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'Mutual respect but that's about it': Nick Kyrgios throws down the gauntlet to Rafa Nadal

 

Nick Kyrgio (left) will take on Rafael Nadal tomorrow at Wimbledon.
Nick Kyrgio (left) will take on Rafael Nadal tomorrow at Wimbledon.
Collision course: Rafael Nadal won his first round match at Wimbledon to set up a clash with rival Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios

By Robert Jones

Nick Kyrgios set the tone for a Wimbledon blockbuster with bitter rival Rafael Nadal by stating: "We have mutual respect, but that's about it."

Kyrgios opened his Wimbledon campaign with a 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 7-6 (12/10) 0-6 6-1 win over fellow Australian Jordan Thompson.

However, all attention was on a second round duel with Nadal, who defeated Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita, 6-3 6-1 6-3.

"Not sure that me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox and have a beer together. I don't know him at all. I know him as a tennis player," said Kyrgios.

"I get along with people, some people I don't get along with.

"We have a mutual respect, but that's about it I think."

Nadal and Kyrgios have been involved in a bitter war of words this year since the Australian defeated the 18-time major champion in a stormy clash in Acapulco.

It was his third win over Nadal in six meetings.

Nadal accused the Australian of "lacking respect" after serving underarm, while Kyrgios described the Spaniard as "super salty".

Kyrgios then became involved in a slanging match with Toni Nadal, the World No.2's uncle and former coach, who lambasted the Australian for his on-court behaviour.

Toni Nadal suggested it was the action of a man who lacks education.

"Bro, I did 12 years at school you idiot - I'm very educated. I understand you're upset that I beat your family," Kyrgios hit back in an interview.

Kyrgios admitted he was excited about the chance to prove himself against Nadal.

"I can't wait. As soon as the draw came out, I was super happy that I saw him in my section (of the draw).

"When you're a kid, you want to play the best players in the world on what I think is the best court in the world.

"This is something that I can't take for granted. There's no guarantee I'm going to be here again in this position.

"Could have an injury or something like that. I'm going to grasp with both hands, go out there, give it my best shot."

Kyrgios, who famously stunned Nadal as a 144th-ranked wildcard on his Wimbledon tournament debut in 2014, put in a typically raucous and charismatic display on Court Three yesterday.

In a match where he fired 23 aces and 63 winners, the 24-year-old argued with the umpire, slumped over the net and played dead.

He also hit an underarm serve on set point in the third set, shaped to imitate a forward defensive cricket shot and celebrated a point by running around madly in a circle.

After dropping the second set, he needed a medical timeout for a leg injury before attempting -and failing - to finish the third set with an underarm serve.

He eventually took the set on an eighth set point before conceding an 18-minute fourth set in which he collected just five points.

However, two breaks in a more composed decider settled the tie and set the stage for one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Roger Federer admitted he took a little time to get going after dropping the opening set of his first-round match against rookie Lloyd Harris.

Now 37, it is perhaps understandable that the Swiss master is a shade slower out of the traps these days.

But once Federer got into his stride it was only a matter of time before he wrapped up a 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory.

"I think it's a combination of a few things, my legs weren't moving and things were not happening," said Federer.

"It is always slightly unusual, the first let's say two or three matches here at Wimbledon.

"I couldn't really have any impact. He was doing a good job of returning me. It wasn't like I was serving poorly, you know. I guess I wasn't hitting my spots and he was reading my serve.

"But I think with my experience I stayed calm. I know I have other things in the bag that I can come up with, other tricks. I just took a bit of time."

Harris has never won a match on grass, but at least he will always be able to say he took the first set he played at Wimbledon on Centre Court, against Federer.

It was only the second time anyone had claimed a set off Federer in a first-round match in his last 17 Wimbledon appearances.

Harris, 22 and ranked as the World No.86, needed a medical time-out after the third set and had his calf heavily strapped.

Playing Federer is hard enough at the best of times, but Harris gamely carried on despite some obvious discomfort.

However, Federer had the finish line in sight as he booked a place in round two and a meeting with Britain's Jay Clarke.

"I don't know him very well," Federer added. "I've seen him around. I know him a little bit better than Lloyd. Not a whole lot though."

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