Wimbledon Daily Dispatch: Nadal Makes Statement with Kyrgios Lesson, Serena Survives Scare, Defending Champ Kerber Downed by Davis
By Thomas Cluck
(July 4, 2019) No place in tennis is quite known for its traditions, tranquility, civility, and respect like the All England Club, but on day four of The Championships 2019 two of the top stars and talents in the sport abandoned that age-old tradition for an old-fashioned grass-court duel, a battle for supremacy.
With all the tension, words going back and forth, drama, hype, and expectations, it was the 18-time major champion Rafael Nadal making the final statement on Thursday, giving the flamboyant, always-mercurial, and unpredictable Aussie Nick Kyrgios an old-fashioned lesson, showing his supremacy on the court 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6.
Three-hours and four-minutes of play later on Centre Court and it was Nadal making a statement not just to Kyrgios, but to the rest of the field in London to watch out. Serving aggressively and confidently on the big points, the two-time Wimbledon champion’s thundering groundstrokes accompanied by his trademark battle roar were the perfect contrast to his 24 year-old opponent’s laid-back, lackadaisical approach to the sport. After their highly-anticipated second-round battle, it was clear whose approach won.
Storming out to a strong start against a shell-shocked Kyrgios early in the opening set, Nadal took advantage of an out-of-sorts service performance in the second game of the match to break early, riding that advantage all the way to the first set finish. Kyrgios’ banter with himself, the umpire, the crowd, and at times the opponent, kicked into full gear in the second set, adding a spark to his game and a distraction for Nadal to cope with, helping the big-serving, big-hitting Australian to level the match at a set apiece.
But in the third and fourth sets, it was Nadal’s increasingly confident, clear gameplan that paid dividends, allowing the Spaniard to dominate on serve and take early control of both tiebreaks to eventually close the big second-round win out in four sets and book a Saturday date with another flamboyant and powerful player, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
What makes the budding Nadal-Kyrgios rivalry so compelling extends far beyond the high-quality tennis and the contrast in styles on-court, contrasting even further as nearly polar opposites off it. While Nadal is hard-working, professional, humble, and driven, Kyrgios can often be criticized for a lack of effort and professionalism, a disinterest in tennis, and a waste of immense talent that is still yet to be maximized.
Coming in, both had exchanged words back and forth and that continued in their behavior on the court and after the match. The only difference come Thursday evening, one left Centre Court the victor, the other is leaving to go home.
“I don’t want to comment on this. Right now it’s an important victory for me,” said Nadal. “Sometimes it’s tough to see a couple of things on court. It’s amazing how good he’s able to play. If he’s able to forget about all this stuff, potentially he’s a grand slam winner and fighting for the sport’s best ranking.
“When he wants to compete well, he’s one of the toughest opponents you can face. Normally against me and the top guys, he wants to try hard. And when he’s that way, he’s very tough,” commented the third seed and former number one.
“When he wants to compete, he is one of the toughest opponents you can face. He has a lot of good ingredients,” explained Nadal. “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.”
Asked about Nadal’s assessment of him, Kyrgios said “I know what I’m capable of. Just depends. I’m a great tennis player, but I don’t do the other stuff.”
“I’m not the most professional guy. I won’t train day in, day out. I won’t show up every day. So there’s a lot of things I need to improve on to get to that level that Rafa brings, Novak, Roger have been doing for so long,” explained Kyrgios. “Just depends how bad I want it. But, no, at the moment I don’t think I can contend for a grand slam.”
On his decision to go at the body of Nadal in an exchange at the net and nearly peg the Spaniard, Kyrgios backed his actions.
“Why would I apologize? I didn’t hit him. Hit his racket, no? Why would I apologize? I won the point,” commented Kyrgios, “I mean, the dude has got how many slams, how much money in the bank? I think he can take a ball to the chest, bro. I’m not going to apologize to him at all.
“Yeah, I was going for him. Yeah, I wanted to hit him square in the chest. Like, he’s got decent hands.”
“When he hits the ball like this, it is dangerous. It’s not dangerous for me, it is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for the crowd,” responded Nadal. “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 a professional, so I know how to avoid this. But another one, the ball goes straight to the back. That ball hits an eye or something like this, it is a problem.”
While Nadal and Kyrgios were slugging it out Thursday afternoon on Centre Court, across the All England Club Serena Williams survived a scare from unheralded Slovenian teenager Kaja Juvan, winning 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to book a spot in round three here in SW19.
Still obviously short on matches this year and playing only her second match on grass this season, the seven-time Wimbledon champion and last year’s runner-up said she felt she still has a lot to improve upon for her to contend for the title.
“It was definitely coming together as the match went on,” said Williams. “I’m just low on matches basically. I could feel it. But I’m getting there.”
“Like I keep saying, it’s just experience and match play. In the past two years I haven’t played a lot of matches,” commented Williams. “I’m just trying to kind of get that back.”
The 23-time major winner will be getting some more matches on Friday, making her highly-anticipated mixed doubles debut with home hero Andy Murray, making his comeback to tennis following a hip resurfacing surgery at the site of two of his three Grand Slam triumphs.
“It made sense for me because I really could use some matches at this point,” explained Williams. “It made sense for him. We both want to do well. We both love Wimbledon.”
“Playing with a British icon like Andy is going to be really exciting. I’m looking forward to sharing the court with him and maybe I can learn a thing or two from him.”
“Usually when I play doubles, it really helps out my singles game. I really need it. I’m glad that the media suggested it,” said Williams.
“Andy is a great player. He is mentally one of the toughest players out there. I don’t even know what goes on in his mind. It’s always interesting to hear what other champions think, how you can play that to your game- apply it to your game. It’s only a win-win situation for me.”
The woman who bested Serena to hoist the trophy here last year Angelique Kerber’s title defense is done as the German lefty, a three-time major winner, fell in three sets to American lucky loser Lauren Davis on No. 2 Court.
“I was trying to find my game the whole match, actually. I was not really feeling good from the beginning. I don’t know why. The energy was not there. I tried,” said Kerber.
“She played well. She was going for it. She took the match in her hand. I was too defensive in the important moments. Of course I’m disappointed. It’s not the way I would like to finish here or to play here. But you have sometimes days like that. You have to accept it. You have to learn from it, try to forget this as soon as possible.”
“She played good. She played very well in the last set, as well. I tried. She is also a really tricky opponent. She played a lot of slice. She moved good in the third set,” commented the German, who will fall out of the top ten after failing to defend her title.
“It’s definitely been incredible. I was super-disappointed, having lost last round of qualies. I found out less than two hours later that I got into [the] main [draw],” said Davis. “I was ecstatic about that. It’s honestly a dream being here. I played qualies last year, so I wasn’t able to come here. It feels amazing.”
“Its been a tough journey and a process of learning and growing as a player and person,” commented Davis, a former top 50 player who had fallen outside the top 200 in the last year. “The drop in ranking has made this win even more fulfilling.”
“That’s tennis. That’s life. There’s definitely been tons of highs and lows. It’s definitely made this and competing at this level all the more fulfilling. I appreciate it a lot more than I used to.”
“This win means everything because this is what I strive for, this is what I work for,” explained Davis. “It’s still setting in. I’m definitely happy with the way that I played – this is, I’d say, probably the biggest win of my career, especially considering the circumstances, her being the champion last year.”
Despite the dismissal of the defending champion on day four, there was plenty of success for the top seeds on Thursday. Eight-time champion Roger Federer didn’t always look his best but got past Brit Jay Clarke in straight sets 6-1, 7-6, 6-2.
Meanwhile, world number one Ashleigh Barty continued to take care of business in her first tournament as the tour’s top-ranked player, making light work of Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 6-3 in 55 minutes. Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova joined her in the third round, saving a set point in the first set against France’s Kristina Mladenovic before easing through the second to advance 7-5, 6-2.
Britain’s top home hope on the ladies side, Johanna Konta, continued to progress as she beat Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4 to set up an intriguing round three battle with American Sloane Stephens, who cruised past Yafan Wang 6-0, 6-2 earlier today.
“I think records don’t necessarily mean a lot when you step out onto the court. Sloane is one of the best players in the world. She’s a grand slam champion, another grand slam finalist. She’s an incredibly good player,” said Konta. “For me to have won our three encounters so far, there’s very little in that.”
“Yeah, it’s been a rough year with Jo Konta. I’ve got to get her this time,” assessed Stephens. “She’s a great player so I’m just going to have to go out and try a new game plan, new style, try some different stuff and just compete.”
There were mixed results for two American men on day four, July 4th back in the US, as the top-ranked American man John Isner crashed out in five sets to Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 1-6, 4-6 on No. 3 Court. However, Southern California’s Steve Johnson gave fans in the States something to cheer for as he came out on top in five sets this time, downing 25th seed Alex De Minaur 3-6, 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 21 minutes.