Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios will meet for a place in the Wimbledon final on Friday in what the Australian star claims will be “the most watched tennis match ever.”
Nadal leads their series 6-3. AFP Sport looks at four of their most memorable matches in a rivalry which has been thrilling and often testy.
Wild thing Kyrgios in Wimbledon stunner
Just 19 and ranked at 144 in the world, the All England Club was treated to its first look at Kyrgios, a brash Australian wild-card.
Nadal was the two-time Wimbledon champion and world number one.
However, his dreams of a third title were shattered on Centre Court as Kyrgios claimed a famous 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win.
Kyrgios unleashed 37 aces and a total of 70 winners.
“That’s the biggest win of my career obviously, and that’s something I’m never going to forget,” Kyrgios said. “To have that under my belt, it’s massive.”
US legend John McEnroe tipped Kyrgios as a future Grand Slam champion.
“I think we have found the next guy in the men’s game. I couldn’t believe he could keep that up all match. He had this feeling about him that he absolutely believed that he would win,” said McEnroe.
Nadal tells Kyrgios he has ‘no respect’
After 2014, Nadal won three of the pair’s next four meetings, but Kyrgios stunned the Spaniard again in a bad-tempered last-16 match in Acapulco, winning 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (8/6), saving three match points in the deciding tiebreak.
Kyrgios had complained of feeling ill in the second set but was rejuvenated in the third, even serving underarm, much to Nadal’s irritation.
“I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but what he lacks is a little respect for the public, for his rival, and also for himself. I think he should improve that,” said Nadal.
Kyrgios was unmoved.
“I’m different. Rafa is different. He can focus on what he needs to do. He doesn’t know me. So I’m not going to listen at all. That’s the way I play. The way he plays, he’s very slow between points.”
Body shots at Wimbledon
Later in 2019, the two renewed their rivalry at Wimbledon with Nadal winning their second round duel, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3).
Nadal arrived at the All England Club having won a 12th French Open while Kyrgios had won consecutive matches just twice all year.
Kyrgios served underarm on two occasions, was handed a code violation for unsportsmanlike behaviour and complained that Nadal was taking too long between points.
The Australian even volleyed the ball directly at the body of Nadal, claiming later that it was deliberate.
“Why would I apologise? I mean, the dude has got how many slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest. I wanted to hit him square in the chest. Like, he’s got decent hands.”
Nadal responded: “When he hits the ball like this, it’s dangerous. It’s not dangerous for me, it is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for the crowd.”
At this year’s Wimbledon, Kyrgios revealed he had been drinking in a local bar until 4 a.m. on the day of that match in 2019 and had to be “dragged out” by his agent.
Nadal on top in Australia despite Kyrgios mocking
Nadal came out on top in the last-16 at the Australian Open, winning 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4).
Earlier in the tournament, Kyrgios had mocked the Spaniard when he mimicked Nadal’s habit of pulling at the rear of his shorts and brushing his hair behind his ears.
“I really don’t care. I’m here to play tennis,” said Nadal.
An emotional Kyrgios had entered Rod Laver Arena in tears, wearing as LA lakers shirt in honour of Kobe Bryant who had died just days earlier.