Feb/19

28

King Kyrgios Emerges From Hibernation in Acapulco

El Campeon de Acupulco, Rafa Nadal.

By Scoop Malinowski

Like Clark Kent entering a phone booth and transforming into Superman, Nick Kyrgios found his phone booth last night in Acapulco.

Something about the presence of Rafael Nadal electrifies Kyrgios and inspires his best tennis, most serious mindset and effort levels. Lackluster all year and much of 2018, Kyrgios awakened last night and conquered Nadal 36 76 76 in an unforgettable epic battle.

Kyrgios tried everything from claiming (or feigning) sickness, back pain, crazy shots, shouting at the crowd, the underhand serve to slay Nadal with a tornado of tennis genius. The 23 year old Aussie saved three match points at the end, down 3-6 in the deathbreaker, and finally prevailed 8-6 in the third set tiebreaker when a Nadal backhand sailed just long. Kyrgios fell to the ground, got up and celebrated and yelled with extra vehemence and passion, perhaps intended to rub it on on Nadal, who has a court character that completely contradicts the Kyrgios persona.

Nadal had this to say about the man who has now beaten him three times in six meetings: “He’s a player who has enormous talent, could be winning Grand Slams or fighting for the no. 1 ranking. He lacks respect for the crowd, the rival and towards himself.”

Kyrgios looked ready to roll over after losing the first set and barely hanging on to survive in the second set, saving a love-40 hole at 4-all. For some reason Kyrgios is extra motivated to battle Nadal. Is it because of a mutual dislike? A secret grudge? Or does Nick simply get extra inspired to lay it all on the line to beat the very best more than he does to beat the ATP no. 48 on court two in Delray Beach or Rotterdam?

Kyrgios stormed out to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker with his superior hitting power and uncanny accuracy. It was such a display that we all wonder, If only Kyrgios could play at this level every match, he would invade the ATP elite echelon and his name would be among Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Wawrinka, Del Potro.

But for now Kyrgios is ranked outside the top 60.

In the third set Kyrgios employed his typical drama games, a medical timeout, trick shots, combined with pure tennis brilliance that was good enough to beat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic the first time he played each.

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hudge, Kyrgios competed last night like the greatest fighter in the ATP today, not the biggest waste of talent of the modern era. Nick managed to save three match points and ultimately prevailed in one of the most impressive upsets of Nadal we’ve ever seen.

“I’m just really proud the way I overcame a couple of things today, and the way I’ve competed,” Kyrgios said. “Having a win like this gives me a bit of confidence in myself. … I’m trying to find my way—I’ve been through some tough stuff this last year or two, so just to be able to go out there and compete and just having fun again is something that’s been lost on me for a long, long time. To find it again today against a guy like Rafa is pretty special.”

Kyrgios roared and yelled and celebrated his joy before shaking hands with Nadal who impatiently and angrily came to Nick’s side of the net for a handshake that lasted less than .5 seconds. There was no warmth or affection between these two titans, they clearly don’t adore each, at least on the tennis court in the heat of battle. After the match at his press conference, Rafa said, Nick is a nice guy, he congratulated his conqueror and praised him for things going his way and wishes him the best.

Kyrgios will need his best for his quarterfinal opponent, Stan Wawrinka. No need to rehash that drama.

We will just have to wait and see which Nick Kyrgios shows up? the Ultimate fighter version — or the guy who would rather be in Indian Wells playing hoops and video games.

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17 comments

  • Chazz · February 28, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    I saw the last half of the 3rd set. Incredible stuff. Kyrgios has a new shot that usually works – a jump drop shot. I have never seen anyone do that before.

    That handshake was like a blow-by only seen on the WTA tour. Nick holding his hand to his ear as there were some boos just shows he embraces the role of villain. His match with Stan should be more drama, must see tv.

  • Dan Markowitz · February 28, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    I don’t know if Nadal detests Kyrgios. At one point in the second set when Nadal had chances to break and take a one-set and 5-4 lead, Kyrgios took a spill and seemed to hurt his knee and Nadal walked up to the net and asked him if he was ok.

    Nadal is infuriating to play. Kyrgios likes to play at a fast pace, but he would walk up to the net and Nadal would often have his hand up delaying play. I think this match shows as much about Nadal’s decline as it does about a possible upside to Nick. I just don’t believe a guy who walks around with a slump posture and has bandages under his knees, has too big of an upside.

  • Dan Markowitz · February 28, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    I’m looking forward to attending the Miami Open this year at its new location at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. It’s not too often that a Master Series event switches location as this event is moving from Key Biscayne.

    I’ll be coming down from Jacksonville, Amelia Island where my son will be playing a Nationals event at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation courts that Cliff Drysdale runs. I had no idea it takes five hours to drive from Jacksonville to Miami. Florida is one long state.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    Dan, that handshake was icy cold and quick. Nadal is usually warmer to his opponents win or lose, than what he showed with Nick. He always shows concern for fallen opponents. Maybe you’re right, Nadal is losing speed and reflexes. But still, he did look great in Australia until the final. He could have finished Nick off in straight sets last night. Nick was sensational. It’s funny how one week he can look like the biggest waste of talent in tennis history, and a week or even a day later he looks like an all time tennis marvel. Depends on the day I guess.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Chazz, it looked like Nick was rubbing it in to poor Rafa with the overcelebration before the handshake. But Nick certainly waited a long time for a win like this and he deserved the chance to enjoy it to the max, any way he pleased. Rafa did not like it one bit though. Rafa usually waits till after the customary handshakes to express his full celebration.

  • jg · February 28, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Even federer endorsed the use of the underhand serve as a tactic when the returner is on the fence. Tiafoe did not look impressive last night, he’s way too inconsistent, needs to step up on each point. He looked like he was ready to book out of there for Indian Wells after he lost the second set.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Wonder why Federer never tried the underhand serve? Nobody ever mentioned it until Tim Mayotte mentioned the underhand serve idea to me in Newport last July. I seriously think Tim Mayotte may have created this new underhand serve idea. Players found out about it from reading this site and now it’s a new trend 🙂

  • Dan Markowitz · February 28, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Um, I think Michael Chang made the underhand serve famous in 1989. It’s amazing how good this Cam Norrie is. I mean the guy came out of TCU. He’s beating Mac Mac right now in Acapulco. He’s already beating Nishioka and Schwartzman in this event.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Yes of course Chang is most famous for the underhand serve but it was three decades ago. Nobody has used it on Nadal despite how far back he stands on returns, Mayotte suggested it last July and it was the first time I heard any tennis expert make this clever suggestion. Now all the sudden it’s a big trend idea. I think Mayotte and tennis-prose.com may have created this trend. Norrie is the real deal, I saw his first match of the year when he beat Tsitsipas in Hopman Cup and Tsitsipas was playing fantastic but Norris still managed to win the match. Norrie will be a dangerous lefty very soon, maybe even someday the best lefty in the ATP?

  • Doug Day · February 28, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    In keeping with the lawlessness south of no border T.Channel is OK with batterer Gimelstob hosting the Acapulco event. Si se puede!

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2019 at 6:27 am

    I missed it, is Tennis Channel using Gimelstob on their Acapulco coverage? Wow what a curious decision.

  • Doug Day · March 1, 2019 at 8:17 am

    If that wasnt his voice i heard last night ill eat my hat. While I couldnt find a place to look it up i did find that he got suspended for comparing a players bad strokes to Obamas policies. Hutzpah is one thing pal; Hematoma another.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Ironic that the first day Gimelstob returns to pro tennis in Delray Beach, Isner loses. Gimelstob looked like a human curse sitting next to MacPherson in the player box.Gimelstob should make a big apology and take anger management training before he shows up at a pro tennis event again.

  • Jg · March 1, 2019 at 8:45 am

    I think that was Donaldson’s former coach ( he sounded like Gimelstob)

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2019 at 10:18 am

    jg, yes that was Gambill on the call last night. Or did he change his name to Gambillstob? I like listening to Gambill a lot, he’s a breath of fresh air, good chemistry between Gambill and Shiras.

  • Hartt · March 1, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Monfils vs Tsitsipas was an extremely entertaining match, with some great shots and points, and lots of twists and turns. It wasn’t clear which player would win until the very end, when Stefanos took it. The match was about 3 hours long.

    Federer vs Coric was straightforward, with Fed winning 6-2, 6-2. He looked sharp today, and Borna looked tired. The youngster has played several long matches this week, and finished late last night. He must have been exhausted.

    So the final will be Fed vs Stefanos. I hope Roger will prevail and get title #100.

  • Hartt · March 2, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Fed was terrific in winning his match against Stefanos in SS. He looked so sharp, moving well, serving very well, and making so many great volleys.

    So his 8th title in Dubai and his 100th career title! We Fed fans are over the moon with excitement!

    The tournament director said that Roger will be back playing Dubai in 2020.

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