Nick Kyrgios: a foul-mouthed bully or tortured genius?

The Australian has thrilled and appalled on his run to the Wimbledon final

Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios: ‘an evil side’?
(Image credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

For some, he’s a foul-mouthed bully who demeans the sport of tennis; for others he’s a “tortured and underachieving genius”. But whatever your take on Nick Kyrgios, he’s undoubtedly box office, said Mike Dickson in the Daily Mail. And in a year when Wimbledon had no Russians and carried no ranking points, the 27-year-old’s strong showing over week one was a big fillip for the tournament. Especially mesmerising was the Australian’s third-round clash against fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, a contest notable for its near-constant drama and “astounding” tennis. It was, quite simply, “among the best first-week matches ever seen”.

No one who watched could “take their eyes off it for a second”, agreed Oliver Holt in The Mail on Sunday. After a high-quality first set, which Tsitsipas won on a tie-break, the match erupted into controversy when Kyrgios clinched the second with a brilliant passing shot. At this point Tsitsipas took a ball from his pocket and smashed it into the lower section of the crowd, narrowly missing a spectator. The umpire handed him a code violation, but this just enraged Kyrgios, who insisted his opponent should have been more harshly penalised. “You can’t hit a ball into the crowd… and not get defaulted,” he railed at the umpire. Tsitsipas, for his part, told the umpire that the Australian had “zero respect”.

But by now Tsitsipas had “Kyrgios in his head”, said Tumaini Carayol in The Guardian. And the Greek soon “descended further into madness”, when Kyrgios threw in an underarm serve. Tsitsipas sprinted up to the ball and slapped it high at the back fence, for which he was handed a penalty point violation. Later in the third set, he “twice slapped the ball as hard as possible at Kyrgios as he stood at the net”.

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Such “toxicity threatened to derail the match”, yet the tennis continued to be of an extraordinary standard – nowhere more so than in the fourth-set tie-break, during which an “utterly nerveless” Kyrgios “demolished a series of forehands to bring up match point”, before rounding the match off with a delicate drop shot.

Verbal volleys

“It’s constant bullying, that’s what he does,” Tsitsipas complained afterwards. “He has a very evil side. He bullies the opponents. He was probably a bully at school himself. I don’t like bullies.” But Kyrgios brushed the charges aside, calling Tsitsipas “soft” for having allowed the disputes to rattle him.

Kyrgios’s tennis may be brilliant for the sport, said Owen Slot in The Times, but some of his antics are “utterly reprehensible”. In the first round, he even spat at a spectator – something he should never be “allowed to get away with”. You suspect, though, that he’s incapable of changing, said Elgan Alderman in the same paper. “And if we have to choose between all of Nick or none of him, I choose all.”

Till next time, Rafa…

After defeating Tsitsipas in the Wimbledon men’s singles third round, Kyrgios has gone on to beat Brandon Nakashima in the last 16 and Cristian Garín in the quarter-final. He was due to meet Rafael Nadal in the semis on Friday, but the Spaniard has withdrawn because of an abdominal injury. This meant Kyrgios was handed a walkover to Sunday’s Championship final, where he will face defending champion Novak Djokovic or Britain’s Cameron Norrie.

In a message posted on Instagram, Kyrgios wished Nadal well. “Different players, different personalities,” he wrote. “@rafaelnadal I hope your recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon. Till next time.”

World No.40 Kyrgios will now play in his maiden grand slam singles final. He is the lowest ranked player to reach the Wimbledon men’s final since Mark Philippoussis in 2003.

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