Opinions are divided on Nick Kyrgios. For some, the Australian is an incorrigible tennis bully who has no place in this sport. For the others, he is a player who has his own mind, doesn’t put up with anything and stands out from the crowd of model professionals. There’s also the self-image of the 27-year-old Canberra man: “None of you know me a bit. You guys don’t hang out with me,” he said at one of his always entertaining press conferences at Wimbledon. And added with a grin: “You would have a lot of fun with that.”
For a player who is currently 40th in the world rankings, has never been in the top ten and has reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at Wimbledon, the interest is enormous. Of course, there are the usual suspects Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, for the British their hopeful Cameron Norrie is added. But Nick Kyrgios is responsible for the big headlines at this tournament.
There was the controversial third round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, in which emotions ran so high that both players were not far from disqualification and continued their duel even after the last ball. “He was probably a bully at school. I don’t like tyrants. I don’t like people who put other people down. That has to stop. Someone has to sit down and talk to him,” Tsitsipas demanded and attested to Kyrgios “a very bad side.” Kyrgios, in turn, called the Greek “soft” and told him to first find out, “like he did me a few times can hit.”
In Wimbledon, no one managed to do that, also because Kyrgios had himself and his emotions well under control in the round of 16 and quarterfinals. It wasn’t even enough for fun kicks through the legs or a serve from below against Chilean Cristian Garin on Wednesday. “I like doing it very much, but I just couldn’t afford such blows this time,” he said.
Kyrgios obviously saw his chance in this Wimbledon tournament. Even before the start, he had explained to his team: “I’m going there to lift the trophy.” What sounded like megalomania typical of Kyrgios now turns out to be a realistic possibility. His game with the powerful serve and the power forehand is made for the game on grass. In 2014, his star rose at Wimbledon when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the round of 16.
He will now meet the Spaniard again on Friday if he is fit enough after his abdominal muscle injury from the match against Taylor Fritz. It would be a match that, according to Kyrgios, would make viewers “mouth water” and would be “probably the most watched match of all time”.
Kyrgios has had one or two arguments with Nadal in the past. The 22-time major champion once accused the Australian of a lack of attitude and indirectly spoke of wasted talent.
“We are two completely different personalities. But I think we respect each other like hell,” Kyrgios said and was forgiving. In fact, despite all the outbursts on the pitch, he seems to have matured significantly. Instead of partying like he used to, he now mainly rests between matches. “I think I’ve grown up,” he said, recalling earlier times when he was taken out of the pub by his agent at 4 a.m. before a Nadal match.
This time his focus is almost entirely on tennis. Not so long ago he had talked about mental problems and possibly even ending his career. “I had lost the love, the fire, the spark. But then a few things in my life changed and that’s how I found out that there are a lot of people who want me to play. I still have a lot in the tank,” he said, speaking of never having played tennis so well in his career.
In order for him to be able to do that in the semifinals and possibly in the final, however, he has to ignore things that are waiting for him in his home country. There is a court date for him soon. It’s about an incident “related to a domestic relationship,” as his lawyer said. Kyrgios himself did not want to comment on this at Wimbledon. One thing is clear: the Australian will probably never be about sport alone. Because that’s what he wants himself – and because a quiet life wouldn’t suit him at all.