Roger Federer described him as a ‘clown’, Rafael Nadal once accused him of disrespect and, on an unforgettable Saturday night at Wimbledon, Stefanos Tsitsipas called him ‘evil’ and a ‘tyrant’ “.
Love him or hate him, Nick Kyrgios is set to become Wimbledon’s most controversial champion.
The 27-year-old Australian made the last 16 after a heated encounter against Tsitsipas as Wimbledon’s normally distinguished Court One witnessed the tennis equivalent of a street brawl.
Both players have collected code violations. Kyrgios demanded the Greek be sacked for kicking the ball into the crowd. At one point he refused to continue playing.
Tsitsipas admitted deliberately trying to hit the Australian with the ball to close the ‘circus’. The Greek fell for Kyrgios’ trap, blinked first and after three hours and 17 minutes he was out of the tournament.
For Kyrgios, it was another impressive scalp. Whether the antics, conversations and constant complaining are tactical or not, his stats are impressive.
He has a winning record against four of the top five in the world. Third-ranked Novak Djokovic, a potential final opponent at Wimbledon, has lost both times he has faced the Australian. The Serb didn’t even claim a set.
Against world number one Daniil Medvedev, Kyrgios’ record is two wins and one loss. Kyrgios is 4-3 against second-placed Alexander Zverev and after Saturday sits 4-1 in his rivalry with world number five Tsitsipas.
Interestingly, frosty Nadal and Federer have impressive numbers.
World number four Nadal, who could be a semi-final rival, has won six of his nine matches against the unstable Australian. Federer was barely troubled, enjoying a 6-1 advantage.
Kyrgios burst onto the scene in 2014 when he stunned Nadal at Wimbledon despite his lowly ranking of 144. He hit 30 aces and 77 winners to advance to the quarter-finals.
A newspaper described him as the man with the “golden arm”. American legend John McEnroe said: “I think we’ve found the next player in men’s football.”
Since then, however, Kyrgios’ story has been a cocktail of unrealized potential, on-field controversy and fines. He was previously disciplined for making a lewd comment about a girlfriend of three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka.
Another fine came after he was accused of lack of effort in Shanghai in 2016. At the Italian Open in 2019, he threw a chair onto the court during an angry rant.
Three years ago, he was fined $25,000 and given a 16-week suspended ban after a rude racket outburst in Cincinnati.
He then aggravated the charges by accusing the ATP of being “corrupt”. In an interview last month, he estimated his career fines were around $550,000.
After the first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday, he was still $10,000 worse off for describing a linesman as a “snitch” and for admitting to spitting in the direction of fans.
Kyrgios claims he is not getting the respect he deserves and has shown fighting spirit in his three post-match press conferences at Wimbledon so far.
I do not care
Sporting an image of NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman on his sweatshirt, he countered Tsitsipas’ accusations by claiming the Greek was too ‘soft’.
“I was just going there and competing at Wimbledon, and I did it. It was successful. Everything I did worked. I’m not going there to be his friend,” he said. said Kyrgios, who insists he is one of the most popular players in the dressing room.
Kyrgios may seem to suffer from a persecution complex, but he is excited for Wimbledon.
He hit 68 aces in three rounds, lost serve only twice and threw the third-fastest serve in the tournament.
Next up is an emotionless polar opposite, Brendon Nakashima of the United States, who finds himself in uncharted waters for the last 16 Grand Slams.
In his ATP profile, Nakashima describes his worst quality as “being shy”, certainly not a character flaw of Kyrgios.
Win or lose on Monday, Kyrgios insists he will remain his own man.
“They have to watch me play the fourth round of Wimbledon. I also got a nice paycheck this week so I don’t really care what they think,” he said.