Nadal vs Kyrgios: A feud of ice and fire
Kyrgios, then 19, announced his arrival with a four-set win over Nadal in the second round of the 2014 Wimbledon. Powerful aces, winners and the usual trick shots for good measure, Kyrgios treated the world No. 1 with borderline disdain, and hinted at the reasons after the match. “I saw an interview with (mother Norlaila Kyrgios) saying Nadal was too good. That made me a bit angry and that helped.”
The feud was reignited in the first round-meeting at the Acapulco Open last year, when Kyrgios chipped away at Nadal’s two great peeves. He kept complaining about Nadal taking too much time before service, and dusted out underarm serves — a ploy long discussed to agitate the Spaniard who stands way behind the baseline. Kyrgios saved three match points, won the match and the tournament. “He lacks respect for the crowd, his opponent and towards himself,” said Nadal. “I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but he lacks a little respect for the public and the rival”.
Kyrgios replied: “He doesn’t know anything about me. He doesn’t know the journey I’ve been through. So, I’m not going to listen at all.”
Uncle chips in
Toni Nadal came to nephew Rafa’s aid, telling a radio station: “Rafa is totally right. (Kyrgios) lacks education and smartness. He should be fighting for the top-rankings and instead, he is No. 40.” In a podcast, Kyrgios went after both. “Nadal is super salty. When he wins, he will credit the opponent. But as soon as I beat him, he has no respect for me, my fans or the game. And then Uncle Toni comes out and says ‘he lacks education’. Bro, I did 12 years at school, you idiot. I’m very educated. I understand you’re upset that I beat your family.”
In the heated second-round meeting at 2019 Wimbledon, Kyrgios waged mental warfare against an unusually terse Nadal. He served underarm, was handed a code violation for other antics, and argued with the chair umpire. During a rally, Kyrgios drilled a ball at Nadal’s chest and in the press conference admitted that he “wanted to hit (Nadal) square in the chest.” “Why would I apologise? I mean, the dude has got how many slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest, bro”
Serve’s the purpose
During Thursday’s second-round win over Gilles Simon, Kyrgios pulled out his best Nadal imitation. Warned for taking too much time before the serve, Kyrgios tucked imaginary hair behind his ears and picked his shorts — an ode to Nadal’s pre-serve ritual. It drew a chuckle from the umpire, and encouraged the Frenchman across the net to try a Rafa imitation of his own. Nadal’s reaction: “I am here to play tennis. Honestly, I don’t care at all. If it was funny, good.”
When asked about the upcoming clash with his arch-rival, Kyrgios said, “Regardless, if we don’t like each other or whatever, I think there’s a layer of respect. He’s one of the greatest of all time. I also read that he thinks I’m good for the sport,” he said.