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Rafa Nadal Beats Nick Kyrgios At Wimbledon 2019 • Great Talent On Display • But Does Nick Care?

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his win over Nick Kyrgios of Australia in their second round match during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 04 July 2019. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

By Alix Ramsay

 

That Rafa Nadal won on Thursday night pleased the Centre Court crowd immensely. That Nick Kyrgios lost on Thursday night was no disgrace. He had just lost to the world No.2 and the man who had rewritten his own history by winning his 12th French Open title just a three and a half weeks before.

 

The sadness of the whole occasion came from the fact that everyone knew – Kyrgios included – that if he plays like that every time he steps on court, he could be a grand slam champion. No question about it. But he doesn’t. And that is heart breaking.

 

For most of the three hours it took Nadal to secure his 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 second round win, Kyrgios was in imperious form. His serve was terrifying, his ground strokes were fired like rockets and, in between times, he showed touch and bottle in every corner of the court.

 

Of course he showed off his repertoire of tricks and antics. We had tweeners and underarm serves (one of them was an ace), we had his constant grumbling and debate with the umpire Damien Dumusois. We even had him trying to decapitate Rafa, firing the ball straight at the former champion with force and intent. But we also had Kyrgios at his best. And when he is good, he is bloody good. But when he isn’t, he is awful.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia returns to Rafael Nadal of Spain in their second round match during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 04 July 2019. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO COMMERCIAL SALES

“He’s a very top, talented player,” Nadal said. “But there is a lot of important things that you need to do to become a champion. He has a lot of good ingredients. But, of course, there remains an important one sometimes, and that is the love, the passion for this game. Without really loving this game that much, is difficult to achieve important things.

 

“Anyway, with his talent and with his serve, he can win a grand slam, of course. He has the talent to do it. Is true that things can be completely different for him if he wants to play all the matches the same way that he try today.”

 

The match was already highly spiced before they even got on court. A few weeks ago, Kyrgios had described Nadal as “salty” in a podcast. Rafa responded by saying that Kyrgios was “disrespectful”. They clearly were not the best of pals. Even less so when Kyrgios fired that ball at his salty colleague. But Rafa would not be drawn into the personal wrangling; he was just fuming that the unpredictable Australian had gone against the spirit of the game that he, Rafa, loves so dearly.

 

“The history of this sport is about respect and is about playing fair during the whole time,” he said.“I don’t say Nick does this stuff to bother the opponent, but is true that sometimes he’s dangerous.

 

“When he hit the ball like this, is dangerous. Is not dangerous for me, is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for a crowd. When you hit the ball like this, you don’t know where the ball goes.

 

“I know he’s a big talented player, but I am a professional player, too. I know when you hit this kind of ball, the ball can go anywhere. This time the ball went in, almost hit me, no problem. I am professional, so I know how to avoid this. But another time, the ball goes straight to the back. So have been dangerous moment for the line umpire. That ball hits an eye or something like this, is a problem. That’s it.”

 

The difference between the champion and the talent came down to the simple business of effort. In that department, Nadal was always going to end up as the winner. His ability to focus on every point as if it is his last has brought him his 12 French Open titles and his 18 grand slam trophies in all. Who knows, it could bring him a 19th here in 10 days’ time. But it was always going to be too much for Kyrgios to handle.

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Nick Kyrgios of Australia in their second round match during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 04 July 2019. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO COMMERCIAL SALES

“He plays every point,” Kyrgios said. “He doesn’t take one point off. I feel like we’re the polar opposites. I struggle so hard to just play every point with a routine, have the same patterns.

 

“I mean, his 1-2 punch, his first serve and his first forehand is probably the best 1-2 punch in the world, apart from Federer. His ability to bring it every day and compete, it’s special. It’s not easy.”

 

Maybe, one day, Kyrgios will learn the lesson Nadal tried to teach him on Thursday night, that he can be a major champion if he tries. Sadly, you would be best advised not to hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

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