Nick Kyrgios stunned the tennis world as a 19-year-old in 2014 when he defeated then world number one Rafael Nadal on his way to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.
But frequent tantrums and penalties have overshadowed his undeniable talent, and he’s never had a better finish at a Grand Slam.
Eight years later, Kyrgios is once again among the last eight at Wimbledon and this time with a serious shot at realizing his full potential.
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He will now face Chilean Cristian Garin, who defeated Australian Alex de Minaur in the previous round, starting at 11:15 p.m. AEST tonight.
Wimbledon has confirmed Kyrgios’ match will go ahead despite an allegation of assault by his ex-girlfriend.
“We have been made aware of legal proceedings involving Nick Kyrgios in Australia, and as these are ongoing we cannot comment,” the All-England Club said in a statement.
“We are in contact with Nick’s team and he remains scheduled to play his quarterfinals.”
Meanwhile, fellow Australian Ajla Tomljanovic threatens to make a big surprise and win the first set of her quarter-final against the in-form Elena Rybakina 6-4.
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Nadal has in the past described Kyrgios as “not a villain”, despite his antics on the pitch, saying he is a player of enormous talent who could fight for the number one spot.
But Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, the victim of Kyrgios in a heady third round at the All England Club this year, said the Australian has a “bad side” and is a “bully”.
Kyrgios, 27, laughed off those accusations and was at his best in his fourth round win against American player Brandon Nakashima.
His Wimbledon campaign has been interrupted by news first published in the Canberra Times on Tuesday that he is due to appear in court in his hometown in August on a charge of assault.
Tennis coach Andrew Bulley recalls a “petite, chubby and energetic” Kyrgios who showed up as a four-year-old at the National Sports Club in Lyneham, Canberra, eager to take lessons with his older brother and sister.
He was always better than his peers, but “he was nothing special” until a growth spurt in his early teens meant that Kyrgios developed into a tall player with explosive service now regarded as one of the best in the business.
While most of the kids trained under Bulley’s tutelage as they were told “Nick would always experiment which you can see when he plays – he always has four or five options ready to go”.
But there was also the bored look when things were too easy or too difficult. In 2013, at age 17, Kyrgios was the top-ranked junior and winner of the Australian Open boys’ singles title. The following year came his upset win over Nadal.
Bulley notes that Kyrgios has strong support from his Greek father Giorgos and mother Norlaila, a Malaysian, who insisted on discipline and application.
Norlaila was born into a royal family but renounced her title when she moved to Australia.
Giorgos describes his 40th son as a “perfectionist” who is hard on himself.
“The only advice we can give him is that he should do his best. Win or lose, you can’t predict the future. He knows he has a good chance of playing well against everyone as long as he stays strong. “
Kyrgios has been without a coach since his breakthrough in 2013, once he told tennisnet.com that he does not like to listen to advice.
Kyrgios’ checkered career includes fines estimated at more than $550,000 for violations including lack of effort, a racket burst, spitting at fans and throwing a chair on the court.
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In an Instagram post earlier this year, he spoke about his mental health issues, admitting suicidal thoughts, self-harm and substance abuse, referring to one of his “darkest periods” in 2019.
“If you look closely, you can see my self-harm on my right arm. I had suicidal thoughts and literally struggled to get out of bed, let alone play for millions,” he said, showing a photo of the Australian Open that year.
But he also said he was proud to have “turned myself completely around”. In a more recent review, he told ABC News, “I look at myself in the mirror every day and I know I’m comfortable in my own skin.
“I don’t care if one day I don’t win a Grand Slam (singles title), or I don’t want to be like Roger Federer or something like that.
“But now I honestly don’t care how I’m seen, because deep down I know, and the people around me know that I’m a caring person. I am always myself.”
Next up for Kyrgios at Wimbledon is Chilean Cristian Garin and then possibly a semi-final against Nadal and a possible final against Novak Djokovic.
Nadal won six of his nine games against the unpredictable Australian, while Djokovic lost both times he played against Kyrgios.
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