signs of discontent, telling the chair umpire he had been ignored after requesting a challenge.
He then started to complain about Nadal's speed of play, indicating the Spaniard was not ready when he was preparing to serve.
"Why am I waiting to serve?" he asked, before soon asking the same question in the direction of his box.
And he then sealed his third game with an underarm serve, an action which had previously led to Nadal accusing him of lacking respect.
As Nadal took a comfort break at the end of the first set, Kyrgios making his feelings known with an almost constant shaking of the head.
"I'm serving next and he chooses to go now?" he asked the umpire.
He was the first to go a break up in the second set, firing a stunning forehand winner down the line on break point, before then saving two break points, the first with a deft drop shot, to go 3-0 ahead.
He pulled out another underarm serve, this time read by Nadal, but unlike the first, it was met by boos from the crowd as he extended his lead at 4-1.
Wimbledon 2019: Nick Kyrgios does signature underarm serve against Rafael Nadal
Kyrgios - who frequently spat on the hallowed Centre Court turf - was then broken to love by Nadal, after which he engaged in a rant at the chair umpire which ended in him being handed an official warning.
"Feels good up there with all that power does it?" he said, before breaking Nadal once more and serving out the set.
That argument continued into the third set, with Kyrgios telling the chair umpire he had "no idea" as Nadal passed the time juggling the ball from foot to foot.
At 4-4, Kyrgios unleashed a forehand directly at Nadal's body, leaving the two-time Wimbledon champion glaring at his opponent and, when a rattled Nadal sealed that game, he let out all his pent-up fury.
He went on to take the set on a tie-break, leaping into the air and releasing a barrage of Spanish, no doubt some colourful wording among it.
The fourth set went with the serve with Kyrgios uncharacteristically quiet, before Nadal dominated the tie-break to seal his spot in the third round.
Perhaps surprisingly, the two were amicable at the net as another chapter in their joint story came to an end.
Nick Kyrgios 'wanted to hit' Rafael Nadal with shot at Wimbledon
Nick Kyrgios insisted he had no need to apologise to Rafael Nadal despite blasting the ball at him at one point in their Wimbledon match.
"Why would I apologise? I won the point," said Kyrgios after his four-set second-round defeat. "I was going for him. I wanted to hit him.
"The dude has got how many Slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest."
Nadal managed to get his racquet in the way but said the shot was "dangerous".
"It is not dangerous for me, it is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for a crowd," the Spaniard said.
"When you hit the ball like this, you don't know where the ball goes.