Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios thought Grand Slam hopes were gone

After the maelstrom and monologue, Nick Kyrgios was in a reflective mood. He couldn’t believe he had reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon for many reasons.

After the maelstrom and the monologue, Nick Kyrgios was in a pensive mood after moving into his first Grand Slam semi-final. He’d been babbled on in his box at number 1 and had a million thoughts in his head, but as he sat in the winner’s chair he distilled them into one thing.

“How things change,” he said after beating Chile’s Cristian Garín in straight but not easy sets. “There was a point where I was almost done with the sport. I posted this year about the kind of state of mind I was in in 2019 when I was at the Australian Open with self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Being a semi-finalist at Wimbledon is a special achievement for everyone, but I think especially for me.”

Kyrgios’ Wimbledon has been one of the frayed threads of the past week and a half. Good, bad and ugly, everyone had an opinion. In the generally posh environment of SW19, he stood out like a sore thumb and a raised middle finger. Now he has been called before an Australian court to comment on allegations that he assaulted a former girlfriend. The seriousness of this situation makes controversy on the pitch easy, and it’s perhaps best to take Kyrgios’ words, spoken after his loss to Brandon Nakashima, at face value: “You don’t know me at all.”

What we do know is that it made for an exceptional setting for this game. “It didn’t affect me at all,” he said, but added, “I’m only human, I read it and obviously everyone else asked questions. It was difficult to focus on the mission at hand.” He said he had a lot to say but was advised against by lawyers.

Severing the gnarly strands of his Wimbledon would test the most gifted scout, but this match provided another opportunity to watch one of tennis’s most enigmatic and frustrating players attempt to push apparent potential to a level many pundits believe that it belongs. John McEnroe said this week that Kyrgios should have been a mainstay in the world top 5. Instead, he is ranked No. 40 in the world. When you see that big serve at its best and the easy brilliance of its groundstrokes, you understand that sentiment.

But if you look at Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the two legends of this draw, and beyond the different shots, it becomes clear that they are different people. They’ve combined their flair with a work ethic and psychological toughness that are the stuff of top prize-winners. They are servants of their genius; Kyrgios is an occasional acquaintance of his. In fact, he later admitted this in court. “I never thought I’d be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam,” he said. “I thought the ship had sailed, I might have wasted that window of opportunity in my career.”

Victory over Garín, who was attempting to become the first Chilean to reach the semis, made him the first unseeded player to reach the last four in men’s singles since 2008 and the first Australian since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

Aside from a torrent of muttered curses seemingly aimed at himself and his box, he did nothing to undermine his opponent other than bombarding them with heavy serve. He has now sent 120 aces and lost just six of 101 service games this Wimbledon. “The best serve on tour,” said Garín. “He has a great chance of winning this tournament.”

Kyrgios will continue to forge his own path, even as he once again praised his support team, who paced like a nine-man jack of all trades. “I don’t have a coach,” he mused. “I would never put that burden on anyone.” It sounded like half a joke.

The match started strangely, Kyrgios lost the first nine points, but quickly worked his way into it. He has a variety of gifts, deep, flashing forehand and a reliably flat backhand.

Mistakes began to creep into Garín’s game. At 26 he is a year younger than Kyrgios, at 43 he ranks three places lower. “That score doesn’t reflect how tough it was out there today,” said Kyrgios.

Garín had more break points than Kyrgios but only won one out of nine. The crucial tie-break was a drama in its own right. At 5-4, Garín had a chance when he ran down the line for a pass. Kyrgios was hit but the ball flicked the top of the net and went wide. At match point, Kyrgios’ shot was announced at the baseline. The referee overruled. “What the hell are you doing?” said Kyrgios to the linesman. They played the point again and Garín hit a backhand wide.

Kyrgios then spoke about his mother who cannot bear to watch his matches for fear. “She has a pacemaker,” he said, “it’s too stressful.” He thanked Emma Raducanu for her support, which he described as “payback” when campaigning on her behalf to the media. And how would he describe his journey to the last four? “Rocky,” he said. For once there was no argument.

Men’s semifinals

Novak Djokovic versus Cameron Norrie

Nick Kyrgios vs Rafael Nadal

– The times Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios thought Grand Slam hopes were gone

Nate Jones

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