ReutersLONDON (Reuters) — Wimbledon has a new hero and, of all people, it is Nick Kyrgios, after the incredible sulk transformed himself into the Clown Prince during an entertaining five-set win over fellow Australian Jordan Thompson on Tuesday.
Tennis fans queued early to see Kyrgios, many hoping for fireworks from a player who has the longest rap sheet in the game. But by the time he triumphed 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 7-6 (12-10), 0-6, 6-1 in an extraordinary contest, they were putty in his hands.
Only once did he lose his cool and belt a ball into the sky while chuntering about a bad call. The rest of the time he was more reminiscent of French maestro Henri Leconte playing an exhibition — both in terms of crowd interaction and shot choice.
“I’m never going to change,” Kyrgios said. “I used to be like this when I played under 12s, 14s. I just go out there, have fun, play the game how I want it to be played.
“At the end of the day, I know people are going to watch. They can say the way I play isn’t right or ‘he’s classless for the sport’, all that sort of stuff. They’re probably still going to be there watching.”
He must have played 30 drop shots, despite almost every one of them failing to yield a point. He threw in a bewildering array of slices and dices amid more conventional ground strokes and serves of immense power. He somehow lost the fourth set to love in 18 minutes — less time than he took to win a marathon 12-10 tie break in the third.
He served a 194 kph ace on second serve on game point at 5-4 down in the first set. There was the mandatory under-arm serve, a half-court lap of honor after winning a key point in a tie break, repeated collapses to the floor in mock — or perhaps real — exhaustion.
His reward is a mouth-watering second-round clash with Rafa Nadal, the third-seeded Spaniard he has described as “super salty.”