Rafael Nadal vs Nick Kyrgios, Australia start time, preview, head to head


What do you get when you throw two feral cats into a bag with grass clippings?

Rafael Nadal versus Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon.

Brandons’ highly anticipated match was sealed when Aussie Kyrgios won a routine three-setter match, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5), against Cristian Garin and Nadal in five physical sets with the American Taylor. Fritz, dropping the 11th seed 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) after a fifth-set tiebreaker and over four hours.

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Nadal was clearly in pain during his game and could potentially withdraw from the tournament. Hopefully it holds up, though, just for the drama of the soap opera.

Still, it’s hard to imagine him not stepping onto the pitch against Kyrgios, in a semi-final scheduled for 10:30 p.m. (AEST) on Friday night.

The prickly pair’s semi-final, if it happens, has all the makings of a classic — like the original “Halloween” or “House of 1,000 Corpses.” We will protect our eyes. No passerby will be spared. Blood will be spilled on the meticulously mown grass of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Rafa and Nick, you see, have an ox (or as Rafa would say, a meat) that has been around for so long that its origins are shrouded in mystery, like the ancient grudge of the Montagues and Capulets by William Shakespeare.

But the first blow probably came in 2014 when Kyrgios (then ranked No. 144 in the world) made a name for himself aged 19 by beating Nadal (No. 1) on the legendary center court at Wimbledon. A shock, yes, but hardly venomous.




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Five years later, however, when he defeated Nadal again in Acapulco, Mexico, the seething Spaniard went wild. “He lacks respect for the crowd, his opponent and for himself,” Nadal complained after the match.

What really pissed Rafa off was that Kyrgios used the infamous underhand serve to confuse him. It’s a perfectly legal move that’s most commonly used by weak 8-year-olds.

What also grinds Nadal’s gears is the way Kyrgios plays a fast clip, as if he has a flight to catch with his model girlfriend. Nadal, on the other hand, frivolously tugs at his socks and underwear for what feels like half an hour before each point and still hilariously considers himself a torchbearer of tennis decorum.

I was at Wimbledon a few months later in 2019, holding my breath in terror when Kyrgios once again threw a sneaky serve at Nadal. The British crowd, drunk with excitement and Pimm’s, cheered and booed. Nadal frowned in anger as if he was the Wicked Witch of Mallorca. When Kyrgios hit a ball directly to Nadal’s body, the tennis court turned into a ‘Divorce Court’.

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Kyrgios was more low-key when they played the Australian Open in 2020 – meaning he broke a racket, yelled at the chair umpire and ended the night with his hand covered in blood.

But don’t expect such emotional restraint this week! He has Nadal on the noggin. In June, when Kyrgios faced Stefanos Tsitsipas in Halle, Germany, and received a time violation warning, he angrily said: “It happens in every game. I waited for Rafa so many times. Nadal, meanwhile, was probably hundreds of miles away sunbathing on his mega-yacht.

The timing of their meeting couldn’t be more suspenseful.

Kyrgios knows it’s now or never. He’s picked up recent momentum – increasingly rare for the unpredictable 27-year-old – after winning the doubles title at the Australian Open and enjoying a stellar season on grass. It will be his very first Grand Slam semi-final on his favorite surface.

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There are also formidable stakes for Nadal, who is nearing the end of the road at 36. So far this year he has won the Australian Open (his first since 2009), the French Open (his 14th) and is on track to do what Novak Djokovic couldn’t and secure the Grand Slam of the calendar. Rafa will also want to make sure the Djoker doesn’t eat away at his record 22 Grand Slam trophies.

Take those huge consequences for both men and add the fact that they hate each other and the fury on display will be John McEnroe’s “You Can’t Be Serious!” times a trillion.

Think tennis is a polite country club affair? Watch Wimbledon on Friday.

This story originally appeared on the New York Post.


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