Love him or loathe him, Nick Kyrgios is the talk of the town… nobody can afford to take their eyes off the utterly compelling Australian and it is a huge uplift for Wimbledon that he is around for the second week of tournament
- Nick Kyrgios beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (9-7) on Saturday night
- In a highly charged match both players were given warnings from the umpire
- Kyrgios has been compelling at SW19 so far and faces Brandon Nakashima next
- Kyrgios could meet Rafa Nadal, on course for a calendar slam, in the semi finals
A bully with an evil side, a tortured and underachieving genius, someone grievously misunderstood, or a mix of all three.
The debate was raging around the All England Club in the wake of Saturday evening’s pulsating third-round clash, with both Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas lucky to still be on court by the end of it.
One aspect is beyond argument: this was among the best first-week matches ever seen at Wimbledon. Not just for the controversy and drama but the astounding level of play at times.
Tennis fans are split over whether Nick Kyrgios is good for the sport or should be disciplined
The 27-year-old is known for his bad temper insisting at one point that Tsitsipas be defaulted
What an uplift for the tournament, in a year of no Russians and no ranking points, that the utterly compelling Kyrgios is around for the second week.
Those of a sensitive disposition might disagree, but nobody can afford to take their eyes off the 27-year-old Australian. That will be the case again on Monday when he takes on world No 56, Brandon Nakashima from California first up on Centre Court.
Everyone in tennis has their varied experience of Kyrgios. One of my most intriguing came five years ago when I was invited to his rented house by Wimbledon Common for an interview.
Him being unexpectedly delayed, I sat with his mother Nill, who was charming, and discussed over a cup of tea how her son had unexpectedly transformed from a chubby young boy into a professional athlete with natural gifts.
Eventually the front door swung open with a cheery, ‘Hello Mum’. It was more like a wholesome scene from Neighbours than the arrival of the Prince of Darkness.
Nill is back in Australia, although his father Giorgos is in town and also his sister Halimah, a singer and actress who has featured in the Australian version of The Voice.
Saturday’s match saw several talking points despite being highly entertaining
His brother Christos became a father last week, and maybe this is the tournament when new uncle Nick finally fulfils his potential.
So far he has fallen way short of that, and it is probably the fear of not translating his ability into trophies which, partially, explains some of his outbursts. He has spoken of mental health issues which extended to self-harming during a bleak period in 2019.
Kyrgios has a very likeable side — Andy Murray is a friend and the Scot’s antennae for people is pretty good — but there is no excusing the Australian’s excesses, such as his foul language on court and rudeness to officials.
There is also a resort to victimhood which can be unappealing, although this is one of the many contradictions in his character and career.
Kyrgios has a very likeable side — Andy Murray is a friend and his antennae for people is good
For one of its facets on court is that he does not yield to the top players in the way that many of his peers do. Too often against the Big Three of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic opponents have accepted their fate, and later spoken of the honour to have shared the court with them.
Kyrgios prefers to get in their grill, and in his current determined frame of mind there was no way he was going to let world No 5 Tsitsipas settle.
The Greek, like the great trio, prefers to play a match on orderly terms, rather than have any distractions at the other end. Few enjoy the deliberately high tempo which sees Kyrgios launch his thunderbolt serves in quick succession.
His refusal to defer partly explains why he owns a 2-0 record over Djokovic and has beaten Nadal three times in nine meetings. Little else in his career suggests he should get that close to them.
His refusal to defer partly explains why he has beaten Rafa Nadal three times in nine meetings
Sometimes overlooked is the fact that he beat the Spaniard at Wimbledon aged just 19. That should have been a signpost to future great deeds but has not proved to be the case.
The most delicious prospect of this whole coming week is that he makes Friday’s scheduled semi-final against Nadal, with the second seed unbeaten at the Grand Slams this season.
The French Open champion will probably be hoping that Kyrgios implodes by then, and it may well happen. More prosaically, he may not be fit enough to last two weeks.
He is already carrying the heaviest fine of Wimbledon so far — for spitting towards a spectator after an unnecessary squabble — and there will be another on the way once the events of Saturday night are examined.
He is already carrying the heaviest fine of Wimbledon so far — for spitting towards a spectator
Yet if he holds it together then everyone will be treated to the sight of more electric shotmaking, delivered by that loose arm that can impart extraordinary power with the briefest swish.
Nakashima is a solid all-rounder who has beaten another flashy opponent already this fortnight in Denis Shapovalov, but he does not have the same weapons.
The most boring thing about Kyrgios has been the repeat narrative of him creating drama without having the results to authenticate his talent.
Change that, and he will escape the label of being a circus act.
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