Nick Kyrgios is tipping his blockbuster with Rafael Nadal to be “the most-watched match of all-time” after casting aside his domestic dramas to gatecrash the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time.
Kyrgios had too much firepower for Cristian Garin, eliminating the unseeded Chilean 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-5) in two hours, 13 minutes on Wednesday – barely 24 hours after being summonsed to a Canberra court over an assault allegation.
The 27-year-old is required in the ACT Magistrates Court on August 2 to potentially face a common assault charge amid reports he grabbed his former girlfriend Chiara Passari in an incident before Christmas last year.
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But, first, Kyrgios must focus on Nadal after booking a dream last-four showdown with the 22-times major winner on Friday.
It will be the enigmatic 27-year-old’s long-awaited maiden grand slam semi after losing quarter-finals to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon in 2014 and to Andy Murray at the 2015 Australian Open.
“I just never thought I’d be at a semi-finals of a grand slam. I thought my ship had sailed,” an emotional Kyrgios said.
“Honestly, I didn’t go about things great earlier in my career and I thought I may have wasted that little window.”
Tennis’s most gifted yet volatile talent described his journey to his first grand slam semi as “rocky”.
“Honestly, at the start of the year, I didn’t even know if I wanted to really play like a proper schedule at all. I don’t really play a proper schedule now,” Kyrgios said.
“I obviously had thoughts the last year, year and a half, whether I wanted to play anymore. Lost the love, lost the fire, lost the spark.
“Then some things just changed in my life. I don’t know. I kind of just rediscovered that I’ve got a lot of people that want me to play, that I play for.
“I’ve got a lot left in the tank. I feel like I’m probably playing some of my best tennis, mentally feeling great.
“It’s been a long road. I think it was a seven, eight-year gap to make a quarter-final here from my first one. It’s been a heck of a ride.”
The lowest moment, he said, came three years ago.
“Obviously I posted this year about the kind of mental state I was in in 2019 when I was at the Australian Open with self-harm and suicidal thoughts and stuff,” Kyrgios said.
“Just how things can change. There was a point where I was almost done with the sport.”
Now Kyrgios is the first Australian to progress to the men’s singles semi-finals at the All England Club since 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt made the last four 17 years ago.
And, fittingly, he will square off once more with Nadal – eight years since he caused a sensation as a teenage world No.144 on his Wimbledon debut by knocking out the world No.1.
Nadal turned the tables with a four-set second-round defeat of Kyrgios in 2019.
Little wonder Kyrgios said it would be extra special to face the most prolific grand slam singles champion in men’s tennis for a spot in Sunday’s final.
“We’ve had some absolute battles on that centre court. He’s won one against me, and I’ve won one against him,” Kyrgios said.
“Two completely different personalities. I feel like we respect the hell out of each other, though. I feel like that would be a mouth-watering kind of encounter for everyone around the world.
“That would probably be the most-watched match of all time. I would argue that.”
Continuing his quest for the first calendar-year grand slam since Rod Laver in 1969, Nadal overcame a painful abdominal injury to outlast American 11th seed Taylor Fritz 3-6 7-5 3-6 7-5 7-6 (10-4) in a fifth-set super-tiebreaker in Wednesday’s last quarter-final.
Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic and British ninth seed Cameron Norrie will feature in Friday’s other semi.