Pro Nick Kyrgios seeks wine and dinner glory at Wimbledon

Nick Kyrgios gesturing Credit: PA Images

“I don’t care. What would I apologize for? I mean, how many strokes does the guy have, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest. I’m not going to apologize to him at all.”

Do you recognize this direct quote, at all?

Here’s a hint for the uninitiated. It was taken from one of the most compelling post-match press conferences at Wimbledon in 2019. The Kyrgios “show” had just come to an early close for another year. He had lost to Rafa Nadal in the second round and the Aussie was playing in the stands, admonishing a journalist for his “boring life” before probably returning to the sofa himself.

We have been denied the last round of the circus in 2022. What is painful for tennis fans is that this has come to the end of the tournament when all hell could have broken loose (as well as some scorching shots). How? It is ironic that the problem area is close to the region that Kyrgios targeted just over three years ago. It is clear that Rafa’s chest and abs are no longer what they were…

There was the same amount of talent on the pitch that day, but fundamentally different approaches to preparing for the clash. While the Spaniard enjoyed a restful night, as several Grand Slam champions do, Wild Thing’s pre-match routine involved dancing in the Wimbledon Village pub. In fact, he even saw a member of the media who had been to the tavern. This exchange elicited universal laughter from the press corps.

After defeating Cristian Garin in straight sets to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time, Kyrgios may have been thinking in years past: “If you ask someone if I was able to do that in the last two years, I think that everyone would probably have said no: ‘he doesn’t have the mental capacity, he doesn’t have the physical capacity, he doesn’t have the discipline,’ all of that.”

This year, the worst whirlwind from Kyrgios’s mouth and accompanying collateral damage was seen on Saturday night. After beating Brandon Nakashima on Monday, the 27-year-old was looking forward to a big glass of wine.

It was a neutral B-movie compared to the histrionics of Tsitsipas’ popcorn thriller. She’s even appreciating the close comfort of a tight-knit family group, relaxing with his dad’s cooking at night. There are serious claims that they are about to receive a hearing, but for now, the pet Kyrgios has kept this trip away like home sweet home.

One wonders if becoming a Grand Slam champion, though on a dream march to the final in his home country with childhood friend Thanasi Kokkinakis, has brought a reckoning.

The World No. 40 has been calmer and less contrary to events around him in his last two matches, despite constant mutterings to get going. Nakashima and Garin’s personalities also gave him very little to deal with. With Djokovic beating home favorite Cameron Norrie, the stakes in the sunlight and the intensity will rise considerably.

Now that Kyrgios has reached Day 14 where the awards take place, how will the whirlpools of emotion, frustration and burnout affect his temper? You need to dial in that corporate clinical game mode, but the showman won’t be suppressed. The last two episodes on the field have been functional, almost repressed. He feels like fire is in his belly and ready to explode. For better, bitter or for worse.

Kyrgios is entering the land of the tennis gods that he alluded to last year when he was optimistic about falling short in a big one: “Not everyone can be Federer, Djokovic or Nadal. These are, like, once-in-a-decade athletes who inspire millions of people. Like, they’re just gods. I see them that way too. But you have to have some people, I think, that you can relate to, that people can draw other fans to look at, like people that are just normal. I’m Nick Kyrgios. I know who I am.”

If he wins on Sunday, it could feel like an out-of-body experience. And you can have as much wine as you like. The ship has not yet sailed.

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