‘Good game the other day,’ Nick Kyrgios observed to a line judge as he prepared for the tennis match which saw him breeze into Wimbledon’s Third Round, earlier on Thursday.
This was no casual court-side encounter. The grey-haired official of more mature years was one of those subjected to some of worst of the Australian’s ire, during the three hours of personalised abuse he dished out while overcoming Britain’s Paul Jubb, two days ago.
The individual in question looked bemused and slightly unsettled by this face-to-face encounter, though the spectators who heard laughed along heartily with Kyrgios.
Nick Kyrgios can progress far at Wimbledon and provide a lift if he can find the temperament
Judging by the evidence of the tetchy press conference the 27-year-old gave last night, he is nursing a profound sense of victimhood about the fact his behaviour during the Jubb match earned him a negative press.
But the fact that the line judge was there seemed to demonstrate that the All England club will not be cowed by Kyrgios’ criticism of its judges. It is not in the business of appointing him new ones.
The performance which ensued from Kyrgios provided a graphic sense that he can progress far here and provide a magnificent lift for these championships, if he can only find the temperament.
He delivered a devastating showing to beat Filip Krajinovic in straight sets in the second round
It was a performance of devastating serving power, in which Serbian Filip Krajinovic took 37 minutes to win a single point from the Australian’s delivery. The first two sets were wrapped up in 58 minutes, at which stage Kyrgios had sent down 17 aces.
There was a blend of touch and power which cohered and calmed the Australian’s interior mind. The liquid drop shot he possesses was deployed in abundance. His power on the forehand side eviscerated Krajinovic. This is precisely why Kyrgios he has twice defeated Novak Djokovic and is a former Queens finalist.
Everyone is his friend when things are swinging along. He nodded in agreement and declaring ‘yes’ when Krajinovic challenged a line call, observing ‘good shot’ when it was resolved in his opponent’s favour.
Fleetingly, in the course of the brutal 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 dismantling, there were signs of Kyrgios’ thin skin. ‘Do you want to cough before I serve?’ he asked one spectator, who had done so just before he missed a first serve. ‘Now is when you cough’ he continued, after winning that point. It really doesn’t take much to cause him offence.
He showed signs of his thin skin during the match, but even the intrusions could not deter him
Some of the line calls will have done nothing to quell his insistence that judges – like ‘the old man’ who so infuriated him two days ago – should not be here.
One which he challenged – a service pronounced out on the left hand service box at the start of the second set – was corrected.
He directed a hard stare in the direction of a spectator who popped a cork as he prepared to receive serve in the third. But even such a crass and mindless intrusion could not deter him.
The press conference Kyrgios gave showed how fragile this self-control actually is. His conduct against Jubb, which concluded with him spitting towards fans, has prompted criticism both here and in Australia but he was clearly itching to discuss ‘the media’s disrespect.’
This version of Kyrgios is capable of going a long way, but no one knows what could turn up
He declared that this was ‘just kind of a reminder to put you all back in your place.’ The conversation soon lapsed into the same tone he took up after the Jubb match, which had concluded with him spitting in the direction at fans.
‘I love it because you can’t write anything. What are you going to say? Nothing today. Dumbfounded all of you.’ He refused to discuss the pre-match exchange with the line judge, or a conversation he appeared to have had with the umpire about that official.
Yet there was an unmistakable melancholy about the wish he expressed to be appreciated for only his tennis, when only he cannot see why his conduct forms a big part of the narrative.
When Sportsmail asked him if he felt that today’s lack of conflict with officials was better both for him and for tennis, he could only return to that victimhood.
Sportsmail questioned Kyrgios over the lack of conflict, but he returned only to the victimhood
‘The media tends to just pick and choose anyway what they want to write about,’ he replied. ‘Today there’s just absolutely nothing, which is hilarious.’ On court, an imperious double-handed punched backhand volley sealed his place against Greek Number 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the next round.
‘I just want to remind everyone that I’m pretty good,’ he declared – deadpan – in the courtside interview: ‘What’s it like inside the mind of Nick Kyrgios?’ the interviewer then boldly and rather bravely asked him.
‘I’m just happy,’ he said. ‘I think this is my best chance to win a Grand Slam of all four.’ No-one knows which Kyrgios will turn up next but this version could go a very long way here.