Wimbledon 2015: Everyone gets drawn into Nick Kyrgios' kaleidoscope of emotions

Colourful Aussie chats to the crowd, has a running dialogue with the umpire – but keeps on winning

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The Independent Online

At its most extraordinary, his tennis was borderline ludicrous and though some may say he will need to settle down and find his head if he is to reach the elite ranks, most of us can simply rejoice at the beautiful, uncomplicated non-conformity that Nick Kyrgios brings to tennis. It is an incredible colour he adds.

We celebrate what has been an era of the powerhouses in tennis sport: four forces of nature the like of which we may not see concurrently in hand-to-hand combat ever again. And yet, despite that privilege, the pursuit of excellence and marginal gains has created something homogenous. It has made sport something alien to those on the street. Tennis has become a little greyer – the more so as we wait to discover if Rafael Nadal, who helped with the light and shade, will ever make it back.

But now, here, spinning into the landscape, comes the Kyrgios kaleidoscope and it will be quite some commodity to look out for in Wimbledon’s second week. It cannot be said that the young Australian’s post-match answers were polite, as he emerged to discuss the sweet vengeance of a 5-7, 7-5, 7-6, 6-3 victory over the Canadian  No 7 seed Milos Raonic, who put him out last year. He chewed someone’s head off for asking about him the dress code which had brought an official request to turn his striped headband inside out. (It was official Wimbledon issue, purchased from a merchandise stall, but broke the all-white rule which has been tightened since John McEnroe’s day.) Kyrgios doesn’t do saccharine, though even those of us who suffer collateral damage can give thanks for that.

The 20-year-old wanted to talk about the unconventionality of Dustin Brown as he beat Nadal on Thursday night – the only subject which put a grin on his face. And about the fan in a Batman T-shirt with whom he had been engaged in an on-off conversation throughout this match. “He was actually saying some really good things at crucial moments. I think it helped.” It transpired the essence of this advice was: “Send down a bullet, or something like that.” Who needs sports science?

 

Kyrgios gives it out, too, when the courtside suggestions aren’t quite so favourable. “That’s not funny,” he replied to a woman who told him to “Pull your head in.” But the point is that Kyrgios draws those who are watching him into his experience in a way that perhaps only Brown achieves on this circuit. “It was a good catch by the fan anyway,” he said of a woman in the line of fire when his racket, bounced over the court fence in anger, sailed into the stand.

More mesmerising than all this, though, was sight of his mental disintegration in a pivotal second set – an unravelling which reminded you of your teenage self. Kyrgios seemed defeated at that time by the Canadian’s serve, which did not ultimately prove the weapon it was supposed to be. He stood between a ball boy and line judge to receive it at one point. He ventured up into court to take it at others. He rolled his shoulders, rolled his eyes and played with reckless indifference, netting an elementary half volley by executing the shot between his legs.

 And throughout that period of seeming discombobulation came the subplot which makes the Kyrgios fury so different to the type McEnroe gave us 30 years ago: the running conversation with the umpire.

“Out.” “Out?” “Yes.” “Positive?” “You want to challenge?” “Well, actually maybe not…” The second set was actually going with serve while all of this was taking place.

 The turnaround defeated logic as much as everything does with Kyrgios. Raonic – colourless right down to the white towels he brought onto court – looked to have command and control, yet there was ice in the Australian’s veins at some very significant moments. Like the 125mph second serve ace at 2-3 and break point against him in the second set. The Canadian had nothing of that kind when the same set swung up to its penultimate game. He was broken to love. It was with four straight aces that Kyrgios seized the advantage to take the set. A second serve ace wrapped up the third set tie-break, too – his sixth  consecutive winning point at the pivotal moment.

It was the service rhythm, manifest in the Australian’s 34 aces, which overwhelmed the Raonic in four sets - the same distance he had needed to beat Kyrgios at the Wimbledon quarter-final stage last year. Perhaps the foot surgery which kept him from the French Open contributed to his defeat. There seemed to be a lack of mobility which left him unable to repulse that weapon. His passing shots were few while Kyrgios made plenty. The backhand the Australian drops on with soft hands to kill a ball down the line brings him many rewards.

Someone will try to sit down and talk psychology with Kyrgios at some stage because Tennis Australia, with their 10-year plan to resurrect their game, are very smart and scientific. But for now we have a young man with the vocabulary of street sport. He can take tennis or leave it and, with Richard Gasquet up next, is willing to duck the usual PR platitudes by saying that he can actually win this tournament. “Yeah, I think if I play the right style of tennis, feeling good out there, I can go close, “ he said.

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