Kyrgios says Nadal semi will be ‘most watched of all time’ – if it takes place at all

Nick Kyrgios is tipping his blockbuster with Rafael Nadal to be “the most-watched match of all-time” after casting aside his domestic dramas to gatecrash the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time.

Jul 07, 2022, updated Jul 07, 2022
Nick Kyrgios reacts after winning in the men's quarter final match against Cristian Garin of Chile at the Wimbledon Championships.  EPA/NEIL HALL

Nick Kyrgios reacts after winning in the men's quarter final match against Cristian Garin of Chile at the Wimbledon Championships. EPA/NEIL HALL

Kyrgios had too much firepower for Cristian Garin, eliminating the unseeded Chilean 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-5) in two hours, 13 minutes on Wednesday – barely 24 hours after being summonsed to a Canberra court over an assault allegation.

The 27-year-old is required in the ACT Magistrates Court on August 2 to potentially face a common assault charge amid reports he grabbed his former girlfriend Chiara Passari in an incident before Christmas last year.

But, first, Kyrgios must focus on Nadal after booking a dream last-four showdown with the 22-times major winner on Friday.

Australia’s other semi-final hope, Ajla Tomljanovic, claimed the first set of her quarter-final against big-hitting 17th seed Elena Rybakina, but could not hold on and was beaten 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Kyrgios said it would be extra special to face the most prolific grand slam singles champion in men’s tennis for a spot in Sunday’s final.

“We’ve had some absolute battles on that centre court. He’s won one against me, and I’ve won one against him,” Kyrgios said.

“Two completely different personalities. I feel like we respect the hell out of each other, though. I feel like that would be a mouth-watering kind of encounter for everyone around the world.

“That would probably be the most-watched match of all time. I would argue that.”

That’s if an injured Nadal is able to play at all.

Continuing his quest for the first calendar-year grand slam since Rod Laver in 1969, Nadal overcame a painful abdominal injury to outlast American 11th seed Taylor Fritz 3-6 7-5 3-6 7-5 7-6 (10-4) in a fifth-set super-tiebreaker in Wednesday’s last quarter-final.

His triumph over Fritz might just have been Nadal’s most unfeasible yet, as he got treated off-court at one set down and 4-3 up in the second for an injury clearly restricting his freedom of movement and serving speed.

Seeing his evident agony, his father and sister in the players’ box started gesturing to him.

“They told me I need to retire the match,” shrugged Nadal – but the idea was anathema to him.

“I tried. For me, was tough to retire in the middle of the match. Not easy even if I had that idea for such a long time.

“I did it a couple of times in my tennis career. Is something that I hate to do. So I just keep trying – and that’s it.”

The doctor couldn’t do much. “Gave me some anti-inflammatories. Well, anti-inflammatories and analgesic, no? And that’s it.

“The physio just tried to relax a little bit the muscle there. But it’s difficult. Nothing can be fixed when you have a thing like this.”

Asked if he’d be fit to play Kyrgios on Friday, the Australian and French Open champ Nadal shrugged: “I don’t know.

“Honestly, I can’t give you a clear answer because if, tomorrow, another thing happens, I will be a liar.

“It’s the player decision, but at the same time I need to know different opinions and need to check everything the proper way, no?

For Kyrgios, it will be the enigmatic 27-year-old’s long-awaited maiden grand slam semi after losing quarter-finals to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon in 2014 and to Andy Murray at the 2015 Australian Open.

“I just never thought I’d be at a semi-finals of a grand slam. I thought my ship had sailed,” an emotional Kyrgios said.

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“Honestly, I didn’t go about things great earlier in my career and I thought I may have wasted that little window.”

Tennis’s most gifted yet volatile talent described his journey to his first grand slam semi as “rocky”.

“Honestly, at the start of the year, I didn’t even know if I wanted to really play like a proper schedule at all. I don’t really play a proper schedule now,” Kyrgios said.

“I obviously had thoughts the last year, year and a half, whether I wanted to play anymore. Lost the love, lost the fire, lost the spark.

“Then some things just changed in my life. I don’t know. I kind of just rediscovered that I’ve got a lot of people that want me to play, that I play for.

“I’ve got a lot left in the tank. I feel like I’m probably playing some of my best tennis, mentally feeling great.

“It’s been a long road. I think it was a seven, eight-year gap to make a quarter-final here from my first one. It’s been a heck of a ride.”

The lowest moment, he said, came three years ago.

“Obviously I posted this year about the kind of mental state I was in in 2019 when I was at the Australian Open with self-harm and suicidal thoughts and stuff,” Kyrgios said.

“Just how things can change. There was a point where I was almost done with the sport.”

Now Kyrgios is the first Australian to progress to the men’s singles semi-finals at the All England Club since 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt made the last four 17 years ago.

And, fittingly, he will square off once more with Nadal – eight years since he caused a sensation as a teenage world No.144 on his Wimbledon debut by knocking out the world No.1.

Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic and British ninth seed Cameron Norrie will feature in Friday’s other semi.

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