A Kyrgios classic and a date with Nadal is a win-win for tennis

Nick Kyrgios chomps on a towel at the 2019 U.S. Open.
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Ricky Dimon

Tennis

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Like it or not, Nick Kyrgios is good for tennis.

That’s not to say he, himself, is always good. More often that not, his tantrums cross the line and diminish his own bank account while also making his opponents feel lousy. Occasionally, those watching his matches will even tune out. Other times, though, he manages to stay in bounds–or at least close to in bounds–during his entertaining tirades.

The good Kyrgios

Whatever the case, the “good” Kyrgios has been on display throughout the ongoing Australian Open. The 26th-ranked Australian has been instrumental in raising money for Australian’s bush-fire crisis, his on-court behavior has been just about flawless, and his quality of play has been off the charts. Kyrgios got a serious test during third-round action on Saturday night, but he passed it in the form of a 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(8) victory over Karen Khachanov after four hours and 26 minutes.

“It was crazy,” Kyrgios assured. “That was definitely one of the craziest matches I’ve ever been a part of. It was insane. (I) had a match point in the third, a match point in the fourth. Then 8-7 down (in the tiebreaker), I had all the thoughts. I thought I was going to lose. I was thinking about everything. I was thinking about the media if I lost…. Everything. Then, yeah, it was crazy.”

Nadal next

Another crazy scene should be in store for Monday, when Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal will renew what has become one of the most bad-blooded rivalries in tennis. Kyrgios and Nadal will be squaring off for the eighth time in their careers with a quarterfinal spot at stake (our free tennis picks will have you covered for that matchup and more). Nadal leads the head-to-head series 4-3, with Kyrgios having won two of their three hard-court encounters. They have split a pair of Grand Slam meetings, both at Wimbledon; Kyrgios scored a 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 upset in 2014 and Nadal got the job done 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) this past summer.

“I don’t really know Rafa,” Kyrgios commented. “I’ve never, like, hung out with him or anything like that. So I don’t really know how he is. I don’t really dislike him…. I mean, I don’t know him at all. Hell of a tennis player; don’t know him as a person. I’m sure he’s okay.

“After Wimbledon, I lost, I got beaten by the better player. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and said, ‘Too good.’ Regardless if we don’t like each other or whatever, I think there’s a layer of respect. He’s one of the greatest of all time. I also read that he thinks I’m good for the sport.”

And so are there matches.

Get your popcorn ready for Monday.

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