Nadal advanced after four dramatic sets with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) victory. We break down another classic at the All England Club:
The underarm serves
Kyrgios gets conduct warning for arguing
Nick Kyrgios gets into it with chair umpire Damien Dumusois during the second set, which results in a conduct warning.
It has been 30 years since Michael Chang made the underarm serve famous at the French Open, but this year, Kyrgios has been making it his own. And it's a legitimate and sensible tactic against Nadal, who often stands way back behind the baseline to return.
It's not an easy skill, either, but at 2-5, 40-0 in the first set, Kyrgios made it look easy as he feathered a beautiful underarm serve barely over the net, leaving Nadal stranded. The crowd was impressed and even Nadal smiled. Sort of. In the second set, Kyrgios did another one -- and won the point again -- but this time, the crowd jeered. Fickle bunch.
Kyrgios was asked in his post-match press conference why he had not attempted to do it again, as it had clearly worked in unsettling Nadal. His reply was equally as spicy.
"If I do something outrageous, I get, like, destroyed in the media for it. I thought I'd be professional and hit a normal serve. That's what I was thinking -- no, I'm kidding.
"I just didn't want to hit another one. Oh, shoot me down for not hitting an underarm serve Centre Court against Rafa. What do you want from me, man? I don't know what you want from me."
Kyrgios rips a forehand shot right at Nadal
Nick Kyrgios hits a hard shot right at Rafael Nadal, who was standing right by the net.
No one chunters like Kyrgios and, at times, it's almost as if he needs to have a running conversation with the umpire just to keep himself engaged. Irritated at the time Nadal was taking between points, Kyrgios took his annoyance out on Damien Dumusois, the unlucky man in the chair, asking him why he wasn't doing anything about it.
"Wow, you've got so much power up there," Kyrgios said.
That drew a code violation and he actually played better for a while, with the average speed on his forehand cranking up a few notches. Still the rant continued: "Look at you. Look at you. You're no one. You think you're important. You have no idea what's going on. You're a disgrace."
After the match, Kyrgios added, "I got angry at the ref. He's like, 'No, I'll tell him what I want to tell him.' I was like, 'Oh, a little bit of a power trip there.' He obviously feels pretty important sitting up in the chair. He was just terrible. I thought the way he handled the match was just bad."
Tweeners & Co.
Why hit a straightforward shot when you can do something spectacular? Kyrgios pulled out the tweener early on -- in the second game, in fact. The problem with it, though, is that it rarely works. It didn't that time as Nadal got the early break, which set him up to win the opening set.
Kyrgios pulled out a few shots from his bag of tricks, the jump backhand, even an unnecessary jump smash (because the ball was low), and he tried a behind-the-back volley when a simple backhand volley would have done the trick. He certainly wasn't lacking in variety, that's for sure.
The hit -- and the stare
At one set apiece, 4-4, 40-15, Nadal served and, after a short return, approached the net with a forehand up the line, only for Kyrgios to slap a forehand straight at him. Nadal could only stick out his racket in self-defense and the ball fell to the ground on his side of the net. Nadal's cold, lingering stare was almost as vicious as the forehand from Kyrgios.
After the match, Kyrgios admitted he was aiming at Nadal. "Yeah, I was going for him," Kyrgios said. "Yeah, I wanted to hit him square in the chest."
Nadal's post-match response? "I don't say Nick does this stuff to bother the opponent, but [it] is true that sometimes he's dangerous. When he hit the ball like this, [it] is dangerous," Nadal said. "[It] is not dangerous for me, [it] is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for a crowd. When you hit the ball like this, you don't know where the ball goes."
Nadal has always been one of the more animated players on court, with his fist pump surely headed for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But with no love lost between these two, in the heat of the battle during a high-class third set, he was fist-pumping, jumping, yelling and gesticulating to the crowd more like Jimmy Connors in his pomp.
It clearly helped, too, as Nadal squeezed out the third-set tiebreak just when Kyrgios was threatening to inch ahead.
Come on -- it stole the show. And applauding anything is quintessentially British.
A bird landed on the court during Nadal v Kyrgios and it was given a round of applause #Wimbledon— Toby Earle (@TobyonTV) July 4, 2019
The last time these two played, in Acapulco in February, the handshake was almost nonexistent. This time, after what was genuinely a great match, it was much better, with Kyrgios tapping Nadal on the back, too.
And don't forget Nadal's celebration, either, the wagging of his index finger, telling everyone what he thought of the match. But the pair stood side by side at the end, signing autographs before leaving the court.
But the drama didn't end on the court. Both men had plenty of interesting things to say after the match as well. Here was the best from the post-match news conferences:
And none other than John McEnroe's take on Kyrgios: