Rafael Nadal Tennis Championships

Nick Kyrgios admits to intentionally firing the ball at Rafael Nadal

“Why would I apologise?” said a tempestuous Nick Kyrgios after the heated clash with Rafael Nadal, who had risen above and let the tennis do the talking

Rafael Nadal progresses to the third round at Wimbledon after the explosive encounter with Nick Kyrgios. In what was possibly the most unsettling match of the 2019 Wimbledon campaign thus far, Nadal rose above Kyrgios’s unsportsmanlike behaviour and defeated the Australian 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3).

For Kyrgios a majority of the match was spent insulting Nadal’s speed of play, or arguing with the chair umpire, which saw him get handed an official warning for misconduct. At one point, he even labelled the umpire as a “disgrace” and his opinion didn’t seem to differ in the aftermath of the match either as the word “horrendous” flew around the conference room.

The Australian was clearly hoping to achieve what he had five years ago at Wimbledon, when then at 19-years-old, Kyrgios hit an astonishing 37 aces to beat Nadal and become the first player outside of the Top 100 to beat a world No.1 at a Grand Slam since 1992. Before the 4th July and after Kyrgios beat Nadal in the three-set thriller at Acapulco, their head-to-head record rested at three wins apiece. However, Kyrgios’s win seemed to have sparked a trade of insults between the two in the press and those tensions were being swung to-and-fro on centre court on Thursday.

The two couldn’t be more different in their demeanour or their playing style and Kyrgios’s unpredictability had certainly begun to creep under Nadal’s skin by the second set. The Australian delivered an 143mph ace on his second serve, just falling shy of Ivo Karlovic’s 144mph record, followed by his signature under arm ace – which Nadal definitely didn’t take too kindly to. The Spaniard responded – and definitely would have been feeling smug afterwards – with a body serve, followed by a chip and a winning volley, taking it to 6-3. But the real shocker came during the third set.

It seemed like Kyrgios had enough of being treated like the underdog and was set on punishing Nadal. At 4-4 and with Nadal at the net, Kyrgios fired a forehand aimed straight for Nadal’s chest. The Spaniard just managed to shield himself with his racquet but Kyrgios still got the point. The shot was on the cusp of being legal and the crowds knew it too as a mixture of boos and cheers echoed through Wimbledon. Meanwhile Nadal was serving his opponent looks that could kill and boy, did he mean it. It was blow-for-blow after that and a rattled Nadal quickly recovered to secure the win, as did the crowd who were right behind him as he celebrated the winning point.

Thereafter, it was a gripping match which saw both players at each other’s necks. It was attack, defence, attack, defence on both parts but the end soon came within arm’s reach for Nadal. Kyrgios just couldn’t maintain his strong form and came under pressure from his opponent. At match point his backhand rushed into the net, giving Nadal the victory and you would have thought the world no.2 had just won the Grand Slam title with the way he celebrated – fist pumping, body hovering in the air. His signature finger wag later made an appearance too.

Unfortunately, tensions weren’t left on the court. During the press conference, Kyrgios, who currently sits at no.43 in the world for Men’s Singles refused to apologise to Nadal despite deliberately aiming a forehand towards him.

When a reporter mentioned about it winding Nadal up, Kyrgios stated, “I don’t care. Why would I apologise?”

He later went on to say: “The dude has got how many Slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest.”

He did also acknowledge that Nadal had played exceptionally well and that he himself, has much to learn should he want to win the title that badly but there was definitely hostility in his approach to answering any questions that regarded the incident on court.

In Nadal’s conference, he made a statement about the shot being “dangerous”. He expressed: “It is not dangerous for me, it is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for a crowd.”

The world no.2 then went onto say, “It was an important victory for me, sometimes it’s tough to see a couple of things on court. It’s amazing how good he is able to play, so if he is able to forget all these things, he’s potentially a Grand Slam winner.”

If nothing else, at least they were both amicable at the net when the match concluded. Perhaps, if, and there is no doubt they will meet again, we’ll get to witness the spectacle of tennis they created at Wimbledon without the unsportsmanlike behaviour. Though there is no doubt that spectators were given a money-worthy show.

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