A wound-up Rafael Nadal managed to unravel Nick Kyrgios in a confusing, wild, but brilliant Wimbledon drama

Rafael Nadal. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
  • A wound-up, sweaty, Rafael Nadal just beat an angry Nick Kyrgios in the second round of the Wimbledon Championships.
  • The match had all the makings of a blockbuster and it did not disappoint, as Nadal needed four sets to swat Kyrgios aside after months of heated back-and-forth between the two competitors.
  • Kyrgios swore numerous times, looked flustered, but still gave Nadal a good match as Centre Court was treated to brilliant entertainment under the London sun on Thursday.
  • Nadal, who called Kyrgios a potential future Grand Slam winner after his win, advances into Saturday’s third round.
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A wound-up Rafael Nadal managed to unravel then best Nick Kyrgios in the second round of a wild, four-set thriller at the Wimbledon Championships on Thursday.

There was plenty of sweat, spite, and even a swear word or two on Centre Court as Nadal and Kyrgios reopened their bitter rivalry, one that has only been heightened of late as the pair exchanged unpleasantries throughout recent months.

Kyrgios even said this week that while he doesn’t even know Nadal all too well, he would unlikely share a beer with the Spaniard at the nearby pub the Dog & Fox. Kyrgios was reportedly at that very pub late on Wednesday, as he was holding court with friends, fans, and reporters, “chatting with girls, drinking,” despite a blockbuster bout the next day.

Thursday’s match was always going to be edgy encounter but, after three hours of entertainment, it was also one that showed brilliant tennis as the emotion brought close to the best that both competitors could offer.

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The first game in the very first set highlighted the contrast of Nadal, who thrives on preparation, routine, and tics – touching his nose, his hair, maybe even his nose again before each and every serve – and Kyrgios, who, let’s face it, probably doesn’t even know what he’s going to do, before he goes and does it.

Nadal stormed into a two game lead to love as the Spaniard broke the sluggish Australian. He served well, winning a high percentage of his first serve points, but it was Kyrgios who hit one of the shots of the set – an outrageous underarm ace, something that has become his trademark.

Watch it here:

Nadal, though perhaps seething at the audacity of the underarm serving, stayed cool as the London sun beat down on his sweating, bronzing neck, managing to see out the opening set 6-3. He then went for a toilet break while Kyrgios could be heard remonstrating with the chair umpire. “He takes 40 seconds between every serve,” he said, adding: “It’s bulls— … he just f—— does what he wants.”

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The match livened up further in the second set as Kyrgios cleared his head, showed precision in his play, and sent balls down the court that flirted with the lines. Finally, Kyrgios had his moment – he broke Nadal, 2-0. Kyrgios then went 3-1, 4-1, but started riling a crowd that had otherwise been supportive. The reason? His countless underarm serves. One underarm fine, but Wimbledon seemed to loathe the relentless showboating.

Nick Kyrgios, showboating
Nick Kyrgios entertains himself. Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Kyrgios once again could be heard arguing with the umpire later in the match, but pulled himself back from losing his head completely – something he has a long history of, recently walking off the Italian Open court mid-match, disqualifying himself, just months ago. He channeled his anger by ramming 100 mile per hour winners at Nadal, served for the set, and won 6-3. He was back in the game, one set apiece.

But later in the third, Kyrgios couldn’t help but call the chair umpire “a disgrace” after he lost a disputed point. “You’re a joke … nobody in the scheme of things,” he said, adding that he was also “nobody important.”

Kyrgios, who hit pointless tweeners into the net in his first round win against Jordan Thompson, was up to his old tricks against Nadal, hitting a shot between his legs when he was serving with three game points, only to lose two in a row to go 40-30, before eventually winning the game.

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The 24-year-old’s theatrics had a clear effect on Nadal who, after having a 100 mph ball whacked at him late in the third, could not hold back his emotion when he won a tie break to go 7-6, two sets to one.

The thumping power of Kyrgios gave him a fighting chance of restoring parity in the fourth set but Nadal showed forehand winners, a veteran’s accuracy, and a champion’s clutch to stay ahead of his rival, beating him on a tie break without a need for a fifth. And boy, did he enjoy the win.

Watch Nadal’s winning point here:

Speaking to the BBC after, Nadal said Kyrgios is a “tough opponent, of course,” adding: “As I said yesterday, when he wants to compete, well, he’s one of the toughest opponents you can face. Against me and the top guys, he wants to try hard.”

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On the pre-match build-up and Kyrgios’ comments to the chair umpire, Nadal said: “I have been aware of everything. I don’t want to comment on this. Right now, it’s 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. If he can forget about all the stuff, potentially he is a Grand Slam winner.”

Nadal advances into into Saturday’s third round, where he faces the French player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.