Kyrgios frustrates – and dismantles – Tsitsipas in over-the-top, manic battle at Wimbledon
In a wild, frothy battle, Nick Kyrgios got under Stefanos’ Tsitsipas skin and edged the Greek in four sets to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon.
The tennis – or lack thereof – was played on many levels on Saturday, as Nick Kyrgios attacked Stefanos Tsitsipas on all fronts and emerged with a 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(9) victory to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon for the first time since 2016.
Kyrgios summed it up aptly as he took the seat at the podium for his post-match press conference.
Tsitsipas, who let the intensity of the match get the best of him, had another take.
“He bullies the opponents,” the Greek said. “He was probably a bully at school himself. I don’t like bullies. I don’t like people that put other people down.”
To default or not to default?
At the conclusion of the second set the match hit another level on an emotional front. Tsitsipas, who had won the opening set in a tiebreaker, smashed a ball out of the court and it caromed off a spectator, which triggered Kyrgios to begin a prolonged debate with the umpire.
The event seemed to take the focus from Tsitsipas as Kyrgios, now level in the match, dialed in his own.
Kyrgios complained repeatedly that his opponent should have been defaulted from the match, and he reiterated his belief in his post match press conference.
“Do you not think it was warranted today?” he said of his belief that Tsitsipas should have been defaulted from the match after the incident. “He picked up the ball and smacked it into the crowd, hit someone in the head off the wall?”
A contrite Tsitsipas later apologised about the incident, saying: “I have to say it was really bad from my side. I have never done that before, throwing the ball outside the court in that way. I did apologize to the people. I don’t know what went through my head at that time.”
But the No.4 seed was unapologetic in his critique of Kyrgios.
“He can’t play without the circus” – Tsitsipas
“I don’t think he could play without having a circus around,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s just the way he likes things being done, like he’s on his own terms, his own way.
“He just always gets away with it. I spoke to the umpire briefly, telling him that, You know, it’s really crossing the line in many ways. I do understand he got a code violation for something he did. I remember one, two of the line umpires walking up to the referee and telling him something. So it happened twice, something might happen twice.
“It just feels very messy. It just feels like disorganized in a way.
“He’s soft” – Kyrgios hits back
Tsitsipas may have a point, but the Greek will also be well served to look inward at the source of his frustration. He should know, having played him five times, that it’s impossible to control Kyrgios. The only thing he could have controlled on Saturday was his own tennis.
“If he’s affected by that today, then that’s what’s holding him back, because someone can just do that and that’s going to throw him off his game like that. I just think it’s soft.”Nick Kyrgios on Stefanos Tsitsipas
Tsitsipas played a good match, but it’s not difficult to imagine that he would have played better if he could have kept his wits about him.
He took every opportunity in the second half of the match to hit balls at Kyrgios. Rather than focus on the points, he was focused on getting revenge – the Greek was clearly riled up to an unproductive level.
Kyrgios, who stated his love for Tsitsipas on the court after the match, saying what happens on the court stays on the court, changed his tone in the press room upon hearing that Tsitsipas had called him a bully.
He talked about Tsitsipas’s need to toughen up.
“He’s that soft? To come in here and say I bullied him, that’s just soft,” the Aussie said. “We’re not cut from the same cloth. I go up against guys who are true competitors.
“If he’s affected by that today, then that’s what’s holding him back, because someone can just do that and that’s going to throw him off his game like that. I just think it’s soft.”
Kyrgios – good when he needed to be, and a huge opportunity awaits
Kyrgios really buttoned down things from his side of the court when the pressure was on. He saved all five break points he faced, including three late in the fourth set – two from 3-4, 15-40, and another at 4-5, 30-40.
It’s the type of tennis that the Aussie will have to produce if he plans to match his best ever run at a Grand Slam. Kyrgios has already stated how important this Wimbledon is to him, and he has backed up his words by producing brilliant tennis to get to the second week.
He’ll need more of the same in the round of 16 against rising American Brandon Nakashima.
A quick peek at his draw sees the following names lying between himself and a trip to a maiden Grand Slam semi-final: Brandon Nakashima, Alex de Minaur and Cristian Garin.
Not a murderer’s row by any means. If there ever was a golden opportunity for Kyrgios to reach the last four of a major (where Rafael Nadal likely will be waiting) this is that chance.