Wimbledon 2019: Why Rafael Nadal's fiery clash with Nick Kyrgios was just what tennis needs

This was a confrontation between two warriors who were never going to give up without a fight with the needle between them only adding to the occasion

Nick Bollettieri
Friday 05 July 2019 10:15
Wimbledon Championships in numbers

Holy mackerel, what a match! Rafael Nadal’s victory over Nick Kyrgios was the sort of contest that tennis needs. It had everything, from wonderful shot-making and athleticism to moments of great drama. The needle between the two men only added to the occasion.

Boy, this was a confrontation between two warriors who were never going to give up without a fight. The competitiveness was off the wall. I can’t believe anyone would have left their seats at any stage, whether they were on Centre Court or watching on television at home.

Nobody wants Wimbledon to lose its prim and proper image, but I think matches like this, with a real edge to them, can only add to the tournament’s appeal. Nadal clearly wasn’t happy when Kyrgios smacked the ball straight at him at one stage and the handshake at the end after Nadal won 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 was barely lukewarm.

Kyrgios has as much natural talent as anyone. He’s a fantastic shot-maker, has a stunning serve and is a great natural athlete, but he makes too many unnecessary mistakes. The first point of the second tie-break was typical. He had an easy smash to put away but completely messed it up.

As for Nadal, you can only admire the way he keeps his composure. He is some cool dude. There was all sorts of nonsense going on out there and the only time Nadal let it get to him was when he lost a bit of composure at the end of the second set.

Roger Federer beat Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6, 6-2, but it might have been different if his opponent had taken a chance or two. When you play Federer I always think you have to be ready to gamble. He is so brilliant that if you let him get into a rhythm he’ll destroy you.

Clarke was making his singles debut on Centre Court. If he was a bit too tentative I could understand why. The guy’s only 20, is playing at his home Grand Slam tournament and is facing arguably the greatest player in history. If that’s not enough to make you nervous I don’t know what is.

Once he had got over his early nerves, however, Clarke played well. He hit some impressive ground strokes. In the second set he was giving as good as he got and he could have won the tie-break at the end of the second set if he had been a bit bolder.

Kei Nishikori, who beat Cameron Norrie in straight sets, is looking in good shape and I’ll expect him to beat Steve Johnson next and book his place in the second week.

John Isner just ran out of steam when he lost in five sets to Mikhail Kukushkin. The longer Isner stayed at the baseline as the match wore on the more likely he was to lose. Big John just has to come forward. When his legs start getting a bit tired and he stays back, that’s when he gets into trouble.

Serena Williams struggled in the first set against Kaja Juvan but by the end of her 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 win I thought she was looking much better than she had in her first match.

Friday’s match of the day: Whenever you face Victoria Azarenka you have to be ready to face an onslaught. Man, she doesn’t just want to beat you, she wants to kill you. She hits the crap out of every ball and goes after you with everything she has.

On Centre Court on Friday it will be Simona Halep who will have to stand firm in face of the barrage. Her main goal should be to keep Azarenka on the run. If she allows her time to play her shots, she could be in trouble.

I think the result is in Halep’s hands. If she’s positive and attacks, pushing Azarenka around the court, I think she can win. But if she hesitates and holds back, Azarenka can make her pay.

Victoria Azarenka could make Simona Halep pay

Ask Nick: If you have a question for me – whether it’s about how to improve your game, training techniques or anything else about tennis – just email me at QuestionsforNickB@gmail.com.

Chris has a three-year-old daughter, is already thinking about a tennis career for her and asks me at what age it would be suitable for her to enrol at a tennis academy. There’s no simple answer to this because everybody is different, but I do have some thoughts about how you should introduce someone that young to tennis.

To start with, I would suggest working on your daughter’s co-ordination. You can start to do this just by rolling the ball backwards and forwards to her. Forget hitting with the racket, though you could get her to use a racket just to roll the ball back and forth. You could also set up some targets for her to hit. It’s important to make these exercises fun.

If she continues to show an aptitude for tennis, the next thing is to find a good coach who can work with her. The coach can help her to develop her techniques, her movement and her co-ordination. You need to take one step at a time and I think it’s important that the coach always adopts a positive attitude. In seven or eight years’ time you and the coach can discuss whether going to an academy would be the right route for her.

Cori Gauff is back in action on Friday

My A-Z of the IMG: Looking back over my life at the IMG Academy in Florida which I founded in 1978. G is for Brad Gilbert, who was one of our early students. Brad’s game was unlike anyone else’s. Some of his shots were pretty ugly, but he knew how to build points and get into his opponent’s head. He became a great coach and is now one of the best TV commentators in tennis.

H is for Martina Hingis, who came to the academy late in 2000, by which time she had already won five Grand Slam singles titles. Melanie Molitor, her mother and coach, told me that Martina had lost her passion for the game and wanted me to reignite it. Martina, meanwhile, told me that she was tired of hearing her mother’s voice; I told her that she needed to appreciate everything that her mother had done for her.

At the end of our week together Martina went to New York, where she won the end-of-year WTA Tour Championships, beating Monica Seles in the final. At the presentation ceremony she thanked me for “helping me to recognise who has always been at my side”.

For more information on the IMG Academy’s tennis programmes email info@imgacademy.com or call +1-800-872-6425

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