Nick Kyrgios set the tone for a Wimbledon blockbuster with bitter rival Rafael Nadal on Tuesday 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 beat Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 later Tuesday.
“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.
“When you’re a kid, you want to play the best players in the world on I think it’s 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 144-ranked wildcard on his Wimbledon debut in 2014, put in a typically raucous and charismatic display on Court 3 on Tuesday.
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.