With Nick Kyrgios, you never know quite what you’re going to get. Two days after he struggled past Paul Jubb and spat in the direction of a fan who he said was abusing him, the Australian produced a flawless performance to march into the third round, the kind of display that, if he were to reproduce on a consistent basis, would make him a world-beater.
Filip Krajinovic reached the final at Queen’s Club less than two weeks ago but the Serb was blown away, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 by Kyrgios, in full flight, with 50 winners to just 10 unforced errors, 24 aces and a phenomenal day on serve, which saw him lose just nine points. “Just wanted to remind everyone that I’m pretty good,” he said. Today from the get-go, I just felt really good. From the back of the court I felt like I really returned well. I was just very just locked in from the get-go today. I just wanted to prove to people that I’m really good. I feel like I just don’t have the respect sometimes, you know?”
This was Kyrgios at his best, blitzing an opponent who has been enjoying the most consistent year of his life. In the first set, the 27-year-old did not drop a single point on serve, he never lost concentration and some of his shot-making was verging on the absurd. If he plays like that in the next round, even against someone as good as fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, he’ll take some stopping.
Kyrgios said what happened against Jubb in round one, and the subsequent headlines his behaviour provoked, made him even more determined to put on a show. “I was pretty disappointed in my performance in the first round. Then obviously the media’s disrespect and just everything, it was just kind of a reminder to put you all back in your place from the performance today. He made finals at Queen’s, top 30 in the world, seeded. It’s a gentle reminder.”
Kyrgios has a 3-0 record over Tsitsipas in regular ATP Tour matches and though the No 4 seed looked good on Thursday against Australia’s Jordan Thompson, Kyrgios knows he is in good form, having reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart and Halle, where he also beat the Greek. This is a tournament he has prepared for better than at almost any other time in his career. “I’m excited,” he said. “I feel like we both earned the right. We’re two of the biggest stars in the sport. Hopefully if we both bring our best tennis, it’s going to be amazing to watch.”
Kyrgios has always been an enigma. Brilliant at times, petulant at others, he has courted controversy probably more than any other player of his generation. There have been moments when he has been wronged and many when he has been in the wrong. What you see tends to be what you get. Even in his bad moments, he is honest, and he is not about to change. “I just feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin,” he said. “Some people love to just tear me down. It’s just not possible anymore. I just want to give people who watch this press conference or watch my tennis to just believe in yourself, be yourself, don’t be someone else up here either. Don’t just say what you’ve been told to say.”
Kyrgios is likely to be fined for spitting in the direction of fans during his first-round match, with an investigation underway, but Kyrgios says he “couldn’t care less”. “I know what I bring to the sport. One of the most important people in the sport. Do you want to speak about that? Nothing to investigate there because it’s just factual. I’m extremely confident in myself. All the challenges I’ve overcome in my life. Proud to be up here and doing it my own way. Being able to produce tennis like that at Wimbledon, it’s a dream come true for any tennis player.”
Kyrgios had been due to play doubles with Thanasi Kokkinakis, the two having won the Australian Open title earlier this year, but the pair pulled out, with Kyrgios explaining that he wanted to focus fully on singles, more evidence that he means business here. Striking the balance between showmanship and professionalism has always been tricky but he knows that Wimbledon represents his best chance of winning a grand slam title. “If I can find that tennis a bit more often, we’ll see,” he said. “If I can just continue to play like that, I’m very dangerous.”