Center Court, Wimbledon
Eight years after his last quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon, Nick Kyrgios says he feels “composed” and “mature” after reaching the same stage with a five-set victory over Brandon Nakashima.
It was a much more subdued performance from Kyrgios on center court compared to his fiery game against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday, and the Aussie admitted he was far from his best as he triumphed 4-6 6-4 7 -6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2.
It wasn’t until he fended off a forehand volley on his first match point in the fifth set that Kyrgios showed any real signs of emotion – staring at the crowd and roaring with delight.
The win was also a hard-fought one as the 27-year-old appeared to have shoulder problems throughout the game and needed physio treatment at 3-2 in the third set.
“I need a glass of wine tonight,” he admitted during his on-pitch interview after the match.
Kyrgios’ next player is Chilean Cristian Garin, who became the first man in this year’s tournament to come back after two sets by beating Australian Alex de Minaur.
Kyrgios has now reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final in seven years and remains unbeaten in all of his five-set encounters at Wimbledon.
“Today I was smiling and laughing almost to myself on the other side, knowing I was locked in an absolute battle,” he told reporters. “In the past, I wasn’t able to enjoy that… I almost enjoyed being competitive (today).”
American Nakashima, playing his first fourth-round match at a grand slam, won the opening set with the match’s first break point, but Kyrgios, despite shaking his shoulder several times, responded with a break early in the second.
The serve proved to be Kyrgios’ best weapon, with an ace clocking 137 mph as he saw the set and leveled the game.
There were few chances for either player to break in the third set, but Kyrgios took the upper hand in the tiebreaker, slapping a cross forehand beyond Nakashima’s reach to advance in the game.
The 20-year-old, however, was far from done and broke for a 4-3 lead in fourth. What followed was a strange stretch of play in which Kyrgios seemed to tank the rest of the set with slow serves and lackluster ground shots.
“Complete drug-rope tactic,” he later explained. “I just threw that service game away. I knew he was in a rhythm, he was starting to get the better of me and I just wanted to unsettle him a bit.
This meant the game was decisive, only for Kyrgios to produce some of his best tennis while Nakashima faded away.
A double break of serve laid the groundwork for victory, and Kyrgios finished the match with 35 aces – taking his tally for the tournament to 103 – and 79 winners.
He will now play his second quarter-final at Wimbledon and the first since 2014; at the time, he beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round as a 19-year-old debutant.
His performance on Monday may not have carried the same infectious, heart-pounding energy as his win over Nadal, but it was a bold win nonetheless.
“It was not far from my best performance in terms of level, but I’m super happy to have succeeded,” said Kyrgios. “I fought really hard today.”
Controversy has tended to follow Kyrgios throughout his tennis career and Wimbledon this year was no exception.
He was fined $4,000 for verbal obscenity during his match against Tsitsipas, adding to the $10,000 he was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct after spitting at a fan he said he missed of respect in his first-round match against Paul Jubb.
But Kyrgios acknowledged he was a different player and person to the one who faced Nadal eight years ago, as evidenced by the calm exterior he displayed on Monday.
Earlier this year, he revealed the battles with mental health issues he has faced during his career, recounting his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as self-harm.
On Monday, he was able to briefly reflect on what he described as his “roller coaster” journey.
“Listen, there was a time when I had to be forced out of a pub at 4 a.m. to play against Nadal in the second round,” Kyrgios said.
“My agent had to come and take me out of the pub at 4am before I played my match on center court at Wimbledon.
“I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure. I think it’s the daily habits and the people around me… Now to be sitting here in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, feeling good, feeling calm, feeling mature and having that around me, I’m extremely blessed and I feel comfortable in my own skin.”
Against Garin, a player three places below him in the world rankings but with less experience of the sport’s biggest stages, Kyrgios could enter the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time.
It would be an important moment for a player accustomed to surfing the ups and downs of a professional tennis career.
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