By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, July 4, 2022
There was a time when an early-morning pub-crawl was prelude to Nick Kyrgios‘ Centre Court appearance.
These days, the sight of Kyrgios’ colorfully-tattooed right arm slashing serves has lit up Centre Court like a rainbow.
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Flying high again, Kyrgios clubbed 35 aces against just 3 double faults subduing 20-year-old American Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-2 to advance to his second career Wimbledon quarterfinal.
Afterward, the mercurial Aussie credited the massive chip on his shoulder for fueling his Wimbledon run.
“I almost just wake up and read things, and I just laugh,” Kyrgios told the media. “And I never forget things, like the people say, whether it was three, four years ago, things that just stick with me.
“I have a massive chip on my shoulder. Like I sit here now in quarterfinals Wimbledon again, and I just know there’s so many people that are so upset.”
Of course, the fact Kyrgis’ agent isn’t dragging him out of the local pub is a positive too.
Kyrgios says he’s in a happier place these days, which makes his matches danger zones for opponents.
“Look, there was a time where I was having to be forced out of a pub at 4 a.m. to play Nadal second round,” Kyrgios said. “My agent had to come get me out of a pub at 4 a.m. before I played my match on Centre Court Wimbledon. I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure.
“But I think just daily habits and the people around me. I’ve got an incredible support crew. My physio is one of my best friends. My best friend is my agent. I’ve got the best girlfriend in the world. I’ve just got so many people around me, they just support me. I feel like I can reflect on all those dark times when I pushed them all away.
“Now to sit here quarterfinals of Wimbledon, feeling good, feeling composed, feeling mature, having that around me, I’m extremely blessed. I feel like I’m just comfortable in my own skin.”
The 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinalist said embracing the challenge of fifth-set pressure—as he did in his first-round win over British wild card Paul Jubb and again today to raise his Wimbledon five-set record to 6-0—has been pivotal to his progress. Kyrgios said he’s relishing the moment rather than stressing the outcome.
“That’s probably the first time in my career where I wasn’t playing well, regardless of playing Centre Court Wimbledon, fully packed crowd, I was able to just say, Wow, look how far I’ve come, to myself,” Kyrgios said. “I was bouncing the ball before I served. I really just smiled to myself. I was like, We’re here, we’re competing at Wimbledon, putting in a good performance mentally.
“It was rewarding. I thought if I didn’t play and stayed calm… It was a really good mental performance today. I think I’m enjoying the battle a bit more. I’m expecting everyone to play well against me now ’cause for him, I was that kid once who stepped on that court, being the underdog. Where today it was me walking on Centre Court being the favorite. It was completely different for me, different feeling. But I was able to navigate that.”
Australian Open doubles champion Kyrgios, who scored his ATP-best 11th grass-court win of the season today, will try to maintain the positivity amid the pressure of being the heavy favorite against 43rd-ranked Cristian Garin with a semifinal spot on the line.
It’s safe to say, Kyrgios’ preparation for Garin won’t include a Wimbledon pub crawl.
“I look at it as a big opportunity. Garin is obviously playing great tennis,” Kyrgios said. “I walked on Centre Court today with seeing the score two sets to love de Minaur. They were in a battle. I was expecting to play Alex. I think Alex is a bit more comfortable on the grass. Then when I walked off the court and I got told it was Garin. It was surprising.
“But I look at it as an opportunity. But I need to do so many things before that match to get ready. I need to rest, recover, eat right, get good sleep. There’s so many things, so many steps before I go out there and compete again.”
Photo credit: Getty