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There’s never been any doubt about Nick Kyrgios’ talent and athletic ability on the tennis court.
But the Australian’s preparation, commitment to the game and mental strength have all been major question marks throughout his career.
In a wild and entertaining affair, Kyrgios played one of the finest matches of his career on Saturday at Wimbledon, knocking out No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(7) in 3 hours, 17 minutes to advance to the fourth round.
Kyrgios, 27, improved to 4-1 against Tsitsipas and will next face 20-year-old Brandon Nakashima, one of four American men into the fourth round.
“Let’s f—king go,” Kyrgios yelled to the crowd a couple of times after a quick handshake with Tsitsipas, whom he considers a friend.
During the match, Kyrgios did some patently Kyrgios things, including hitting an under-hand serve, yelling at and insulting the umpire and calling for the supervisor. His tactics and behavior seemed to unnerve Tsitsipas, who himself hit two balls that nearly hit a fan on one occasion and a line judge on another, causing him to get a code violation in the latter case. The Greek smacked two shots right at Kyrgios during the match, both for winners. He also complained to the umpire about Kyrgios’ behavior and looked like he might cry at one point.
In the end, Kyrgios survived and advanced and looks like he could make a deep run. He’s never been past the quarterfinals at a major and his last such appearance was at Wimbledon in 2015.
“It’s amazing, everywhere I go I seem to be having full stadiums,” Kyrgios said. “And the media loves to write that I’m bad for the sport, but clearly not.”
John McEnroe, a noted bad boy in his day, said after the match, “It’s scary how good he is. That’s what’s sad in a way.”
In the decisive fourth set tiebreak, Kyrgios put on a master class with his serve while also sticking a couple of perfect volleys.
“It was an amazing atmosphere, I honestly felt like the favorite coming in,” Kyrgios said on court. “I played him a couple weeks ago, but I knew that it was going to be a tough match. He’s a helluva player. I had my own tactics out there and he knows how to play me. He’s beaten me once and obviously I’ve had success.
“It was a helluva match.”
He added: “I’m just super happy to be through. He was getting frustrated at times and it’s a frustrating sport for sure. I know that you all think that you can play but it’s very frustrating and I have the ultimate respect for him. Whatever happens on the court, I love him and I’m close with his brother.”
The question now will be: Can he back up this performance against Nakashima, who took out No. 13 Denis Shapovalov in the second round and won his third-round match over Daniel Galan of Colombia in straight sets.
If Kyrgios gets through that match, he could face No. 19 Alex de Minaur, a fellow Australian, in the quarters.
Rafael Nadal, who is now 17-0 at majors this season after beating Italian Lorenzo Sonego, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, could loom in the semis.
“[My self-belief] is always high,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t really play a full schedule of tennis, to be honest, and I’m able to put in some great performances like this. So I’m just going to rest and recover and do everything right and hopefully I can just keep going on.”
McEnroe called Kyrgios’ behavior “sad and beautiful at the same time.”
He had some advice for Kyrgios going forward.
“The guy could be unbelievable,” McEnroe said on air. “There’s so many kids that watch this game because of him and are attracted to the sport and he’s an incredible talent. And off the court, it’s a different story altogether.”
He added: “If he committed himself, as we all hope he would, more consistently, he would be fantastic.”