Breaking down the drama of Nadal-Kyrgios at Wimbledon

Breaking down the drama of Nadal-Kyrgios at Wimbledon

There is no love lost between 18-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios. Their latest encounter, a pulsating second-round match on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, didn’t disappoint.

Nadal advanced after four dramatic sets with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) victory. We break down another classic at the All England Club:

The underarm serves



Nick Kyrgios fools Rafael Nadal with a surprise underhand ace that garners mixed reactions from the crowd.

It has been 30 years since Michael Chang made the underarm serve famous at the French Open, but this year, Kyrgios has been making it his own. And it’s a legitimate and sensible tactic against Nadal, who often stands way back behind the baseline to return.

It’s not an easy skill, either, but at 2-5, 40-0 in the first set, Kyrgios made it look easy as he feathered a beautiful underarm serve barely over the net, leaving Nadal stranded. The crowd was impressed and even Nadal smiled. Sort of. In the second set, Kyrgios did another one — and won the point again — but this time, the crowd jeered. Fickle bunch.

Umpire exchanges



Nick Kyrgios gets into with chair umpire Damien Dumusois during the second set which gets him a conduct warning.

No one chunters like Kyrgios and, at times, it’s almost as if he needs to have a running conversation with the umpire just to keep himself engaged. Irritated at the time Nadal was taking between points, Kyrgios took his annoyance out on Damien Dumusois, the unlucky man in the chair, asking him why he wasn’t doing anything about it.

“Wow, you’ve got so much power up there,” Kyrgios said.

That drew a code violation and he actually played better for a while, with the average speed on his forehand cranking up a few notches. Still the rant continued. “Look at you. Look at you. You’re no one. You think you’re important. You have no idea what’s going on. You’re a disgrace.”

Tweeners & Co.

Why hit a straightforward shot when you can do something spectacular? Kyrgios pulled out the tweener early on — in the second game, in fact. The problem with it, though, is that it rarely works. It didn’t that time as Nadal got the early break, which set him up to win the opening set.

Kyrgios pulled out a few shots from his bag of tricks, the jump backhand, even an unnecessary jump smash (because the ball was low) and tried a behind-the-back volley when a simple backhand volley would have done the trick. He certainly wasn’t lacking in variety, that’s for sure.

The stare

At one set apiece, 4-4, 40-15, Nadal served and, after a short return, approached the net with a forehand up the line, only for Kyrgios to slap a forehand straight at him. Nadal could only stick out his racket in self-defense and the ball fell to the ground on his side of the net. Nadal’s cold, lingering stare, was almost as vicious as the forehand from Kyrgios.

Pumped-up Nadal

Nadal has always been one of the more animated players on court, with his fist pump surely headed for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But with no love lost between these two, in the heat of the battle during a high-class third set, he was fist-pumping, jumping, yelling and gesticulating to the crowd more like Jimmy Connors in his pomp.

It clearly helped, too, as he squeezed out the third-set tiebreak just when Kyrgios was threatening to inch ahead.

The bird

Come on — it stole the show. And applauding anything is quintessentially British.

The handshake

The last time these two played, in Acapulco in February, the handshake was almost nonexistent. This time, after what was genuinely a great match, it was much better, with Kyrgios tapping him on the back too.

And don’t forget Nadal’s celebration, either, the wagging of his index finger telling everyone what he thought of the match. But the pair stood side-by-side at the end, signing autographs before leaving the court.

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