It’s a familiar pattern. Nick Kyrgios behaves like a goose in the lead-up to a major tournament, but pulls out all stops to go down in a ‘brave’ battle against a more dedicated opponent.
Praise is lavished for his fighting qualities and raw talent, if not his petulant antics. Then, like any warm-up circus act, the show moves on.
Kyrgios may even make it past the fourth round in a slam some time in the future, but even he admits he is not contending for a slam title anytime soon.
The final act of the warm-up: send in the clown for one last pratfall to ensure the next lot of ticket sales are strong.
To that end, Kyrgios put on his showman hat for the Wimbledon post-match media conference following his 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3) defeat to Rafael Nadal.
Kyrgios refused to apologise for slapping a series of scorching forehands straight at Nadal’s body during the Spaniard’s four-set second round win on Thursday.
One in particular late in the third set riled Nadal, who turned back and glared at the Australian, but later rejected a claim he’d cursed Kyrgios in Spanish.
“Why would I apologise?” Kyrgios said.
I didn’t hit him. Hit his racquet, no? Why would I apologise? I won the point.”
When told it was tennis “convention” to apologise after almost striking your opponent with the ball, Kyrgios was unrepentant.
“Is it? And?” Kyrgios said, adding that he “didn’t care” that he’d upset the 18-times grand slam champion.
“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. I’m not going to apologise to him at all. I was going for him. Yeah, I wanted to hit him square in the chest.
“Like, he’s got decent hands.”
Nadal agreed he was “professional” enough to deal with Kyrgios’s body shots, but felt slapping balls with such ferocity was also reckless.
“I don’t say Nick does this stuff to bother the opponent, but [it] is true that sometimes he’s dangerous,” Nadal said.
“When he hit the ball like this, [it] is dangerous. Not dangerous for me, [it] is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for a crowd.
“When you hit the ball like this, you don’t know where the ball goes.
“I know he’s a big talented player, but I am a professional player, too. I know when you hit this kind of ball, the ball can go anywhere.
“This time the ball went in, almost hit me, no problem. I am professional, so I know how to avoid this.
“But another one, the ball goes straight to the back. So have been dangerous moment for the line umpire.
“[If] that ball hits an eye or something like this, [it] is a problem.”
The pair had always been likely to produce an intriguing contest given Nadal’s defeat to Kyrgios at the All England Club five years ago when the Australian was touted as the next big thing.
Earlier in the day Ashleigh Barty barely raised a sweat as she stormed into the third round with a crushing 6-1 6-3 victory over Alison Van Uytvanck, while John Millman also made the third round with a commanding 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over Serbian Laslo Djere and will next face American Sam Querrey.
The clown caravan moves on, it’s time for the stars of the show.