WIMBLEDON, England – Nick Kyrgios was back on stage at Wimbledon, offering his inimitable style of showmanship and shotmaking, with tennis alternating between exciting and annoying.
Even if he hadn’t played on tour at all since February, even if he played a total of 15 competitive games in the last 18 months, Kyrgios showed that he can still deliver the goods if he remembers it.
Just a handful days after completing the long trek from home in Canberra, Australia to the All England Club turf pitches – leaving the carefully calibrated training and preparation to others – Kyrgios made a formidable return, reaching # 21 Bet Ugo Humbert 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 9-7 on Wednesday in a game that was banned from 3-all in the last set the night before due to a local curfew at 11 p.m.
“Not bad for a part-time player,” said a smiling Kyrgios to the audience at No. 1 Court and let her know that he would be playing video games with his girlfriend at the tournament’s “bubble” hotel for the rest of the day.
It was one of more than two dozen first-round competitions that ended on day three after the rain on Monday and Tuesday messed up the schedule and helped the courts to be so slippery that some players slipped and stumbled.
While the 19-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic – who made only six casual mistakes and defeated the two-time major finalist Kevin Anderson 6: 3, 6: 3, 6: 3 – and others like Andy Murray, Frances Tiafoe, Sebastian Korda, Fabio Fognini, Aryna Sabalenka, Garbiñe Muguruza, Sloane Stephens and Iga Swiatek reached the third round on a cool, cloudy and busy day, some were just on their way to the second: Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka, Marin Cilic, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz, including.
“I’m obviously tired. I fell a couple of times. Pretty smooth places, ”said Murray, a two-time Wimbledon winner who had two hip surgeries and came back to beat qualifier Oscar Otte 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 . “But when you consider everything, I’m fine. I feel good.”
Sofia Kenin, the Australian Open winner and runner-up at the 2020 French Open, and 41-year-old Venus Williams, who won five of her seven major championships at Wimbledon, lost in the second round. Kenin’s departure means that seven of the eleven top women are now missing from the round, including defending champions Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka – both eliminated before the tournament – and Serena Williams, who injured her right leg in her game on Tuesday and couldn’t go on.
Djokovic took care of some less serious kicking issues but was otherwise pretty impeccable against Anderson, who hit 41 aces in his opening game but only managed 11 on Wednesday.
“There’s still a long way to go. Hopefully I can get very deep into the tournament. That is the goal, “said Djokovic, who is aiming for the third Wimbledon Cup in a row and sixth overall and is 16-0 in Grand Slam games in 2021. “But I am very satisfied with the way I have played so far.”
As did Kyrgios, who mostly waved his bat to beg fans for more noise while strutting around for his best shots.
On the other hand, he also shook his head or said to himself that after many a mishap it was “rubbish”.
Here’s one more thing he seems to do quite a lot: keep whatever negative he reads or hears about himself and either use it as motivation or just ridicule it.
“Look, a lot of people said to me, ‘There’s no chance. There is no point in doing this brief preparation. ‘ I’ve heard a lot of things. (Someone said to me, ‘You can’t get off the couch and compete at this level,’ ”said 26-year-old Kyrgios, who was on his way to beating Rafael Nadal in 2014 on his way to beating Rafael Nadal, a round he has been doing since Tournament has not reached.
“I say, ‘Dude, I know my game.’ I know how to play on grass. I’m not afraid of anyone at the draw. I know if I believe and I feel good mentally, I know what I’m capable of, ”continued Kyrgios, who ranks up to 13th but is now 60th after all this inactivity. “I’ve been doing this sport since I was seven years old. … I’ll serve big and play big and just compete against each other. “
Cheek hard he compared this trip abroad to a vacation, and when he videoconferenced the media, Kyrgios leaned back, his head tilted to rest on his hands – a pose suitable for a beach chair.
Against Humbert, whom he also defeated in five sets at Melbourne Park this year, Kyrgios did more than just “serve big and play big”.
Sure, there were the 23 aces. And the conspicuous forehand that he moved to the endpoints without warning. And, yes, of course, the unwise trickshots, like the baseless between-the-leg floater on target value for Humbert – on target value! – that helped give away the third one.
On the other hand, that’s maybe part of the charm of Kyrgios: you never know what you’re getting, so better tune in to find out.
In fact, he had shown impressive patience with long baseline changes lately and was willing to wait a point until his opponent was wrong. In fact, Kyrgios won 9 out of 14 points that lasted at least nine strokes. He was also the one who got the break in the penultimate game to take control.
“If he plays well,” said Humbert, “he’s one of the best.”
That checks out. Just ask him.
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